The Souk, Amman
Downtown Amman, referred to locally as "el-Balad", is located in the narrow valley between Amman's seven hills. It is thus, literally, "down" below the rest of the city. It is also the oldest (and poorer) part of town, where most buildings, although fairly modern, typically date from the middle part of the 20th century or before, scattered around some of the city's Roman ruins. El-Balad is also where the souk, or Amman bazaar, is located (see separate tip), which makes it worth exploring the area one afternoon. Note though that modern, bourgeois Jordanians, who mostly live in the west end of Amman, almost rarely go to el-Balad, as most of their needs are found in the wealthier areas of Amman, where high end shops and shopping centres are aplenty.
To Jordanians, the down town or (el balad) is conisdered a commercial area, where they wouldn't go unless they had to.
But to most forigners I met and some Jordanians like me, it is more of a walk "promonade" to cruise around & meet people ... where you could see and experience some local food, cafes, shopping, music, and books in a traditional way.
It's indeed a mixture of all that and more.
Each shop declares it's identity in it own way, one would play loud music, the next would spread books on the sidewalks, then you'll smell some spices and herbs coming out of bags infront of a third .... in EL-Balad people call for their goods ... and a walk there is all what you need to actually understand why people like walking there
A great experience in Amman is walking in the souq of the town. Here you can see nice moment of daily life of Jordanian people. One of the things which you can see is the contrapposition between old and new as you can see on the photo on your left. An old baker seel his bread in front of an ATM machine!!!
If you happen to be in Amman on a Friday, this will be a great tip for you. On the first circle, rainbow street you'll find "Souq Jara" which is a flea market organized by locals. People sell all kinds of stuff ... things they make like bread, cookies, jam, rose water, cushions, beaded jewlery and other stuff that they have in their regular shops else where in Amman.
It's a nice walk even if you don't buy anything, but you can find hand made gifts that are cheap and not so touristy!
Recently, the market has been hosting some musical events for mostly Jordanian independent bands and singers.
The Market opens beginning of May and closes end of summer around September.
Jabal Amman is a reflection of Amman in the 50's, many people are rennovating their old houses as the area has a beatiful view over the rest of Amman
See the Souk in downtown Amman.
Starting at the Roman Amphitheatre, as you walk though the Old Souk downtown, you'll pass by the Nymphaeum remains, situated on a street corner at a busy traffic intersection. The Temple itself is fenced in. Continue walking around this corner, one block above, ending just pass Grand Husseini Mosque.
It seems like a maze, but it's not and is quite small. You can tell when you're drifting away as the area become less dense, fewer stores, and no tourist shops.
Skip the latter shops and shop Jordanian - Rivage Dead Sea products, the Gold Souk, the Perfume shops, spices, olive oil soap....don't forget to stop frequently at the Juice Bars, and sample locally made ice cream in the sweet shops. For lunch, try falafel with homus, bread and a Coke, all for less than 1JD.
Located in el-Balad (Downtown Amman), the Amman souk (bazaar) is the highlight of visiting this part of Amman. Though certainly not equivalent to the renowned mediaeval souks of Aleppo or Istanbul, either architecturally or in products, it does offer an authentic ambiance. The typical shops seen elsewhere, selling aromatic spices and Arabic delicacies, alongside cheap Chinese products, are definitely present, but the most animated and intriguing part is the fruit and vegetable market near the Grand (King Hussein) Mosque. Here, delicious looking produce is sold mainly to locals by competing vendors who melodiously call out to attract shoppers: a true Middle Eastern experience.
See the gold souk , there a a few shops in one spot. The gold is sold by weight and sometimes by piece where the workmanship is intricate. Notice of the bracelets with coins have Arabic writing and Islamic symbols. Be careful if you buy.
Al-Balad, or the The Town, is the older part of Amman to makes up the core of the city. “Older part” should not be taken to mean mediaeval or Ottoman. This is a thoroughly modern section of the town, but it includes a number of buildings that are likely from the turn of the century. Despite the relative newness of this section of Amman, it is important as a place in which the purveyors of traditional Jordanian goods and services can be found. It is here that you can come for some of the best knafeh in the city, or to enjoy hookeh and coffee in a traditional, smoke-filled café. It is here, too, that you will find the small shops passed down from father to son, and the tinkers, tailors, artisans and tradesmen who seem to be adept at fixing all manner of mechanical and technical problems.
Every Arab city with a souq also has a gold souq. This is undoubtedly a throw-back to the time when gold was the primary currency used throughout the Middle East, but it also points to the fact that in countries where war and upheaval are fairly common, people still prefer to keep at least a segment of their wealth in an easily transportable commodity. In Amman, the Gold Souq is far from as impressive as in Damascus, but it does include a number of traditional gold and silversmiths who offer elegant jewelry. This is a good stop for anyone looking for traditional gifts that are not gawdy.
If you ever been to the markets in Istanbul or Cairo, you'll be disappointed in the souks here in Amman, the shops are modern and not really a closed market...they are rather stores, after stores next to each other....not the individual stalls so accustomed to in the middle east. Spent about 30 minutes here, more than enough time.
I walked to the bazzar from the Amra, quite a hike. It was fine, although my camera attracted a lot of interest.
The bazzar has about 3 kinds of stores, repeated. Women's clothing, Men's clothing, and random plastic stuff from China. That's about it. I recommend getting a plastic call-to-prayer alarm clock, maybe a prayer rug (complete with mecca-facing compass and guide book) and whatever else strikes your fancy.
The widowed resell packs of cigarettes, automobile traffic is somewhat halted by throngs of people, and the main mosque is right downtown. Enjoy the sights and sounds.