Coming to Amman for the first time, I was curious as to what the city would feel like. Surely, there would be some good restaurants (all cities have them!) and some nationally important buildings or monuments worth visiting (and photographing!). I have been to Cairo, close to Amman in many ways beyond distance, and Istanbul which, though not Arab, shared the Ottoman Empire with Amman and other places in the Middle East. But I figured with Amman being smaller and being in a smaller country would likely feel different. It was. Starting with its scale but also in the pace it seemed to have. It felt more livable, relaxed and manageable.
A Wealth of History in Amman
In terms of scale, while it does not have structures that compare with the Hagia Sophia or the Pyramids of Giza (how many places do??), the depth of the historical “record” it has on evidence took me by surprise. And I like this type of surprises!
I am a history buff but I am more informed about some places than others. About Jordan, I knew how the country came out of colonial rule in the 20th century, I knew Petra and its history, and had some notion of the Arab Revolution in which Lawrence of Arabia had a hand (thanks Hollywood). Amman surprised me by the incredible record of civilizations past that it holds and here is some of what I discovered in my visit to the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom. One of those things is that it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places town in the world!
The Citadel of Amman
The Citadel is a great example of the amazing historical record available for the visitor to Jordan. The Citadel not only has amazing ruins to visit and a great small museum but it offers amazing views of the city that surrounds it, all hills!
As the visitor is reminded by the signage, there has been settlements in current day Amman since thousands of years before Christ past the Bronze and Iron Ages through Persian, Greek, Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine periods. It also has navigated through various names. Rammath-Ammon is one of the oldest but did you know the city was also named Philadelphia in ancient times? Yep, it was.
Among the ruins I explored at The Citadel were the ruins of a Byzantine Church and the Temple of Hercules.
A key site at The Citadel is the Umayyad Governor’s Palace from the 8th century built on old Roman ruins. The Umayyad was a dynasty that ruled Amman for a few centuries but who ruled, at its peak, a vast caliphate from modern-day Pakistan to Spain. Who knew, right? Not covered in my ancient history class in high school…
The Roman Theater
Amman also has a Roman Theater built in the mid 2nd century A.D. by Emperor Antonius Pius. It is in the middle of Amman and is a popular place for local young adults to go visit, if my time there was any indication! Some in my group struck good conversations with locals whilst some of us climbed all over taking pictures!
As you can see, Amman has some incredible testimonials to ancient history in The Citadel and the Roman Theater. Petra, Jerash and Mardaba are example of other great places to witness history and will be the topic of a future post – stay tuned!!