Walking into the entrance of the W Hotel in Amman, which opened in April last year, you are transported to a subterranean high-design homage to the canyon of Petra, one of the new seven wonders of the world and Jordan’s most iconic tourist destination. The breath-taking entrance is a pitch perfect marriage of the W brand’s contemporary pop culture vibes and the historic drama of Jordan. The imposing black tower that houses the W’s 240 rooms, including 44 suites, anchors the capital’s new Abdali district, a chic and shiny development whose high-rises cut a swathe through Amman’s otherwise more authentic landscape. Offering views of the Jordanian capital’s seven hills, the distinctive W tower throbs with a new energy, while paying tribute to the city’s charm, borrowing the shades of its sunset to colour the W sign that greets guests outside the hotel.
You are welcomed in the hotel’s Living Room area, which serves as a reception slash lobby and bar-cum-lounge, the play of light against vibrant coloured walls adding texture and life to what feels like a modern take on desert décor. Elements of Bedouin weaving tie the vivid design back to its surroundings, while locally-designed pillows are from the Jordan River Foundation, a non-profit organisation focusing on child safety and community empowerment. Eye-popping pieces by Bahraini artist Jamal A Rahim and Jordanian artist Bader Mahasneh present striking Middle Eastern-influenced contemporary imagery.
Contemporary art and colour fill the walls at the W Amman
The teched-up bedrooms are intelligently designed, with high gloss white surfaces and flush mirrored wardrobes creating an energising yet simultaneously relaxing ambience. With a Whatever/Whenever concierge on staff, expect to be welcomed to your room with personal touches such as fresh fruit cocktails, a homemade kunafa dish, cookies emblazoned with Hello Gorgeous and, in our case, a bed covered in balloons tethered to personal photos harvested from social media. Way to make a work trip feel less like, well, work. From sun-up, the floor-to-ceiling windows usher in gorgeously diffused daylight, giving way to the glow of the romantic electricity of the city by night.
BAZAAR’s W Suite included a freestanding bath in the spacious wet room bathroom, which came fully equipped with full size Bliss spa products. A dressing space includes a double sink and separate make-up area with convenient plug points and a Hollywood-style bulb-lit mirror for flawless glam. When you need to knuckle down, there’s a media hub and working desks, or just crash in your bed with its pillow-top mattress and linen decorated with interpretations of the Amman skyline and pop art renditions of camels and desert-scapes. If it’s a party you’re after, book the Extreme WOW Suite, complete with panoramic views, in-room DJ deck, entertainment system and private jacuzzi.
Of course, we all know that wellness is the new decadence and the W Amman has got your inner goddess covered too, with its welcoming gym and outside yoga terrace. Post-sun salutation, it’s time to crash by Wet Deck, the picturesque pool, where Middle East meets Mediterranean.
With its contemporary take on classic culture, the W Amman is the perfect jumping off point from which to explore the beauty of Jordan.
The striking interior of a bedroom at the W Amman
24 HOURS OF CULTURE
When time is of the essence, it is possible to get a taste of Jordan’s incredible heritage in 24 hours.
Within the capital itself, the Roman ruins of Jerash are awe-inspiring and offer an incredible opportunity to climb over ancient architecture with abandon, far more freeing than the ticketed formality of Athens or Rome. Over 6,500 years old, the site is a 45-minute drive from the W Amman and is truly spectacular. But if you really want to get working on the bucket list, you’ll need to venture south, towards the Saudi border. We drove from Amman to the Sun City camp in Wadi Rum (suncitycamp.com), which takes just under four hours, arriving in time for sunset and to enjoy the traditional zarb feast. Sleep in your own private bubble tent, inspired by the 2015 movie The Martian, which was filmed nearby.
Experience Bedouin life at Sun City Camp in the heart of Wadi Rum
With its fully airconditioned bedroom and bathroom it may be as comfortable as being in a hotel but make sure you set your alarm to go off before sunrise. Grab a coffee from the camp’s giant dining tent (the mothership of martian accommodation) and join the camp’s camel safari to experience sunrise deep within the fantastical landscape of Wadi Rum. After an hour you’ll be ready for breakfast before heading out on a jeep tour to explore as much of the 720 sq km of stunning landscape as possible. From myriad film locations, to visiting the iconic canyon made famous by 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, to interpreting ancient glyphs and inscriptions dating back 12,000 years, to taking tea in a Bedouin camp, it’s a fairy tale experience.
Louise Nichol enjoying a camel ride at Wadi Rum
We then checked out and set off for Petra, another 90-minute drive. To save time, rather than walk through the colossal Petra canyon, we hired guides with horses and trekked to the top on horseback, which affords a breathtaking first view of the ‘rose city’s’ Treasury, which was carved into the sandstone by ancient Nabateans in the second century AD. You then scramble down the rocks to join the tourists at the base and wander back out through the canyon, a total of around three hours. From there, we drove back to Amman, making the night flight out of the capital. It’s an intense way to experience a tiny fraction of this beautiful country but 100 per cent worth it if time is tight. We are already planning a return trip.
The now-abandoned city of Petra's 2,000-year-old remains
From the January 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia.