City Guide: One Day in Amman

iylanaDestinations, Jordan0 Comments

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.

History
While 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:

Citadel
October–March Saturday–Thursday: 8am–4pm
April–September Saturday–Thursday: 8am–7pm
Friday: 10am–4pm
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.

The ruins of the temple of Hercules.

The ruins of the temple of Hercules.

Hercules Temple

Hercules Temple

Hercules Temple

Hercules Temple

Unabashed column hugger.

I’m an unabashed column hugger.

Giant hand and elbow fragments at Hercules Temple.

Giant hand and elbow fragments at Hercules Temple.

Amman | Penny Caravan

Crumbled ruins at the citadel.

The museum at the Citadel holds some interesting artifacts.

The Ain Ghazal statues are among the oldest in the world, from 6500 BC.

Umayyad Palace
Also 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.

Caption

The palace complex and the audience hall.

Amman | Penny Caravan

The audience hall

Amman | Penny Caravan

Reconstructed dome in the audience hall

Amman | Penny Caravan

Palace complex ruins

The cistern

The cistern at the Umayyad palace.

Theatre
Hop 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.

The Roman Theatre

The Roman Theatre

Amman | Penny Caravan
Amman | Penny Caravan

The kings of Jordan have replaced the statue of Athena that used to grace the top of the theatre (now at the museum).

The kings of Jordan have replaced the statue of Athena that used to grace the top of the theatre (now at the museum). Abdullah II, center, is the king incumbent.

The Odeon

The Odeon

Markets
Continue 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.

Vegetable souq

Vegetable souq

Vegetable souq

Vegetable souq

How did I not come home with all of this?

How did I not come home with all of this?

Izhiman Coffee, a stop I highly recommend!

Izhiman Coffee

Quick stop for the best falafel in Amman at Hashem Restaurant.

Quick stop for the best falafel in Amman at Hashem Restaurant.

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

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