Amman, the modern and ancient capital of Jordan is a city right out of the Arabian Nights. It is built on seven hills which would remind you of the seven seas and the seven hills from the fantasy stories of your childhood. But this city is for real. The enchanting landscape gives way to honking horns, prayer calls, stately minarets, white houses, kebab stalls and bustling markets. It is one of the oldest, densely inhabited cities in the world, along with the remains of civilizations that existed from the Stone Age, circa 7000 BCE. There have been lots of references of the city in the Bible too.
The Citadel, as the name suggests watches the city from its height. It has a long wall which has been rebuilt many times during the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as in the Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Umayyad periods. The excavations prove that it existed through all these periods. There are two giant standing pillars which are the remains of the Roman Temple of Hercules- also known as the Great Temple of Amman, built during the reign of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.
The Temple of Hercules was a part of the Byzantine basilica. The Citadel’s most fascinating historic building is the Umayyad Palace. Built by the Umayyad Arabs and dating from about AD 720, the palace was look like a modern day extensive complex of royal and residential buildings. Catastrophically, it was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 749 and was never completely rebuilt.
Roman Theatre Boasting of a seating capacity of about 6000, this magnificently restored theatre is a fascinating remnant of Roman Philadelphia, and is the highlight of Amman for tourists.It was built in the Roman amphitheatre style with three tiers for seating; the lowest taken by the rulers and the highest by the general public. Set on top of a hill, the views at sunrise and sunset are breathtaking. It once served as a necropolis or graveyard. The theatre is still used periodically for sporting and cultural events.
Jordan Museum has a rich history from times immemorial. From biblical times to the modern day urbanization, the Jordan Museum, with a series of beautifully presented and informative displays, tell Jordan’s historical epic from the first people through the Nabatean civilization to the modern era of today. It houses the oldest-known human statues (the 8000-year-old mannequins of Ain Ghazal) and Jordan’s share of the Dead Sea scrolls.
King Abdullah Mosque was built by the late King Hussein as a memorial to his grandfather. This blue-domed landmark can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers. There is also a separate small section for women worshippers. This is the only mosque in Amman that cordially welcomes non-Muslim visitors. But one has to adhere to the protocols of entry. There is a small museum which has a collection of photographs and personal items of King Abdullah I.
Yet another monument of interest is the Ottoman style mosque – Al Husseini or the Grand Husseini Mosque. Surrounded by the busy streets of downtown Amman and the glittering gold souq(open-air market place), the Mosque is an important landmark.
There is an urbane side to Amman, with leafy residential areas, cafes, bars, modern malls and art galleries that are central to Jordanian life. Despite its awe-inspiring beauty, the charm of the city lies in its people. The warmth and the hospitality is unbeatable. A trip to Amman will leave a print on the mind forever.