Escaping the City: An afternoon in As-Salt

I’ve been quiet on the blog as of late. It’s hard to follow up a post as emotional as my last. But as with all things, time moves forward. And while it’s hard to write this, knowing my grandfather won’t get the chance to read it, I also know that writing can often be cathartic for me. It feels like the right time to start writing again…

Forty minutes northwest of Amman you’ll find the quiet town of As-Salt. Having spent a few months in the hustle and bustle of city life, we had a long weekend, and an afternoon spent at a slower pace seemed like the right plan.

We arrived shortly after noon with some friends and decided to start our exploration with lunch. All our research had led us to Al Salam – with rave reviews from Culture Trip, Lonely Planet, and TripAdvisor, we were ready to dig in.

We should have read the fine print: Grilled chicken, kebabs, cheap Arabic food. Have you heard the joke about four vegetarians who enter a meat market?

However, the owner very kindly put together a collection of vegetarian sides: Hummus, baba ghanoush (possibly the best I’ve ever had), cucumber salad, tahini salad, and pickled vegetables. Baba ghanoush aside, I can’t say that I’d recommend this restaurant to a fellow vegetarian, but at 4 JD (TOTAL), it was hard to argue with the price.

Following lunch, we made our way to Abu Jaber House – a great place to begin your visit in As-Salt. Along the way we noticed closed store fronts and empty alleys.

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We realized that while we were excited to go to As-Salt on a Friday (because there’s less traffic), it would also mean that many of the shops would be closed. As-Salt is known for its religious tolerance and diversity, but like the rest of Jordan, the majority religion is Muslim, meaning Friday is a holy day. Turns out the big markets in As-Salt take place on Saturday – whoops.

There were a few side stalls open – mostly fruits, veggies, and items made in China.

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Lucky for us, Abu Jaber House was still open. The converted mansion is now known as the Historical Old Salt Museum. We toured the ground floor and picked up what we came for: An English map of the “Harmony Trail.”

With plans to tour the rest of the museum when we returned from our walk, we set out see the sites of As-Salt.

We walked past Al Ein Plaza and the Great Mosque and started up Khader Street, before promptly abandoning the map and getting lost in a maze of steps. Occasionally, we would see trail markers to let us know we were on the right path or that we had somehow crossed back to it.

We soon began to see what has made people fall in love with the town of As-Salt. The yellow sandstone of the buildings begins to glow in the afternoon sun and the turquoise detailing of the doors and windows meant I was pausing every few steps to take a photo at a new angle.

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Not far from the top, we found a small cafe with good mint lemonade and coffee. Even though we hadn’t been walking all that long, it was nice to take a break and enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the deserted streets. We may have missed out on the market shopping, but we got to experience another side of As-Salt instead.

We continued on our walk and soon came across the Al-Khader Orthodox Church. Closed from 2-3pm, we arrived at 2:30 and were allowed in with a small 1 JD/person donation. The back has a shrine built for St. George and you can see his depiction throughout the church. Sometimes in paintings, other times on fabric, and, most beautifully, in mosaics.

The church of Al-Khader was filled with lovely mosaics, on both the walls and floors. And the cave-like ambience was very unique.

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Shortly after, we began our descent back into town. We passed the Dormition of Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, the Small Mosque, and the Latin Church as we made our way along Hammam Street. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see why this path is called the Harmony Trail.

The last thing we did before leaving As-Salt was climb a not insignificant number of stairs behind the Great Mosque for some recommended views of the town.

The views did not disappoint. From a distance, the town of As-Salt doesn’t look too different than Italy’s Cinque Terre. If only Jordan’s wine was half as good as Italy’s!

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We returned to the Historical Old Salt Museum, but it was now mid-afternoon aka Arabic lunchtime. It looks like another trip to As-Salt might be in our future, but next time, we’ll go on a Saturday.

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