Oh Gosh. I wish I had more time in Amman, Jordan. I knew at first glance out of my Uber window at the hills covered in limestone desert buildings that I was gong to love this place. view of amman’s hillsides covered in buildings Amman, Jordan No actually. The love started before that with my airport transfer ride with Khalid. During our 40-minute drive he taught me a lot about the history and culture of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (through a fun game format) You can read more about that here. We talked about Jordanian food, lifestyle, geography and religion, politics – two topics they typically say not to talk about, but this was a judgement free conversation for learning and understanding. Khalid brought Amman to life as we navigated through the wadis and up and down the hills – or mountains as Khalid calls them – there are now over 20 of them in a city that long ago was build on seven hills just like Rome. Amman is known as the City of Seven Hills, in reference to its history of Roman rule. people standing at fruit stand in amman jordan With a population of 4.5 million, the capital, Amman is Jordan’s largest city. It is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities with a history spanning nine millennia! You’ll discover a fascinating mix of old and new neighborhoods made up of crumbling ruins, limestone desert buildings, and modern skyscrapers. Amman is the kind of city I could get lost in, stopping to recalibrate in beautiful, LOCAL coffee shops, like Rumi Café below, while engaging with the warm, friendly locals. There are many things to do in Amman, including the nearby top attractions of the Citadel and Jerash, both ancient Greco Roman cities. I had two days exploring Jordan’s Capital City at the beginning of my Jordan Escape tour by Globus. Table Of Contents 1. Visit Citadel Hill ancient ruins of the citadel with three plaques showing the three names of amman The gates to the Citadel showing the three names of Amman One of the most popular things to do in Amman is the Citadel, the ancient site of Rabbath-Ammon, the original name of Amman. Its considered one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places. As it sits on the highest hill (Jabal al-Qal’a) in Amman, you’ll probably see the columns of the Temple of Hercules as you move about the city. crumbling columns of Temple of Hercules Citadel with the hills of amman covered in buildings in the background Temple of Hercules The Temple of Hercules is the Citadel’s main attraction and will dominate your view as you walk through the city gates. (see more in this Reel) At the foot of the temple columns lies the remains of what they believe was an enormous Statue of Hercules that collapsed during an earthquake. The size of the remaining three fingers crawling on the hill and fragments of his elbow give you a sense of how gigantic the statue was. giant fingers and elbow of herculles statue lying on floor Giant fingers and elbow of Hercules From Citadel Hill you get excellent views of the Roman Theater down in the valley and Amman. Make sure you walk behind the small museum, so you don’t miss what once was the Umayyad Palace, believed to be built by the Umayyad Arabs around AD 720. I wish I had more time to explore this area. ancient brick building with blue dome Umayyad Palace receiving room two women walking under a dome in an old palace brick palace with blue domed roofInto Umayyad Palace The blue-domed audience hall was designed to impress and receive visitors to the Royal Palace. It’s in the shape of a cross that mirrors the Byzantine church it was built over. If you have time, stop into the Jordan Archaeological Museum to see excavated artifacts, including one of the oldest figures made by man (8,000 – 4,000 BC), a skull with holes drilled in to release negative spirits, and the gigantic jars that were actually coffins for children. a skull with hles in itHow many holes do you have to drill until you’re sane? skeleton lying down in a dispaly case ancient figurine citadelOne of the oldest figurines 2. Visit the Amman Roman Theatre Views of ancient Roman Theater amongst the buildings and hills of amman Views of the Roman Theater Now that you’ve seen the Roman Theater from the Citadel, it’s time to go down into the valley and explore this remnant of Roman Philadelphia. It was built 2nd century AD during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138–61). It was designed to keep the sun off the up to 6,000 people the arena was built for. The theater has been reintroduced to local Amman life with concerts put on here sometimes during the summer months. It’s a highlight for many visitors to Amman. 3. Take a Day Trip to the Ancient Roman City of Jerash birds eye view of jerash Looking over Jerash from Zeus Temple One of the best things to do in Jordan is to visit the ancient city of Jerash, considered one of the best-preserved Roman-era cities in the world. It’s only 50 km north of Amman, which makes it an easy day trip. Actually, Alexander the Great originally founded Jerash (or Gerasa) as a Greek City in the 4th Century BC. You can still see the Greek inscriptions in the crumbling remains of the façade that once faced the city. About three hundred years later, the Romans took control where it grew to be one of the most impressive Roman cities to ever exist. Buildings are as they were during the Roman days (or how it has crumbled since). beautiful stone archways and buildings of jerash Contemplate that as you walk around exploring what’s left of cultural centers like temples, theaters, and hippodromes. Don’t miss the impressive South Theater of Jerash. old roman theater in jerash What a beautiful view The stunning backdrop of ancient and modern Jerash behind the elaborately carved stage gave a sense of the scale and beauty of Jerash and what it must have been like to sit here and watch a show in ancient Roman times. Sit down to enjoy the short Jordan bagpipe band show and the amazing natural acoustics of the stage. (read more about my favorite memory with the Jordan bagpipe band) bagpipe player south theater of jerash With the bagpipe player The stunning Temple of Zeus is next to the theater and offers some of the best views of Jerash. columns of zeus temple jerash The Temple of Zeus I also loved wandering down the paved white stones of Colonnaded Street (Cardo Maximus) lined by two rows of columns. Ruts, worn by chariots, are still visible down this main street of Jerash. stone cobbled road with columns on either site Colonnaded street Jerash The Colonnaded Street Further up the Cardo on the left, was another favorite, the richly carved gateway of the 2nd Century Roman Temple of Dionysus, dedicated to the God of Wine. Thank you, Dionysus, for your service! You deserve elaborate temples built in your honor. the ruins temple of dionysius Thank you Dionysius I found Jerash to be just as impressive, if not more, than Ephesus in Turkey and Pompeii in Italy, both of which I loved. You can get to Jerash from Amman by bus. If you prefer the convenience of a guided tour, check out these options here. Private Half Day Tour to Jerash from Amman Private Amman and Jerash Sightseeing Tour Jerash, Ajloun Castle or Umm Qais Private Tour 4. Have Lunch at Beit Khairat Souf arabic women sitting down talking and laughing While in the Jerash area, consider stopping at Beit Khairat Souf in the nearby village of Souf. We sat down to a delicious Jordanian lunch: hummus, mutabal (roasted eggplant), lamb kebab with eggplant, chicken, and potato sawany (a dish cooked in a tray), and an arugula salad with apple and pomegranate. After lunch, we enjoyed sage tea in the pretty gorgeous outdoor seating area shaded by huge trees and fragrant flowers, and shopped in the small stores filled with preserved jars of food, knitted hats and bags, jewelry and other trinkets and souvenirs. These stores are a part of Beit Khairat Souf’s Women’s Community Project created to help women financially support themselves. It’s a great cultural experience which gives back to community. See more photos here. 5. Explore Downtown Amman: Wa­sat Al-Balad streets with buildings on the side of the road and palm trees Downtown Amman At the bottom of Citadel Hill is Wa­sat Al-Balad, the the oldest part of Amman. I loved wandering around here discovering real Jordanian life through its old buildings, crumbling archeological ruins by the side of the road, cute cafes and bookstores, fresh produce markets, and stores selling scarves, gold, herbs and spices, fresh juices, and delicious desserts. gold shop amman book store on the side of the roadKunafeh terrace on a restaurant I absolutely loved this street art, which depicts equality, showing man and woman as one. street art mural of man and woman face merged as one Amazing street art Near to this area is Rainbow Street, one of Amman’s most famous streets for its colorful decorations, street art, cafes, restaurants bars and rooftop terraces. While I did not explore Rainbow St during my time in Aman, I could not share it with you. It’s sounds like the perfect way to spend a few hours soaking up local Amman life. Top tip is to sit at the outdoor picnic tables located at Wild Jordan for sunset colors over the Citadel. 6. Eat Kunafa at Habibah Sweets a plate of Kunafa desert Kunafa While in downtown Amman you must visit Habibah Sweets for kunafa, which is pastry soaked in sugary syrup, layered with goats cheese and topped with wheat and pistachio. This traditional family-run sweet shop was founded in 1951, and our guide told us they have the best kunafa in the city, There are various locations around Amman, but this one down a small side street in Amman is the original location. 7. Visit King Abdullah’s Mosque white mosque with turrets and blue dome The beautiful blue dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque can be seen throughout Amman. It was built in 1989 as a memorial by the late King Hussein to his grandfather, King Abdullah I, the founder of the dynasty that ruled Jordan to this day and the first King of Jordan. The mosque can house up to 7,000 worshippers, with a further 3,000 in the courtyard. There is also a small women’s section for 500 worshippers and a much smaller royal enclosure. It is the most well-known mosque in the city, and the only one that openly welcomes non-Muslim visitors. blue domed mosque with intricate designsThe beautiful blue domd mosque with turrets and blue dome with modern skyscrapers in the backgroundview from the Art Gallery terrace Avoid Friday prayer time, and remember etiquette when visiting places of worship. Women must cover their hair, arms and legs, and shoes must be removed before entering. Read this post for tips for women on dressing conservatively. The view from the café balcony of the Jordan National Arts Galley is lovely. Al Husseini Mosque in downtown Amman is popular with visitors as it’s the oldest mosque in Amman, 8. Explore Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts painting of young boy in a red circle with arabic writing I’ve come to enjoy art galleries and museums over the past couple of years – it’s become a regular date night in Raleigh for Craig and I. The Jordan National Gallery of the Fine Arts located near the hipster Jabal al-Weibdeh, was a fantastic insight into Middle Eastern culture. Inside you’ll find a collection of over 2,800 works from 1000+ artists from the Islamic and developing worlds. The gallery has two buildings connected by a Sculpture Park. brown and white painted circle sculpture of stone face with leaves growing out of it blue stoned necklace and green stoned necklace on table I enjoyed perusing the painting, sculptures and jewelry in the galleries of the South building. It also has a museum shop and a beautiful Jungle Fever café with a gorgeous terrace that overlooks the garden of the National Gallery, views of Jabal al-Weibdeh, and the sculpture park. Don’t miss the garden on the lower level out the front with fantastic sculptures