Amman is the first stop for many travelers heading into Jordan. Having crossed the Wadi Araba land border from Israel, we traversed the country from South to North, ending our journey with a single day to explore the capital city before flying out of Queen Alia airport. Built on 20 or so hills, Amman isn’t the most pedestrian friendly city, so if your time is short, you should definitely rely on taxis to access the major attractions.
HistoryWhile modern Amman is a fairly young city, it is built on top of the foundations of much older cultures, dating as far back as 8000 years ago. In antiquity it was called Rabbath Ammon, and was known as the capital of the Ammonites, a people group mentioned in the Old Testament. Subsequently it became known as Philadelphia, from the 200s BC era when it was under Egyptian and later Roman rule.
The Byzantines administered the region for a time until it fell to Islamic invaders, coming under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate in 661, who established an administrative center there. In the middle of the 8th century an earthquake rocked the city, leading to its decline until it was reestablished in the 20th century when the modern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was formed.
One day isn’t enough to fully delve into the capital of modern Jordan, but if you find yourself as we did with only one day, here’s what you should see:
CitadelOctober–March Saturday–Thursday: 8am–4pm
April–September Saturday–Thursday: 8am–7pm
Entry: 2JD (included in the Jordan Pass)
This is the oldest part of the city, where artifacts have been found dating all the way to the bronze age. The Roman ruins date from the 2nd century and are thought to be the remains of a temple dedicated to Hercules, because of the giant hand fragment nearby. Just behind the temple is the Jordan Archaeological Museum which holds some astounding artifacts including some of the oldest sculptures in the entire world, the Ain Ghazal statues.
Umayyad PalaceAlso at the Citadel is the Umayyad palace, a complex of royal administrative and residential buildings dating from the early 700s. It didn’t last long before being destroyed by the earthquake in 749. The audience hall is the only building that remains mostly intact, and it has been recently restored with a new domed roof.
TheatreHop in a taxi or round the citadel and head down the hill to see the theatre which also dates from the Roman era and once sat 6,000. The big public space in front of the theatre was once the forum, and just to the left is the Odeon, a smaller venue for concerts that was once covered with a roof.
MarketsContinue to the West past the theatre to enter Amman’s bustling markets. In just 40 minutes or so of walking, we encountered the vegetable souq, medicine souq, and clothing and fabric souq. The best stop we made? Hands down, Izhiman Coffee, where I was able to buy a bag that had been ground the arab way, with cardamom.
Amman offers a lot to tourists: museums, hammams, restaurants, and tons of shopping. If you’re spending more than a day here, then get a map and make your list of must-sees arranged by neighborhood. Then hope in a taxi and enjoy!
Planning a trip to Jordan? Start here:
Rough Guide to Jordan
How We Took a Three-Week Trip to the Holy Land for Less Than $300 Per Person
Itinerary and Price Breakdown: Christmas in the Holy Land