"So You're Just Going to Walk Around?" by Caroline Moriarty
“So you’re just going to walk around?” is a question I get often. Any time I visit a new city, I just explore by walking: sometimes with an exact destination, but more often a general neighborhood that looked busy on Google Maps or a recommendation from a travel blog. It has led to some unique experiences.
In Paris, I ate lunch at a dumpling restaurant that looked onto a busy street in a diverse neighborhood. In Washington, D.C., I found a local grocery store on my morning commute that served amazing iced coffee and organic yogurt. In Cairo, I bought ice cream across the street from President el-Sisi’s residence. While I’ll always remember the places, just the act of walking allows me to understand how the city is organized.
When I arrived in Amman, I had to change my strategy. The city is not very walkable, so everyone uses taxis or rideshare apps like Uber or Kareem to get around. At first, I was worried; how could I learn the city without my feet on the ground? Could I still find the memorable hole-in-the-wall places?
I discovered that the answer to those questions was yes.
After my second day of classes, I decided to search online for a cool café to meet my friend at so we could study for our first quiz. After countless Google searches, host family suggestions, and a quick survey of the distances from my house, I picked a café near the University of Jordan and my friend’s neighborhood called Wayne’s Coffee. I walked to a busier area to call an Uber, and then I was on my way.
After ten minutes, I was dropped off in front of a hospital. I didn’t realize at first, but the café was inside one of the numerous hospital buildings in the area rather than a standalone shop. Terrified of getting lost inside a hospital with my limited Arabic knowledge and without my friend, I waited outside for her Uber and tried to play it cool while frantically texting her landmarks so she could find me. When my friend arrived, we concluded that neither of us wanted to try to find Wayne’s Coffee in the labyrinths of King Hussein’s Cancer Center, so we just started walking, ready to stop in the first café we saw.
After 10 minutes of walking, we saw some storefronts right off the main street. We ducked into a few grocery stores and a bakery before we stumbled across a café. We walked in, not knowing what to expect, but we were amazed by what we found. The café was bustling with Jordanians of all ages and genders. There was food, coffee, and shisha being consumed in copious amounts while Arab pop music played in the background. However, the most unique part of the café was in the center of the room: there was a pool with multiple fountains and a bridge for people to walk across. We were so in awe that neither of us took any pictures the whole time! We left a few hours later with good spirits, full stomachs, and brains brimming with new Arabic grammar and vocabulary.
While I’ve only been here for four days, I can already tell that I will learn much more during these four weeks than just the Arabic language. Amman is a beautiful, exciting, and busy city that I cannot wait to explore more during the rest of my term.
And who knows, maybe my new question will become “So you’re just going to take an Uber everywhere?” when I return to the States.