Amman, the modern and ancient capital of Jordan, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the World. The city’s modern buildings blend with the remnants of ancient civilisations. Amman’s modern history began in the late 19th Century, when the Ottomans resettled a colony of Circassian emigrants in 1878. As the Great Arab Revolt progressed and the State of Transjordan was established, Emir Abdullah ibn Al-Hussein founder of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan made Amman his capital in 1921. Since then, Amman has grown rapidly into a modern, thriving metropolis of well over two million people.
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Things to do in Amman
Ancient Amman on foot
Exploring the city on foot provides the opportunity to mingle with the locals, sample a falafel sandwich at Hashem restaurant or try some knafeh, traditional Arabic sweets. Visit the gold market, the magnificent Ottoman-style King Hussein Mosque, rebuilt in 1924 on the site of an ancient mosque, and the bustling streets and markets of the downtown area leading to the Nymphaeum. The Nymphaeum is believed to have contained a 600-square-metre pool, three metres deep, which was continuously refilled with fresh water. Also visit the Roman theatre, built during the reign of Antonius Pius. Cut into the northern side of a hill that once served as a necropolis, it is similar in design to the amphitheatre at Jerash and can accommodate 6,000 spectators. Also visit the citadel built on the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon. Excavations here have revealed numerous Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic remains.
The ancient ruins at Umm Qais
Explore Umm Qais, the original site of the ancient city of Gadara, which can be visited on a day trip from Amman. The city is mentioned in the New Testament and today the ruins overlook three countries: Jordan, Syria and Israel & the Palestinian Territories which encompasses the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon and Sea of Galilee. Excavations for this site began in 1974 and since this date archaeologists have uncovered impressive remains of a Byzantine church, mausoleum, theatre and a colonnaded street. Much of the city was built in black basalt, including the West Theatre, which once seated 3,000 people with amazing acoustics. The museum at Umm Qais displays a mosaic dating from the fourth century, found in one of the tombs. Also on display at the museum is a white-marble statue of the Hellenic goddess Tyche, which was found headless. Surrounding the museum are the large ruins of an Ottoman village dating from the 18th and 19th centuries and inhabited until the 1980s, which includes two houses, an Ottoman mosque and a girls’ school.
The Graeco-Roman city of Jerash
Often referred to as the Pompeii of the east, the Graeco-Roman city of Jerash was built over 2,000 years ago. Hidden under sand for centuries before its excavation and restoration since the 1920s, Jerash is widely regarded as the best-preserved city of the Decapolis, a confederation of ten Roman cities dating from the first century. The main street still has the large drainage duct, impressively almost intact, running beneath the cobbled road. As you approach the city, you will see the imposing triumphal arch, built to honour the arrival of Emperor Hadrian in 129AD. Beyond the arch, the continuing excavation work has thus far revealed two theatres, a market place, temples and churches with well preserved mosaics and carvings. One of the most distinctive sites of Jerash is the forum, due to its unusual opal-shaped plaza which lies below the Temple of Zeus and is surrounded by 56 large Corinthian columns.
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