The Streets of Amman | Jordan

Street Photography Amman Jordan
A seedy Downtown Cinema

Maher bent forward and poured a stream of Tamer Hindi juice into a cup for me from the antique Ottoman flask on his back. It’s very sweet and very welcome, its natural Red Bull and will give me energy Maher tells me, sounding not unlike a Red Bull commercial. Dressed in traditional garb and wearing wraparound sunglasses, he aptly represents the curious contradiction of the Middle East, ‘Don’t forget to tag me on Facebook’, he shouts as I wander off.

A tour bus pulls up and a group of septuagenarian’s shuffle towards the amphitheater, not stopping as they take snap shots of the Roman colonnade with their tablets. They don’t stop to try Mahers juice either, too much of risk perhaps; a jippy tummy or worse, getting left behind to fend for themselves. Amman is only a side show, it’s Petra they have come to Jordan for, the jewel in the Kingdoms crown.

It’s a shame that Amman doesn’t get quite the attention it deserves, agreed appearances can be deceptive and it takes time to warm to this modern Middle Eastern capital. Originally built on seven hills it now sprawls over as many as nineteen, and has swelled with refugees from Iraq and Syria. Most of its population is in fact Palestinian, reflecting the turmoil of the region. Reassuringly, Jordan has remained largely trouble free and safe for travelers.

It won’t really take long to explore the official tourist sights of Amman, the second century six thousand seat Roman amphitheater impressively squatting into the side of a downtown hill, the Citadel ruins on the hill opposite with its columns and Ummayad Palace, a museum and mosque or two. The coach parties hardly stop for breath before they speed down the Kings Highway to Wadi Rum and Petra.

But surrender to the urban madness of Downtown, and be consumed by the chaos of the Souk and you will get an altogether different experience of Amman. Take time to explore the alleyway coffeeshops, binge on street food and chat with the street side vendors. The selling point of Jordan is not its crumbling columns but its congenial and ever engaging people whose character and personality will leave a lasting impression long after the postcards have faded.

Downtown Amman lies in a wadi, a mish-mash of formal and informal commerce, the hipsters rarely venture down from their lofty cafes on the surrounding hills – a latte is a latte so why strain your calf muscles clambering up to join them. The area is a street photographers paradise to explore, discover and find moments of unexpected serendipity.Street Photography Downtown Amman

I bump into Maher again, we talk of Palestine and Syria, he asks me where I learned Arabic, I ask where he learned English. I am an engineer he tells me, I just do this for some extra cash. He pours another stream of date juice into a plastic cup for me, daylight is now fading and the plaza in front of the amphitheater is filling with families – footballs are flying around, tea is being poured from large copper kettles, it’s time for my evening prayers now Maher informs me, we shake hands and as he turns away he says one last time; ‘Don’t forget to tag my photo on Facebook, John’.

Read the full essay and more street photography images from Downtown Amman in the wonderful Roam Magazine on-line here: Roam Magazine and do follow them on Instagram at @roam.magazine

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44 thoughts on “The Streets of Amman | Jordan

    1. Thank you Claudia
      I feel some interaction regardless of language is always that much more rewarding when traveling, lots of English is spoken in Jordan mind you and a few learned words can go a long way.

  1. Shukran jazilan Mr John. Mumtaz piece. Mumtaz jeden.

    I have only had one trip to Jordan and it was a rushed visit of 3 days. Like the tourists you mention, I too was Petra bound. Wadi Rum must await another trip.

    I did walk the streets around the amphitheatre and climbed the hill to the citadel where I watched the sunset and enjoyed the views of the maze of streets and houses on the hills opposite. On taking a few shots of some local kids playing street football, they invited me into their house a hundred meters or so from the citadel to meet their parents & grandparents. Much as they tried to coax their granny to agree to have a shot taken with the family, she absolutely refused. I guess she’s just not into facebook & tagging friends! Was a really nice experience.

    Must catch up some time.


    1. Sorry for the slow reply-cant quite keep up with blog activity!
      Always these times are worth the effort of travel. So much that does not quite come back in the photograph but stays forever in the heart.
      We should catch up

  2. Reblogged this on HX Report and commented:
    Beautiful piece of writing from blogger John Wreyford of his street experiences in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. MB was lucky enough to once visit Amman, a few years back. He must do so again.

  3. I really like Amman, particularly the Roman amphitheater and neighborhoods around it. Have you been to Irbid? It is a delightful city as well, with great access to all kinds of interesting sites, such as Umm Qais. Irbid also has a beautiful museum of mosaics and is a fun place to walk around and just let city life sink into you.

    1. Actually I haven’t but would love too-my travels around Jordan have been a tad limited to lots of visits to Amman and once or twice to Petra, Aqaba etc so always lots of reasons to go back

  4. I always think that, when there is a story behind a photograph, it should be written. You went beyond expectations. Such a wonderful editorial to complement a great shot that really helps to resonate.

      1. I am documenting a new project with friends who will play music for the refugees and the host communities in Jordan (its called Concerts for a world in motion). Hopefully I will have a bit of spare time to get around as well, for sure we will head to Petra at the end. Your post was wonderful and very helpful to review our options! Cheers!

  5. I wanted to go to Jordan for a few years now and yes, mainly for Petra. But after reading your article I thought that I definitely need time for Amman as well. How did you feel in Jordan safety wise, is it ok to travel independently? I’m quite an experienced traveler, but the middle east is unknown to me. Thanks.

  6. That is a really cool set of images on Roam Magazine. I can see why traditional tourists skip over the city, but as you show, it has great potential for street photography.

  7. Thanks John for the like to “Color Me Blue” on The Teapot and the Postbox. Love your work. This text about Amman, Jordan is fabulous. It’s a fascinating region, the Middle East!

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