November 6 – 8, 2009: The Colony Boutique turned out to be a new, sleek, glass-clad building. Very elegant, but perhaps not very practical in Jordan. I started in Room 401, and even with drapes drawn over the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows, and the AC going full strength, I roasted. The front desk suggested opening the windows, but I couldn’t see a hinge, never mind a handle, and I figured a hotel in this class ought to be able to maintain comfortable temperatures without letting in a lot of dust and noise. I finally got them to move me to the other side of the building, where it was cooler but also darker: The only light in the main room came from a reading light over one of the beds – the other bed was lost in gloom.
I didn’t find a whole lot to do in Amman, having already visited the Citadel. I checked out the Roman theater and its associated museums, but wasn’t impressed. I took a long look at the Shmeisani section, which Lonely Planet thought well of. Some of the houses were interesting, and I found a small park with ducks and geese unhappily housed by dry ponds, but I had trouble finding somewhere to eat lunch, eventually winding up at a Turkish restaurant.
I had a much better time at the National Gallery of Fine Arts, two buildings separated by a small sculpture garden near Abdali bus station. I’m not usually fond of “modern” art, but the works in this collection were not especially abstract, and included art from all over the Muslim world. Pakistani art reminiscent of Persian miniatures shared space with a Palestinian sculpture of a boat holding keys titled “To What Exiled Country Are You Returning?” and a piece from the UAE on the intifada. I had wondered where the Jordanian artists were until I crossed the garden to the newest building, which contained both more Jordanian artists and more abstract works, with a number featuring caligraphy.
But easily the best part of my time in Amman was meeting up with my ex-step-daughter’s in-laws. This presented a few unexpected difficulties, as the “universal” SIM in my cell phone wasn’t working in Jordan, and the Canyon Boutique didn’t allow phone calls from its rooms, but we worked it out, and I spent an interesting afternoon in the western suburbs. I had only met her in-laws once, a number of years back, but they welcomed me into their home, and later her mother-in-law took me on a driving tour of their part of Amman, including a very glitzy new mall, and finishing with visits with their children.
When their house, large and comfortable, had been built, the area had been pretty empty, but no longer. We drove past walled estates where you might wonder whether the house qualified as a castle or a palace – some even had guards at the gates. Previous waves of refugees have arrived in Amman from Palestine (in fact, my hosts were originally Palestinian), but the current wave is Iraqi, and at least some clearly left with plenty of money.
I ate my last meal in Jordan at my hotel, up on the top floor, but I also went back to Abu Ahmad for a meal, and once again my taxi driver couldn’t find it. This time, however, I made sure that he dropped me at 3rd Circle. If you stand on the eastern side of 3rd Circle, with your back to Jacob’s Pharmacy, and then keep turning left, you will find Abu Ahmad quite easily.
I left Jordan by air for Istanbul – on Royal Jordanian since Turkish Airlines’ flights left very early in the morning. I had thought about taking the bus to the airport, but the stop had been moved from Abdali bus station to some place in the north, or I could pick it up at 6th Circle. Either way I’d need a taxi, so I decided to taxi the whole way – for some reason the airport is a full 35 km south of the city. Canyon Boutique wanted 25 JD for a ride to the airport, but I negotiated a rate of 18 JD with an English-speaking taxi driver I used for a ride in town.