Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a fascinating city of contrasts – a unique blend of old and new, ideally situated on a hilly area between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley. In the commercial heart of the city, ultra-modern buildings, hotels, smart restaurants, art galleries and boutiques rub shoulders comfortably with traditional coffee shops and tiny artisans' workshops. Everywhere there is evidence of the city's much older past. Due to the city's modern-day prosperity and temperate climate, almost half of Jordan's population is concentrated in the Amman area. The residential suburbs consist of mainly tree-lined streets and avenues flanked by elegant, almost uniformly white houses in accordance with a municipal law, which states that all buildings must be faced with local stone. The downtown area is much older and more traditional with smaller businesses producing and selling everything from fabulous jewellery to everyday household items. The people of Amman are multi-cultural, multi-denominational, well-educated and extremely hospitable. They welcome visitors and take pride in showing them around their fascinating and vibrant city.
The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken especially in the cities. Many Jordanians have travelled, or have been educated abroad, so French, German, Italian and Spanish are also spoken, but to a lesser extent. When Arabic is written in Jordan using the Latin alphabet, English spelling is applied; however, these spellings can be interpreted in various ways - the spelling, for example, of street addresses can vary widely. For this reason, the sounds of the words are a much better guide than the spelling. Speaking Arabic is easier than you might think; attempting a few basic words will gain you respect from the locals and is a good way to break the ice. The Jordanian people are extremely understanding and will help you whenever they are able.