Jordan’s surprisingly interesting capital city Amman is often missed by tourists on the hunt for iconic desert landscapes, ancient archaeological artefacts and historical landmarks. However, to skip the capital is to ignore the beating heart of Jordan’s contemporary scene, and disregard an imperative chapter of the country’s rich and intricate history.
Once known as the ancient city of Philadelphia, Amman is now one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Today the city is built around eight roundabouts – called circles by the locals – which were built out from the first circle to the eighth as the city expanded.
Located on top of the Jabal Amman hill where the city started, the first circle is now widely considered to be the heart of the city and is in close proximity to the downtown area of Al Balad where all the most important governmental, archaeological and religious buildings are located. Al Balad is also home to some of the very best Hummus and Falafel shops in the country for an authentic taste of Jordan, as well as the local souk markets where you can watch the busy locals going about their daily business. Tania Tours also recommends a visit to the Abu Darwish Mosque and the spectacular ancient Roman amphitheatre.
Looming over downtown Amman is Jabal al Qal’a – the capital’s ancient citadel. Impressive on many levels, the well-preserved citadel also offers breath taking panoramic views out across the valley and the cities seven hills, taking in the Roman amphitheatre, the maze of concrete houses that stretch between trendy Rainbow Street – with its art galleries and boutique shops – to the second circle.
Jordan also makes an ideal base for some of the surrounding sights and attractions thanks to its proximity to hot spots such as the beautiful blue-domed Tila al-Ali mosque, the Dead Sea, Madaba and Mount Nebo, the Cave of the Seven Sleepers or Qasir Al Abd (the Castle of the slave).
Amman’s mysteriously seductive beauty must be experienced to be understood. It is alive in its smiling eyes of the wonderfully friendly and welcoming people, in the delicious tastes created at its fabulous restaurants, in the vibrant colours of the souk, in the evocative way that ancient Byzantine architecture stands side-by-side with modern buildings and in the impressive portfolio of top quality hotels for discerning visitors. Come and see for yourself.