Getting into the heart of Amman with Intrepid Travel: Travel Weekly

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AMMAN -- After years of covering luxury trends for Travel Weekly, I've admittedly gotten quite spoiled.

As any of my friends will tell you, I am a bit too quick to turn up my nose at perfectly decent hotels -- even accommodations that would likely be the norm when traveling on my own dime.

I haven't lost my sense of adventure, however. So when Intrepid Travel invited me on one of their new "women's empowerment" trips to Jordan, I jumped at the opportunity, knowing I would have to leave my inner hotel snob at home.

Still, that's easier said than done. And, as expected, my initial entry to my very basic room at the Art Hotel was a bit bumpy as I wistfully recalled passing a Grand Hyatt on the way from the airport.

Ramadan nighttime street festivities in Amman.
Ramadan nighttime street festivities in Amman. Photo Credit: TW photo by Jeri Clausing

We did end up at the Grand Hyatt later that evening, as it was one of the few places to find a glass of wine during the holy month of Ramadan. And while it was as nice as I expected, it also ended up serving as a reminder of the benefits to the flip side of Luxury Travel.

Situated on the border between the old and new parts of Amman, the hotel was beautiful. But sitting in its bar I also lost much of my sense of place, feeling like I could have been sitting in a hotel in any number of cities around the world.

The Art Hotel, on the other hand, was front and center in old Amman, in the heart of the street-fair atmosphere that took over each evening as the largely Muslim city broke the Ramadan ritual of daytime fasting with celebrations that carried on late into the night.

Like the Jordanian homes we saw, the rooms were basic but very clean; some with colorful murals on the walls.

There were no bells and whistles. Thread counts weren't high, nor were the towels fluffy. But the beds were cozy and the staff warm and welcoming. Breakfast was simple local fare: hummus, boiled eggs, yogurt and some bread and vegetables.

But it was the true family-style atmosphere I liked the most.

As a fellow traveler and I walked into the lobby during our second evening to ask directions, the desk clerk looked up with the sincerest of grins, inviting us to sit down and share his dinner.

Having just eaten, we politely declined. But I will never forget the authentic hospitality of the Art Hotel, and indeed, Jordan in general.