Jordan is mainly known for its tourist attractions – the Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum – but if you want a more authentic experience of Jordanian culture, then Amman is the destination for you.
A quick disclaimer: you'll probably gain at least two kilograms during your stay thanks to its famous falafel, knafeh and shawarma, but are unlikely to regret any of it.
My breakfast hot spots
If you haven't eaten at Hashem Restaurant, you haven't been to Amman. It is sandwiched between two buildings in Downtown and has been serving authentic falafel and hummus since 1952. A cheap and homey hole-in-the-wall, it is comparable to sitting in my grandmother's kitchen, with conversations in Arabic and English flowing above plates of moutabel and foul. You will hear the eatery before you see it as locals and tourists occupy tables that spill out on to the pavement.
For a more refined eatery that is as authentic, take a taxi to Shams Al Balad on Rainbow Street. The view of the city there is breathtaking and will allow you to capture images that are definitely Instagrammable. Try the cheese manakeesh, foul and labneh. Drinking tea with mint is a must after breakfast for the full Jordanian experience.
My favourite area
Al Balad (Downtown) is the heart of the city and its oldest area. The Roman Amphitheatre there is a must-see tourist stop that offers a glimpse of the country's rich history. The lively area has a variety of shops huddled together, from the gold souq (Imseeh Jewelry is my go-to shop) to stalls selling souvenirs such as Dead Sea face masks and keychains. Food stands serve fresh juices, mouth-watering shawarmas and the soft-serve ice cream that defined my childhood. I also often find a new read for about 5 Jordanian dinars (Dh26) at one of the many book stands.
The first branch of the popular Habibah Sweets shop was founded in 1951 in Al Balad. It is always crowded, with hareesa, halawet al jeban and warbat in demand. Knafeh, fresh out of the oven, is a must-try.
The best time to visit
June is prime time to take a trip to Amman, as it's alive with families and friends reuniting. You may break a sweat during the day, but the night time breeze is ideal for a rooftop dinner. Local markets such as Souq Jara in Rainbow Street will also be open during the summer. Avoid visiting during snow-coated January or when the rain is likely to dampen your visit around October.
My top tip
Go cafe-hopping. The most memorable parts of Amman can be found by exploring a variety of cafes, where you'll gain an insight into the city's daily life. If you're going out alone to do some work or read, I'd recommend Cafe Rumi in Al Weibdeh or Jadal in Downtown. For a night out with friends, head to Jameeda Khanum in Downtown, where you can enjoy delicious food while listening to music by talented local artists.