Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a fascinating city of contrasts – a unique blend of old and new, ideally situated on a hilly area between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley.
In the commercial heart of the city, ultra-modern buildings, hotels, smart restaurants, art galleries and boutiques rub shoulders comfortably with traditional coffee shops and tiny artisans’ workshops. Everywhere there is evidence of the city’s much older past.
Due to the city’s modern-day prosperity and temperate climate, almost half of Jordan’s population is concentrated in the Amman area. The residential suburbs consist of mainly tree-lined streets and avenues flanked by elegant, almost uniformly white houses in accordance with a municipal law, which states that all buildings must be faced with local stone.
In Greco-Roman times in the 3rd century BC, the City was renamed Philadelphia (Greek for “The Brotherhood Love”) after the Ptolemaic ruler Philadelphus (283-246 BC). The City later came under Seleucid as well as Nabataean rule until the Roman General Pompey annexed Syria and made Philadelphia “Amman” part of the Decapolis League – a loose alliance of ten free city-states, bound by powerful commercial, political, and cultural interests under overall allegiance to Rome. Under the influence of the Roman culture, Philadelphia was reconstructed in typically grand Roman style with colonnaded streets, baths, an Amphitheater, and impressive public buildings.
During the Byzantine period, Philadelphia “Amman” was the seat of a Christian Bishop, and therefore several churches were built. The city declined somewhat until the year 635 AD. As Islam spread northwards from the Arabian Peninsula, the land became part of its domain. Its original Semitic name Ammon or Amman was returned to it.
With various shifts in political power over the following centuries, Amman’s fortunes declined. During the Crusades and under the Mameluks of Egypt, Amman’s importance was overtaken by the rise of Karak in the south. By 1321 AD, it was reported that Amman was “a very ancient town and was ruined before the days of Islam” there are great ruins here and the river al-Zarqa flows through them.”
Under the Ottoman Empire, Amman remained a small backwater with As-Salt being the main town of the area. By 1806, the city was reported to be uninhabited except for the Bedouins.
The departure of the Ottomans from the region coincided with the exodus of a large numbers of Circassian and other persecuted Muslims from the Caucasus. They found refuge in the area and established a settlement on the east bank of the Jordan River. Although they were mostly farmers, amongst these early settlers there were also gold and silversmiths and other craftsmen, and it wasn’t long before they built rough roads linking their settlement to Amman. Commerce, once again, began to flourish.
in Amman, the downtown area is much older and more traditional with smaller businesses producing and selling everything from fabulous jewellery to everyday household items.
“The people of Amman are multi-cultural, multi-denominational, well-educated and extremely hospitable. They welcome visitors and take pride in showing them around their fascinating and vibrant city.
Amman-fascinating city of contrasts
The Gold Souq, located in the downtown area, is famous for its dazzling array of very competitively-priced handmade gold and silver work; you can still practice your bargaining skills for these.
When you purchase goods in Jordan, the purchase price you pay includes a sales tax (similar to VAT) of 16%. However, if you are a tourist from outside of Jordan, you are entitled to receive a sales tax refund on the goods purchased; therefore making great savings on your holiday purchases.
Shop where you see the Premier Tax Free sign. Many stores in Jordan use the Premier Tax Free service to ensure that their customers receive their sales tax refund. You simply pay the purchase price in the store (including sales tax) and Premier Tax Free will send you your sales tax refund directly.
FUN & ADVENTURE
Amman’s ‘Waves Water Park’ is a great place to chill out and have some fun – especially for children who are tired from shopping and visiting the sites. The park is large, ecologically-friendly and has plenty of shady areas. The lower level has wave pools, river rides and slides as well as fast food outlets for the kids. The upper level has a quieter pool and restaurant area.
The King Hussein National Park is located on the western outskirts of the city and is a great place to while away a few hours. Within the Park is The Cultural Village, which highlights Jordan’s heritage through its handicrafts and culture. The Centre includes studios for Arabic calligraphy, stone inscriptions, natural dyes and various other traditional crafts. The Park, which overlooks Amman, has outstanding themed gardens and an auditorium where various events and festivals regularly take place. It also has a large sports training facility, as well as a children’s playground, a children’s museum, medical clinic and restaurant.
Amman has many cinemas which screen all the latest movie releases. There are also theatres and concert halls that have regular performances of stage shows, music concerts and ballets on their agenda.
Rainbow Street offers great shopping opportunities for those looking to score local and handmade goods, while Wakalat Street offers many brands name stores for the international shopper. Both streets are lined with cafes and restaurants ideal for a social night out.