With 7,000 years of recorded history, Amman is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It was originally built on 7 hills, which today help define the city’s various neighborhoods. At every corner you’ll find something to explore. Here are 5 activities to get you started.
Explore Jabal Amman
One of the most popular neighborhoods is the historic Jabal Amman area near the center of downtown. It’s filled with art galleries, cafes and other interesting hangouts. Wandering through this area, you can glimpse historic homes,visit an outdoor market hosted by the Jabal Amman Residents Association (JARA) or grab a snack at local eateries like the Abu Ghosh bakery (where bread is made daily in a red brick oven) or Hashem (a falafel cafe which Lonely Planet points out “has a picture of King Hussein dining here on its wall, if you need any further recommendation”).
Jabal Amman’s cobblestone-covered Rainbow Street in particular is a must-visit. Less than a mile long, it sits atop one of the city’s seven hills and offers spectacular views of the Old City. Cafes, art galleries, trendy eateries and shisha bars line the street, along with the former homes of Jordan’s old aristocratic families. It has become in recent years, “one of Amman’s busiest spots on a Thursday night.”
Enjoy the Nightlife in Abdoun
The adjacent neighborhood of Abdoun is a center for nightlife in Amman. Although its star as the most hip part of the city dimmed a bit after the 90′s, the area is enjoying a comeback as a popular spot among Amman’s youth. Travelers and locals alike visit the neighborhood for its nightclubs, hip restaurants and cafes.
Explore the Roman Amphitheater
The ancient Roman Amphitheater was built under Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD), when the city was known as Philadelphia. Cut into the steep hillside, the theater provided seating for 6,000 spectators. It was built facing north, to keep the sun off the seated crowds. Unlike the Roman ruins say in Rome, visitors are able to climb the structure. In fact the site is still in use for cultural and sporting events.
The amphitheater is grouped together in a complex that houses the Roman Forum. In addition, there are two small museums housed in the amphitheater. The Jordanian Museum of Popular Traditions displays traditional Jordanian costumes, jewelery, fine embroidery, pottery and a collection of 6th century mosaics from Byzantine churches in Jerash and Madaba. The JordanFolklore Museum displays a collection of items representing daily life, including food preparation items and costumes, from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Step into the Local Art Scene in Jabal Al Weibdeh
If you’re looking for a quieter part of the city, head over to district of Jabal Al Weibdeh. With its pine trees, small neighborhood shops and family-owned patisseries, it provides a more authentic, laid-back atmosphere than other parts of the city. Artists and galleries favor this district, so if you’re an art lover this is definitely a must-visit area for you.
Be sure to visit the art center of Darat Al-Funun located in a trio of whitewashed mansions built in the 1920s and set in some of Amman’s most beautiful gardens. Take in the view of the city from their cafe’s patio, while you relax under the shade of a huge tree and listen to the sounds of the water from the beautiful tiled fountain.
On the property are also the remains of a small 6th-century Byzantine church which was recently uncovered and restored for holding exhibitions and open-air movie screenings. Darat Al-Funun also hosts artists in residence and impromptu concerts regularly. As home to some of the region’s best contemporary art, it has held a joint exhibition with the Tate Modern in London.
The nearby Jordan Gallery of Fine Arts, with two thousand of the finest works of contemporary Arab and Islamic art, is another must-see. Its huge high-ceilinged exhibition rooms host painting, print, photographs, weavings, installation and sculptures from more than 800 artists from 59 countries, principally in Africa and Asia. Adjacent to the gallery you’ll find the gallery’s bar, Canvas. As the sun goes down and the bar fills with the country’s artistic elite and the sounds of music, it transforms into a hotspot for cultured nightlife.
Watch the Sunset from the Amman Citadel
Located in the center of downtown Amman, Amman Citadel (Jabal al-Qal’a ) was built on the highest of Amman’s original seven hills. There is evidence of settlement here over 7,000 years ago. Over the millennia, it was conquered by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Nabataeans and the Romans. Today it is covered with ruins including arches, walls, tombs, stairs and structures dating from Roman times to early Islamic. It is also the site of the Jordan Archaeological Museum. Exploring the area, visitors can step back in time and imagine what the site was like when it was Roman and the Temple of Hercules was newly built. Or picture it when it was a royal residence and the Ummayad palace was still at its most splendid.
More than just an incredible place to discover the past, the Citadel provides the ideal vantage point to watch the sunset. By then most other visitors will have come and gone. As the calls to magreb (sunset) prayers ring out in the evening air, you can sit and watch the daylight fade and the evening lights begin to twinkle on the sloping hills below.
These are just a few of the places you can discover when you visit the beautiful city of Amman. For more information about Jordan, click over to the official website of the Jordan Tourisim Board: www.visitjordan.com.
Photo Credits: Image 1 – intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com ; Image 2 – wikipedia.org; Image 3 - thelevantpost.com ; Image 4 – britannica.com; Image 5 – mikeniconchuk.com; Image 6 – ferozk.blogspot.com.
Sources: Lonely Planet; visitjordan.com; wikepedia.org; beamman.com; andfaraway.net; telegraph.co.uk
Post by Anis Salvesen.