There has been a town on Amman’s land since the Bronze Age. Objects from excavations indicate that the people there traded with Greece, Mesopotamia, and Syria.
In the Bible, Amman is referenced as Rabbath-Ammon, the Ammonites’ capital. During the 3rd century B.C., the city took the name Philadelphia, after the Roman ruler Philadelphus. Later, the Seleucids and Nabatacans ruled over the city.
Eventually, Roman General Pompey included Philadelphia in the Decapolis League, a collection of ten city-states under Roman allegiance.
Several churches were built during the Byzantine period, but then the city fell into decline when the Sassanians (from Persia) took control, until the seventh century A.D. The city then became part of the Islamic empire as it spread north: Muslim leaders initiated a reversion back to the city’s original Biblical name, Ammon (Amman).
During the late 19th century, the Circassians resettled the area. The early 1900s saw a boom due to the city’s having a station on the new Hejaz Railway. When the State of Transjordan was established during the Great Arab Revolt, King Abdullah I appointed Amman as the capital in 1921. He founded the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Since that time, Amman has prospered and grown quickly into a metropolis inhabited by more than one million people.
The amphitheatre is a monument remaining from the ancient city of Philadelphia. Built into a hill, it can seat 6,000 people and is sporadically still used for events.
Check out the two museums located at the site: the Jordan Folklore Museum and the Museum of Popular Traditions, which display mosaics, costumes, and other items from ancient Jordan.
Thousands of years ago, the capital Rabbath-Ammon stood on the site; excavations have unearthed relics from the Stone Age and Roman and Islamic periods.
The magnificent Omayyad Palace, the Great Temple of Amman, a Byzantine basilica, and the Jordan Archaeological Museum are located on the hill as well.
The museum has artefacts that date back more than 700,000 years. See one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a facsimile of the Mesha Stele and sarcophagi from the Iron Age.
Known as Medeba in the Bible, this ‘City of Mosaics’ is located only 30km from Amman. Stunning Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, including the well-known mosaic diagram of the Holy Land, festoon the city’s churches. The Holy Land map is in the Greek Orthodox Church of St George.
The Archaeological Park also houses a collection of mosaics. Due to some ingenious ramps built over some excavated mosaics, you can view certain ones from above.
The city is also known for beautiful hand-woven tapestries.
One of the main attractions of Jordan, the city is only 50km from Amman. Sand buried the city for centuries, preserving it better than almost all other ancient Roman sites on the planet.
The impressive theatres, baths, temples, and streets rutted by the wheels of stone chariots will enthral you. Excavations have proven that the city has been continuously occupied for 6,500+ years.
Most delightful is when the ancient amphitheatre is used once a year for the Culture and Arts festival. Also, throughout the period from July to October, there is a sound and light spectacle every night.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
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Nothing inhabits the Dead Sea due to its salt concentration—four times higher than average sea water. However, this makes floating on its surface effortless. The water is also incredibly rich in minerals, which makes it internationally popular for its healing properties.
Most visitors go to the northern shore where the Government Rest House offers bathing and dining facilities, as well as a beach and the chance to roll around in the famous rich black mud. Swimming anywhere in the sea is free, but for the price of JD2 (£1.80), you can access the Government Rest House’s facilities.
Gold and jewellery, sold by their weight, are abundant in Amman—try the Gold Souk for an excellent collection.
For hand-woven bags and dried fruits, visit Wild Jordan. Jordan Design and Trade Centre across from the Amman Orchid Hotel sells hand-woven rugs, plus other goods crafted by participants of the Bani Hamida project.
The downtown streets are full of shops selling a range of items, especially King Talal Street. Look for Turkish coffee services.
There are also shopping malls such as the Mecca Mall and Zara Shopping Centre.
Near the Regency Palace Hotel, the Royal Cultural Centre is the premier venue for cultural activities. You will have the opportunity to hear Arabic and classical music performed, as well as watch folk dancing shows.
Don’t miss this protected area of breathtaking desert wilderness, where the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was shot. Even today, Bedouin tribes inhabit the mountains in goat-hair tents and can take visitors on jeep rides. Or you can just hike the stone mountains and sand dunes, and then watch the surreal sunsets.
The dive centre rents gear, so don’t worry if you haven’t brought your own snorkel to the desert. There are two pools, a clean beach, a restaurant and a coral reef. This is a relaxed place to swim around before enjoying cocktails and dinner.
The Le Meridien Amman hotel can be found in the Shmeisani area, close to some of the city’s most popular attractions. The hotel features a health club with spa facilities and a beauty shop. Note that check in is from 3p.m.
The Holiday Inn Amman hotel has a top location, a stone’s throw from major shopping centres and the airport. There are 218 rooms and suites, all of them boasting simple, but modern, amenities. The hotel also houses a few decent restaurants, a pool and serves up regular live entertainment.
The Grand Hyatt Amman hotel is a 5-star hotel set in the business district. It offers top-end facilities, including a fully-equipped health club, while useful services like currency exchange are also provided for. Those not wishing to go out after dark can choose from five restaurants for dinner, and then head for a nightcap at the ultra-trendy ‘Terrace Bar’.
The Grand Palace hotel offers above-par quality for its moderate cost. The 1970s box-type building may not look very exotic from the outside, but the air-conditioned rooms and sound proof windows will ensure a comfortable stay. It is handily located near to cultural attractions, which the welcoming reception staff will guide you to.
The Kempinski Hotel, with its state-of-the-art design, only opened its doors a few years ago. Situated in a prime location, its spacious suites offer unparalleled views of the city. There is also a fitness room, spa services, and a high-tech business centre.
The Queen Alia International Airport in Amman is located just 10 miles from Amman and has a 24/7 availability of airport taxis and shuttles buses.
The bus arrives every hour at the Abdali bus station and costs JD0.500 (£0.45).
A taxi will take about half an hour, traffic permitting, to or from Amman. The fare is about JD10 (£9).
Route 15 is the most convenient route to and from the airport.
The bus system is rather confusing because nothing is labelled in English and bus route maps are rare, but buses 26, 27, 28, 41 and 43 can be taken to get downtown. You can take bus 41 for 7th Circle. Tickets cost about 50 fils (a few pence).
There are private taxis, but remind the drivers to turn on their meters if they don’t—they are required to use them. The fares are rather cheap and you will not usually have to wait long for a private taxi. Service taxis cost approx. 130 fils (ten pence) per seat, regardless of where your destination is. After 8pm, the price for service taxis increases by 25%.
You could also consider an Amman car hire. A national driving license will usually suffice as long as there is a photo of the holder. Remember to keep to the right-hand side. Road signs are often in English in addition to Arabic. There are many petrol stations in the capital and major towns, but be careful when driving to the south because they soon become sparse.
Nestled in a quaint, renovated house, Fakhr El-Din (Second Circle on Taha Hussein Street) is one of the most popular restaurants in Jordan’s capital. High-quality Lebanese dishes include chicken and meat grills, fish, and decadent Lebanese desserts.
More cheaply priced—yet delicious—food can be found at Hashem (Alamir Mohamed Street). This Amman institution, which counts the Royal Family among its regulars, features a limited menu of dishes such as falafel, fuul (a paste made from fava beans), and hummus.
Al Quds (King Hussein Street) serves moderately priced, traditional Arabic food. Try the mansaf, a yoghurt-based Jordanian dish of meat or chicken that is exceptional. For dessert, try the kunafah, a traditional Arabic dessert made with vermicelli and cheese.
Kan Zaman (Yadoudeh, Airport Road) is housed in a renovated 19-century farmhouse. It offers international as well as local cuisine.
If you fancy great food and a young, trendy crowd, check out the Blue Fig (Al-Ameer Hashem Bin al-Hussein Street). The décor is modern and chic and the food, tasty. Try the delicious tuna cheese balls, Arab bread, and cocktails.
Cairo Restaurant (Al-Malek Talal Street) features delectable food for those on a budget. The locals mostly stick with the mutton stews and goat’s heads, but the delicious shish tawooq provides enough grilled chicken for two people. The chicken maqlubbeh (rice and vegetables) is also popular, as well as the kofta, a skewer of grilled, spiced mincemeat.
A vaccination for yellow fever is an administrative requirement for travellers aged one and older who arrive from areas where the disease is widespread.
Recommended vaccinations include the typical boosters included in the vaccination schedule. Also, consider hepatitis A (must be at least a year old), typhoid for extended stays (must be at least two years old), hepatitis B for frequent or extended stays, and rabies for extended stays or isolated locations.
Children need boosters included in the vaccination schedule, but sooner. They should receive an MMR booster (from nine months, followed by a booster six months later), hepatitis B (at birth), and BCG at birth for extended stays.
The water is potable, but only in the major towns. Al-Nabe bottled water is recommended.
The health infrastructure is satisfactory. There are decent facilities and competent doctors, especially at Ma’an hospital.
For emergencies, dial 191 for police and 199 for the fire department and ambulances.
Do not walk unaccompanied after twilight and do not wear expensive jewellery or carry lots of cash, and do not approach large gatherings of people.
Make photocopies of travel documents and keep the copies with you. Put the originals in your hotel in Amman.
Avoid driving after dark and avoid Amman buses, which can be unsafe at night.
Adapt your behaviour and clothing to the locals’; women should not wear tight-fitting clothing.