The Perfect Day: Artist Saeed Abu-Jaber on the spots to take in local art in Amman, Jordan

Saeed Abu-Jaber, artist and co-founder of Turbo, a multidisciplinary design agency, cafe and art space, gives up the goods on where to find a proper cocktail, a perfect meal and some art in Amman, Jordan.

But first, coffee
“Although we have an espresso bar in the office at Turbo, in the morning we usually have a coffee at a cafe called Rumi,” says Abu-Jaber. “We meet friends over there.” This spot boasts a non-smoking policy, unlike many in the area.

Eat like a local
“Jabal Al Lweibdeh is quite an old neighbourhood, with a couple of art galleries,” says Abu-Jaber. And when you’ve worked up an appetite taking in the art, you’re in the right spot. “There’s a small restaurant called Joz Hind owned by a guy and his wife. She’s Jordanian-Italian, he’s Italian. He does basically three plates a day: You can have, let’s say, a veggie or a pasta plate. It’s a very small place but with really nice home-cooked food.” 

Hunt for gems
“In downtown, there are so many little alleyways and places you can find cool stuff,” says Abu-Jaber. “The other day we found a guy who has textiles from the ‘70s and crazy wallpaper that was never sold.” For another sure bet, he recommends AtiqueShop where the owner has lots of camera equipment, lenses and records.

‘In downtown, there are so many little alleyways and places you can find cool stuff’

Take in some art
“A new arts foundation has opened up on the hill opposite our studio called the MMAG Foundation,” says Abu-Jaber, who advises checking out the exhibits, book launches and displays. While you’re there, he adds, “Next door is the Wild Jordan Centre, designed by the famous Jordanian architect Amman Khammash. The shop sells handmade products from villages around Jordan, and they also have quite a nice cafe and little restaurant.”

Square meal
“Two favourite places of mine and Mothanna’s are Faroujna — we usually have dinner there; they do beautiful grilled chicken — or, if you can fancy it up a bit, a really nice Arabic/Lebanese-cuisine restaurant called Fakhreldin.” Saeed recommends booking Fakhreldin in advance — as well as being a fine-dining destination, it was once the home of the first Prime Minister of Jordan, the late H.E. Mr Fawzi Al-Mulki.

Knock back a few
“If you want to go have a really good cocktail, there are two bars that are quite nice: one is a speakeasy-style called OTR, which is ‘Off The Record’, and the other one is actually in the Four Seasons hotel, called SIRR. SIRR is very peculiar as far as interiors go, but we like it. They have purple lighting. It’s kind of like a Chinese opium den in the Four Seasons…a bit weird, but done very nicely.”

Late-night eats
For a midnight munchie fest or Arabic food on the budget side, Abu-Jaber says: “Downtown there’s a place that’s pretty famous called Hashem.” It’s legendary for its vegetarian fare, and perhaps for being “basically in an alleyway between two buildings.” But it’s also open all night, which makes it the perfect place for those 3 a.m. falafel-and-hummus fixes. 

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