Amman

Attractions   >   AMMAN

Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is a great place to explore the interesting mix of old and new.

The Citadel Amman – Omayyad Palace

The downtown area (Balad), the oldest part of Amman, is crowned by the ancient Citadel (Jabal al-Qala’a), offering a panoramic view of the whole downtown area. Occupying one of the highest of the seven hills which originally made up Amman, the Citadel hill was inhabited for thousands of years. The ruins on the hill today date to various periods, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic. This is a good place to begin a tour of the city. One can see the ancient Roman ruins of the Temple of Hercules, the Byzantine Church & the domed Islamic Omayyad Palace.

Amman Citadel

At the foot of the Citadel is the 2nd century AD Roman Theater, cut into the side of a mountain with room for an audience of almost 6,000. At one end of the theater’s stage is the Jordan Folklore Museum, which displays a collection of items showing the traditional life of local people and at the other end is the Museum of Popular Traditions, which displays the traditional clothing of the Jordanian people, along with some fine embroidery and antique jewelry. The theater is still used today for cultural events.

The Roman Theater – Downtown Amman

Visit the Jordan Museum  which has recently opened and exhibits over 2,000 artifacts of Jordanian history and archaeology, starting from the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) up to the present.

Royal Automobile Museum – Amman

Stroll through the old bustling downtown souk (market) which offers everything from a fruit market to spices, tiny artisans’ workshops and clothes. Enjoy the sights of authentic souvenirs, the glittering gold souk, and the smell of spices. Experience the numerous traditional street cafes or stop at Habiba pastry shop, which serves traditional sweets such as baklava, but is most famous for serving a traditional dessert known as “Knafeh”.

Drive up from the old downtown area to Jabal Amman which was once the elite’s neighborhood when the city was just a small town occupying the downtown valley floors.

Jabal Amman

Explore on foot Rainbow Street renowned for its fine old villas dating from 1920, where some are now used as showrooms to promote local crafts such as Jordan River Foundation or turned to traditional street cafes, small antique stores or Hammam such as Al-Pasha Turkish Bath with its beautiful garden courtyard where you may enjoy a glass of the traditional Karkadeh drink (hibiscus) or the famous “hubbly-bubbly”.

Al-Pasha Turkish Bath

Stop at Wild Jordan with its spectacular views overlooking the downtown area, and which promotes items often produced by rural women in the different nature reserves of Jordan ranging from jewelry to painted ostrich eggs, organic herbs, dried fruits and soap. Abdoun is a contemporary residential area which boasts some of the best modern architecture, numerous modern nightclubs, restaurants and cafes, very popular among the locals.

Royal Automobile Museum

The Royal Automobile Museum reviews the eventful life of the late King Hussein through his cars and motorcycles, showcasing part of Jordan’s history and the Hashemite Dynasty. “The attraction does not lie so much in the car itself, rather in the man who chose it and drove it, in the events it witnessed and the places it was steered towards”. In the vicinity is King Hussein Bin Tallal Mosque which was built in memory of the late King Hussein, with its impressive modern Islamic architecture, accommodating 5,500 worshipers making it the largest mosque in the country.

King Hussein Bin Tallal Mosque

 

Jerash

Attractions   >   JERASH 

One of the most splendid provincial cities anywhere in the Roman Empire is the city of Jerash, which was built over 2,000 years ago in the northern fertile hills, about 48km north of Amman, and is widely regarded as the largest and the most remarkably well preserved site of Roman architecture outside Rome.

A visit to this marvellous intact city is a must for all travelers. The Roman Emperor Hadrian himself visited Jerash in (AD 129), and in his honor a monumental arch (Hadrian’s Arch) was built outside the city’s southern walls to celebrate his visit.

Jerash was referred to in antiquity as Antioch on the Golden River or the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa. Ancient Greek inscriptions indicate that Alexander the Great founded the city around 170 BC which was focused at the time around the Temple of Zeus, but it wasn’t until the 1st century AD, that the city’s basic plan were laid down by the Romans as it survives today and the city started to flourish and continued to do so during the Byzantine period, where dozens of churches were built, and throughout the Umayyad rule, until a series of powerful earthquakes hit the region but the most devastating one was that of AD 749, where large parts of the city were destroyed.

Hadrian’s Arch

From the southern end walking past Hadrian’s Arch and alongside the impressive 244m long Hippodrome, where chariot races took place in antiquity, one enters the ancient city of Jerash, through the monumental South Gate, and onto the lovely colonnaded Oval Plaza, connecting the Temple of Zeus, which overlooks it, with the main street, the Cardo, which is beautifully lined by Corinthian columns.

Oval Plaza

Overlooking the Plaza is the extraordinarily well preserved and the most magnificent of all the city’s monuments, the South Theater, which seats more than 3,000 spectators and which hosts annually during summer (July & August), the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts; a spectacular event which occupies the entire city, with theatrical evening performances of dance and music.

Jerash’s magnificent South Theatre

Walking through the magnificent Colonnaded Street, one can see the Market Place and the Omayyad residential quarter. Further up is a 4th century AD Cathedral, St. Theodore’s Church, the impressively carved Nymphaeum (public fountain), an Omayyad mosque, the arches of the West Baths and the North Theater, with its charming little stone reliefs showing boys and women dancing and playing on musical instruments. One can also see the Temple of Artemis and the western churches, mainly the Byzantine Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the floor of which houses beautiful mosaics of birds and animals in a geometric grid.

Colonnaded Street

To this day, the city remains in an exceptional condition.

Anjara & Tel Mar Elias

Attractions   >   ANJARA

3km south of Ajloun, in northern Jordan, lays the biblical town of Anjara where it is believed that Jesus Christ along with his mother Mary and disciples, spent the night in a cave near the town, during a journey between Jerusalem and Galilee. The exact location of the cave is unknown but a commemorative Roman Catholic shrine for Virgin Mary, was built in the 1950s, known as “The Church of Our Lady of the Mountain” or “Sayyidat al-Jebel”, with a statue for Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, placed within a newly built grotto. Anjara has been declared as one of Jordan’s five Christian pilgrimage sites along with Tell Mar Elias near Ajloun, Bethany on the Jordan River where Jesus Christ was baptized, Mount Nebo and Machaerous where John the Baptist was beheaded.

 

TELL MAR ELIAS

Tucked away in the hills, 8km west of Ajloun’s countryside, is the Biblical town of Tishbe, known as Listib; the birthplace and hometown of the Prophet Elijah who is named in 1 Kings as “Elijah the Tishbite”.  A pilgrimage site grew up during the Byzantine era, around the town of Listib, on a hilltop known as Tell Mar Elias, where the ruins of a seventh century AD cruciform church with wonderfully decorated mosaic floors were unearthed along with burial chambers and water cisterns. Prophet Elijah died in Bethany (the Baptism site) before ascending to heaven on a flaming chariot from Elijah’s Hill in Wadi al-Kharrar (Saphsaphas).

 

Ajloun

Attractions   >   AJLOUN CASTLE

27 km northwest of Jerash, on a beautiful short journey through the pine forested northern hills, lays the stronghold Castle of Ajloun (known as Qala’at el-Rabbad), which is strategically perched on a 1250m high hilltop, formerly the site of a Christian monastery and home to a monk named Ajloun.

For its strategic position and commanding views, the historic castle was built, by the Arabs -Saladin’s nephew Izz al-Din Usama- of the Ayyubid dynasty, as part of Saladin’s defensive chain of forts against the Crusaders in AD 1185, and as one in a chain of beacons. The castle was also a strategic message station for the carrier pigeons which relayed messages between Cairo, the headquarters of the Ayyubid’s dynasty, and Baghdad (Iraq) or Damascus (Syria).

The impressive military castle of Ajloun is a fine example of Islamic architecture. It was once surrounded by a sixteen-meter deep moat with a drawbridge, for defense purposes, along with towers that had narrow arrow slits and gaps in the stonework through which boiling oil was poured on assailants. The castle’s chambers were also filled with boulders for hurling at invaders by catapult. The views from the towers are very rewarding through the entire surrounding countryside.

Ajloun Forest Reserve

Attractions   >   AJLOUN FOREST RESERVE

The Ajloun Forest Reserve is a beautiful and peaceful nature reserve located in the north of Jordan, in Ajloun’s remote highlands.

The rolling woodland is home to a diverse collection of plant and animal species, and was established in 1987 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to conserve the Evergreen Oak, Pine, Carob, Wild Pistachio and wild Strawberry Tree forests.

It is also a wildlife sanctuary for the locally endangered Roe Deer which has been reintroduced into the reserve by the RSCN captive breeding program, as well as wild boar, polecats, Persian Squirrels, Indian Crested Porcupines, Stone Martins, golden jackals, Asiatic Jackal, Red Fox and grey wolves along with birds such as tits, finches and jays.

The geography of the reserve is comprised mostly of rolling hills and valleys as well as some springs, making it ideal for hiking especially in spring, when the reserve is coated with wild flowers such as the Black Iris, rock roses, several orchids and wild tulips.

Several hiking trails of different levels are available within the reserve offering fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. Some hiking trails are compulsory guided by an RSCN guide and some are self-guided. Hiking trails include visits through the reserve and some to the surrounding villages of Rasun and Orjan where visitors may get to see the art of Arabic calligraphy and the local women at their workshops making pure olive oil soap and Tasali Jordanian delights.  Trails to the archaeological sites of Mar Elias and Ajloun Castle are also offered. The RSCN supports three workshops in and near the reserve to help generate sources of income for the local community.

 

 

Pella

Attractions   >   PELLA

The ruins of the ancient city of Pella (known in Arabic as Tabaqat Fahl) lay amidst the fertile Jordan Valley, 130 km North West of Amman. Pella is historically considered as the most significant site in all Jordan as it is thought to have been continuously inhabited for more than 6,000 years, from the Stone Age to medieval Islamic times.

Under the Greeks, the settlement earned the name ‘Pella’ after the birthplace of Alexander the Great and it was to Pella that Christians sought refuge from the Roman persecution in Jerusalem in AD 66. Although Pella was a Decapolis city but it is not that impressive nowadays as most of the ruins are scattered and need excavations due to the devastating 747 AD earthquake which destroyed most of the city.

A visitor can observe the ruins of a Byzantine civic complex church, a small Odeon, a 14th century small square Mamluk mosque, various churches, baths and tombs from different periods and the remains of an Umayyad settlement, which consisted of houses, shops and storehouses.

Umm Qais

Attractions   >   UMM QAIS

110km north of Amman, on the northwest border of Jordan, lays the Decapolis city of Umm Qais which was known by the Romans as Gadara. The city reached its full glory under Roman rule, and was famous for the richness of its intellectual life, being the birthplace of several classical Philosophers, poets and writers. Not only popular because of the extensive ruins but because of its magnificent panoramic views over the Golan Heights, Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) and the Jordan Valley.

The ancient city of Gadara is also believed to be the site where Jesus Christ cast out demons from two men and forced the evil spirits to enter a herd of pigs, which in turn rushed down the steep slope and drowned in the Sea of Galilee (Matthew chapter 8, 28-34).

Much of what can be seen today was actually constructed during the 2nd century AD. A visitor can observe the West Theater which was constructed from the black basalt, and once seated an audience of 3,000 people. Beside the West Theater, stand the black basalt Corinthian columns of the 6th century octagonal Byzantine church, and further west is a bath complex. Numerous Greco-Roman tombs and a colonnaded street can also be observed.