My dear travellers and lovers of unique trips, welcome to another new adventure on the Mr.M blog. Today we officially start a new series of travelogues about an exotic oriental country that is not known much about and therefore represents an unexplored gem of Western Asia – Jordan.
In today’s post, we will enjoy the beauty of two cities together: Amman, the capital of Jordan, and Jerash, an ancient city. Before starting today’s post, I would like to thank the National Tourism Board of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – Visit Jordan for the warm invitation and the amazing experience to get to know the Jordanian culture and customs.
As you are used to, I will first introduce you to some basic information about the country we are visiting. Jordan, the official name of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a country in Western Asia. It is located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe in the Levant region, on the east bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the northeast, Syria to the north and the Palestinian West Bank, Israel and the Dead Sea to the west. It has a coastline of less than 30 kilometers on the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea in the southwest. The Gulf of Aqaba separates Jordan from Egypt. Amman is the capital and largest city of Jordan, as well as its economic, political and cultural center.
Today’s Jordan has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic era. Three stable kingdoms appeared there at the end of the Bronze Age: Ammon, Moab and Edom. The later empires that arose were: the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Nabatean Kingdom, the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates and the Ottoman Empire.
After the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in 1916 during World War I, the Ottoman Empire was divided by Britain and France. The Emirate of Transjordan was founded in 1921 by Hashemite, then Emir Abdullah I, and the Emirate became a British protectorate. In the mid-20th century, Jordan became an independent state officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, but was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1949. Jordan is one of the founders of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The sovereign state is a constitutional monarchy, but the king has broad executive and legislative powers.
Jordan is a semi-arid country, covering an area of 89,342 km2, with a population of 10 million, making it the eleventh most populous Arab country. The dominant majority, or about 95% of the country’s population, are Sunni Muslims, with a predominantly Arab Christian minority. Jordan has been repeatedly referred to as an “oasis of stability” in the turbulent Middle East region. The country remained largely unscathed by the violence that gripped the region after the 2010 Arab Spring. Interesting information that Jordan has accepted refugees from several neighboring countries in conflict since the middle of the 20th century. An estimated 2.1 million Palestinian and 1.4 million Syrian refugees are present in Jordan. The kingdom is also a haven for thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution by the Islamic State.
Jordan has a high human development index, ranking 102nd, and is considered an upper-middle-income economy. Jordan’s economy, one of the smallest in the region, is attractive to foreign investors based on its skilled workforce. The country is a major tourist destination, which also attracts medical tourism due to its well-developed health sector.
Amman is the capital and at the same time the largest economic, political and cultural city of Jordan with slightly more than 4 million inhabitants. , Amman is the largest city in the Levant region, the fifth largest city in the Arab world and the ninth largest metropolitan area in the Middle East.
Some of the first official evidence of settlement in the area of present-day Amman dates back to the 8th millennium BC, at the Neolithic site known as Ain Ghazal, where the world’s oldest human-shaped statues were discovered. During the Iron Age, the city was known as Rabath Ammon and served as the capital of the Ammon Kingdom. In the 3rd century BC, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, rebuilt the city and renamed it “Philadelphia”, making it a regional center of Hellenistic culture. Under Roman rule, Philadelphia was one of the ten Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis before being ruled directly as part of the province of Arabia Petraea.
The Rashidun Caliphate conquered the city from the Byzantines in the 7th century AD, restored its ancient Semitic name and called it Amman. During the Middle Ages, the city alternated between periods of destruction and abandonment and periods of relative prosperity as the center of the Balka region. Amman was largely abandoned from the 15th century until the end of the 19th century, when the Ottoman authorities began to settle the Circassians.
The first municipal council of Amman was established at the beginning of the 20th century. Amman witnessed rapid growth after being declared the capital of Transjordan in 1921, receiving migrants from various Jordanian and Levantine cities, and after several successive waves of refugees: Palestinians in 1948 and 1967; Iraqis in 1990 and 2003 and Syrians in 2011. It was originally built on seven hills, but now extends over 19 hills combining 22 areas, administered by the Greater Amman Municipality. The areas of Amman are named after the hills (Jabal) or the valleys (Wadi) they occupy, such as Jabal Lwaybde and Wadi Abdun. Eastern Amman is predominantly filled with historical sites that often host cultural activities, while western Amman is more modern and serves as the economic center of the city.
Over a million tourists visited Amman in 2018, officially making it the 89th most visited city in the world and the 12th most visited Arab city. Amman has a relatively fast growing economy and is ranked as a Beta-Global City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. Moreover, it has been declared one of the best cities in the Middle East and North Africa according to economic, labor, environmental and socio-cultural factors. The city is among the most popular locations in the Arab world for multinational corporations to open their regional offices, alongside Doha and Dubai.
Amman is considered one of the most liberal cities in the Arab world. The city has become one of the most popular destinations for expats and students who want to live, study or work in the Middle East or the Arab world in general. The city’s culinary scene has changed from shawarma and falafel stands to include many popular international restaurants and fast food joints such as Asian restaurants, French bistros and Italian trattorias. The city has become famous for its fine dining scene among Western expats and tourists from the Persian Gulf.
Souk Jara is one of the most famous outdoor markets managed by the Jabal Amman Residents Association (JARA). Large shopping malls were built during the 2000s in Amman, including Mecca Mall, Abdoun Mall, City Mall, Al-Baraka Mall, Taj Mall, Zara Mall, Avenue Mall and Abdali Mall in Al Abdali. Wakalat Street is the first pedestrian zone in Amman and famous fashion brands can be found here. The Sweifieh area is considered the main shopping district of Amman.
Nightclubs, music bars and shisha lounges are present all over Amman, changing the old image of the city as the conservative capital of the kingdom. This burgeoning new nightlife scene has been shaped by Jordan’s younger generations. In addition to a wide range of places to party, drink and dance in the company of the city’s rich entertainment, Amman hosts numerous cultural entertainment events, including the annual Amman Summer Festival. Souk Yara is Jordan’s weekly flea market event that takes place every Friday during the summer.
Local cuisine is considered a fusion of several cuisines in the region. It is known as the food of the Levant – an ancient word for the area bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Peninsula. But the food here is not just the sum of its calories. However, the real street food scene in the city makes Amman cuisine recognizable in the world.
Many events take place in Amman, including events sponsored by Red Bull Soundclash and the Soapbox Race, the second part of the Jerash Festival, the Al-Balad Music Festival, the Amman Marathon, the Made in Jordan Festival, the Amman Book Festival and the New Think Festival. Venues for such cultural events often include the Roman Theater and Odeon Theater in the city center, Ras al Ain Hangar, King Hussein Business Park, Rainbow Theater and Shams Theatre, Royal Film Commission, Shoman Libraries and Darat al Funun, and the Royal Cultural Center in City Sports . In addition to major events and institutional planning, scholars highlight tactical urbanism as a key element of the city’s cultural fabric.
What is important to visit in Amman? When you came to the capital of Jordan, I think you should visit the Roman amphitheater that was built in the second century BC. Also, the Roman Theater is located in a place that is still the heart of the old part of Amman. A large part of the theater has been renovated, so many events are held there. In the immediate vicinity on the hill is the Citadel, from which you can enjoy the view of the city and the old part of the city.
The Citadel was once the acropolis of the ancient city, of course even today visitors have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the preserved ruins. One of the ruins is the Temple of Hercules, built in honor of Marcus Aurelius. The temple had four Corinthian columns, of which unfortunately only two survive today. Also on the Citadel you will find the remains of a Byzantine church from the 6th century, as well as numerous monuments that marked the beginning of Arab rule.
The Citadel has a long history of occupation by many great civilizations. Evidence of habitation has been found since the Neolithic, and the hill was fortified during the Bronze Age. The hill became the capital of the Kingdom of Amon sometime after 1200 BC. Later it came under the rule of empires such as the Neo-Assyrian Empire (8th century BC), the Neo-Babylonian Empire (6th century BC), the Ptolemies, the Seleucids (3rd century BC), the Romans (1st century BC), Byzantines (3rd century AD) and Umayyads (7th century AD). After the Umayyads, there was a period of decline and for most of the time until 1878, the former city became an abandoned pile of ruins used only sporadically by Bedouins and seasonal farmers. Despite this gap, the Amman Citadel is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world.
Most of the ruins still visible at the site date from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. The main remains on the site are the Temple of Hercules, the Byzantine church and the Umayyad palace. The Archaeological Museum of Jordan was built on the hill in 1951. Although the fortification walls enclose the heart of the site, the ancient periods of occupation covered large areas.
The historic buildings, tombs, arches, walls and steps have no modern boundaries, and therefore there is significant archaeological potential at this site, as well as in the surrounding lands, as well as throughout Amman. Archaeologists have worked on the site since the 1920s, including Italian, British, French, Spanish and Jordanian projects, but much of the Citadel remains unexcavated.
The Jordan Archaeological Museum is located in the Amman Citadel. It was built in the middle of the 20th century and presents artifacts from archaeological sites in Jordan, dating from prehistoric times to the 15th century. The collections are arranged in chronological order and include objects from everyday life such as flint, glass, metal and pottery, as well as more artistic objects such as jewelry and statues. The museum also contains a collection of coins.
The museum previously housed some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the only copper scroll, which is now on display in the newly established Jordan Museum, along with the Ain Ghazal statues, which are among the oldest statues ever made by human civilization.
Jerash is a city in northern Jordan. The city is the administrative center of Jerash province and has a little more than 50,000 inhabitants. The first evidence of settlement in Jerash is found at the Neolithic site known as Tal Abu Sowan, where rare human remains dating back to 7500 BC have been discovered. Jerash flourished during the Greek and Roman periods until the middle of the eighth century. However, in 1120, Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin, the atabeg of Damascus, ordered a garrison of forty men to build a fort at an unknown site in the ruins of the ancient city, probably the highest point of the city walls in the north-eastern hills. It was captured in 1121 by Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, and then completely destroyed. Then the crusaders immediately left Jerash and retreated to Saqib.
Jerash was then abandoned until the Ottomans reappeared until the beginning of Ottoman rule in the early 16th century. However, archaeologists have found some evidence – a small Mamluk hamlet in the northwest quarter that indicates that Jerash was resettled before the Ottoman era. The ancient city was gradually discovered through a series of excavations that began in 1925 and continue to this day.
Today, Jerash is home to one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman cities, earning it the nickname “Pompeii of the East.” Approximately 330,000 visitors The Jerash Festival is held here, one of the leading cultural events in the Middle East that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
The Jerash archaeological site has two museums where archaeological materials and relevant information about the site and its rich history are displayed. The Jerash Archaeological Museum, which is the older of the two museums, is located on top of a hill known as “Camp Hill” east of Cardo and overlooks the Oval Plaza (circular square). The small museum contains a chronological display of artifacts found in and around Jerash from prehistory to Islamic times.
The museum displays a unique group of small statues of a group identified as Muses of the Olympic Pantheon that were discovered in Jerash in 2016. The statues, which are of Roman date, were found in a fragmentary state and have been partially restored. The museum also contains a well-preserved late 4th to 5th century lead sarcophagus featuring Christian and pagan symbolism. The museum also has numerous sculptures, altars and mosaics on display outside.
The Jerash Visitor Center serves as a recent archaeological museum and presents the site of Jerash in a thematic approach focusing on the evolution and development of the city of Jerash over time, as well as the economy, technology, religion and daily life. The center also displays further sculptures discovered in Jerash in 2016, including restored statues of Zeus and Aphrodite, as well as a marble head thought to represent the Roman empress Julia Domna.
I would like to share with you another interesting fact about this amazing place. The legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed for the first time in Jordan at the Oval Forum, the archaeological site of Jerash. The concert was held on September 18, 2017 organized by Friends of Jordan Festivals.
Mr. Bocelli is an international classical crossover tenor and has attracted many music lovers with the beauty of classical music. His performances were attended by many eminent figures from the world of politics, art and religious leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. This was a magnificent event that the people of Jordan still remember today.
Jerash has developed dramatically with the growing importance of the tourism industry in the city. Jerash is now the second most popular tourist attraction in Jordan, after the ruins of Petra. On the western side of the city, which contained most of the representative buildings, the ruins have been carefully preserved and spared from encroachment, and the modern city stretches east of the river that once divided ancient Jerash in two.
My dear travellers, we have come to the end of this first special post about the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which would not have been possible without the selfless help of the Jordan Tourism Board – Visit Jordan in collaboration with local partners who allowed me to feel the spirit and beauty of Jordanian culture. and traditions. Of course, as always, I tried my best to convey to you my impressions of this unusual experience from Jordan.
Time always flies when a person is having a good time! A person is rich in soul if he has managed to explore the world and I am glad that I always manage to find partners of my projects who help me to discover new and unusual destinations in a completely different way during this global health crisis of COVID-19.
I am honoured to have the opportunity to cooperate with companies that are the very top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank them for this incredible adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of this unusual country in Western Asia in a completely different way.
How did you like my story about the Amman and Jerash? Have you had the chance to visit Jordan so far?
If you have any question, comment, suggestion or message for me you can write me below in the comments. Of course, as always, you can contact me via email or social networks, all addresses can be found on the CONTACT ME page. See you at the same place in a few days, with some new story!
With love from Amman,
This post is sponsored by the Visit Jordan, as well as other local partners. This post is my personal and honest review of the destination experience.