Set among rolling hills near Salt – and just 15km northwest of Amman – FUHEIS (pronounced “fhayce”) is a prosperous small town, 95 percent Christian, with a scattering of nineteenth-century churches. Its easy-going atmosphere – and, in summer, Jordan’s best peaches – make it a pleasant stop-off if you’re driving; it’s not really worth the effort by bus.
The upper half of town, known as al-Allali (with a large calligraphic sculpture in the central Shakr roundabout), is newer and less attractive; carry on down the steep hill to the older part, known as al-Balad. Between the two lies Jordan’s biggest cement factory, which employs more than seventy percent of the town but which has, for years, inflicted clouds of cement dust and soaring rates of asthma on local people. It remains both a blessing and a curse.
Al-Balad, centred on a roundabout with a statue of St George killing the dragon, comprises a district of quiet lanes and hundred-year-old stone cottages alongside the deep Wadi Rahwa. It makes for an interesting short wander, and the lanes come into their own in the golden light of late afternoon. One of Jordan’s top Arabic restaurants adds to the attraction.
During August Fuheis hosts a small-town carnival, while you may also find music and cultural events staged in the week or two before Christmas.