24 Hours in Amman, Jordan
Lovers of history would find having to explore Amman in just 24 hours a ridiculous challenge. Amman is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and its history spans nine millennia dating back to the Stone Age. On a recent business trip, however, we were faced with just such a challenge.
We hired a tour guide to make a quick trip around the city and were surprised to see as much as we did. Our guide Adnan was friendly, accommodating, knowledgeable and able to communicate with us in English. He provided us with options for what to do and see and then let us decide. After hearing about all the choices we are sure we will have to make another visit to Amman because we simply couldn't get to all the things we wanted. Nevertheless, we made some decisions and forged ahead with our hyperspeed excursion.
We decided to do the city center tour to get the flavor of this fascinating city. On our drive we passed the Blue Mosque or King Abdullah I Mosque, a relatively new mosque built between 1982 and 1989. Our first stop was the Citadel, a landmark of ancient ruins atop the highest hill in Amman, Jebel al-Qala'a. It is a terrific starting point because you can really get your bearings and enjoy the breath-taking view of downtown Amman. You'll quickly notice how every building is constructed with the Jordanian white stone. The city was originally bulit on seven hills but now spans over nineteen hills. The seven hills are visible from the Citadel which is home to the Temple of Hercules, believed to be constructed under the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Remains unearthed in the Citadel date back to the Bronze Age. It was quite peaceful while we were there and you could really feel all the historic significance of this site.
From the Citadel you can also see the Roman Forum and Theater, built between 138 and 161 AD by the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. A short ride away, this is the largest theater in Jordan and can hold up to 6,000 spectators. Built into the side of the mountain, It still hosts local sports and cultural events. There are is a wonderful museum inside featuring mosiacs, artifacts and antiquities.
From the Roman Forum you can easily walk the downtown streets of Amman and explore the souks, or marketplaces, and really discover how the locals shop and live. Gold, clothing, electronics, spices, fruits and vegetables are all available at the souks. The streets are safe and the locals are friendly but watch the traffic -cars, buses, taxis, bikes and scooters all make for quick-paced action. In the center of bustling action is the King Hussein Mosque. Rebuilt by King Abdullah in 1924 and restored in 1987 it has been home to other ancient mosques and may also have been the site of the Cathedral of Philadelphia.
From the city center we took a short drive to the outer ring of town where most of the embassies are located. A suburban-like area of new large expensive homes filled with ex-pats occupies the hills. Ironically, no matter where you drive you are likely to see camels for sale on the highway corner - something you don't see everywhere!
Our trip finished off with a quick stop at a local crafts store where we purchased a Jordan magnet for our collection and a few other mementos. Although our visit was brief we certainly did enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Amman. On our next visit we will explore a few locations outside of the city as well. Petra, te famed rose red city, half as old as time" is a well known ancient city, UNESCO site, national treasure and best known tourist attraction in Jordan. It's a 3-hour trip each way from Amman and many tour companies offer many different plans to see this remarkable place. A night visit provides an even more spectacular experience.
The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, which some believe to be the Garden of Eden, is another often visited Jordanian location. Many people seek the healing properties of soaking in the salty sea and a multitude of Jordanian Dead Sea salt products are available for purchase.
The city of Jerash is another popular tourist destination with remarkable Roman ruins. Unique re-enactment performances called Roman Army and Chariot Experiences take place at the hippodrome in Jerash. It is also host to many festivals and musical events. It's another wonderful day trip from Amman.
And don't forget about the delicious Middle Eastern cuisine in Amman. Falafel, hummus, tabouleh, fresh Jordanian salad and so many other taste treats abound.
Clearly 24 hours in Amman is not enough time to enjoy all it has to offer. Amman is a vibrant city with many fine restaurants, shopping, art galleries and more for visitors to enjoy. Traveling beyond the city center provides additional historic sites and insights. If you want to learn more about Jordan and its heritage, check out their informative website.
What do you think? Would you like to visit Amman?