Amman travel guide
Originally spread over seven hills, or jabals, the capital of the Hashemite kingdom now sprawls over 19 hills and is home to over a million people, almost half of Jordan's population. Known as the White City, the hills are covered in a jumble of light-coloured stone houses, consistently box-like in shape with flat roofs characteristic of a typical desert city. Faded minarets, pavement markets, Arabian sweet shops and the crumbling remains of ancient civilisations contrast wonderfully with the contemporary edifices, fashionable boutiques and international restaurants. This blend of the old and the new combines in the noisy and chaotic downtown area where the city's extraordinarily friendly residents go about their business.
At the heart of downtown is the Ottoman-style King Hussein Mosque, around which the buzz and bustle is at its most interesting. Even busier at prayer times, the surrounding streets are filled with the essence of Arabia, exotic smells and rows of glittering treasures in the souq (market) amid the noise of frenetic haggling.
Just as overwhelming is Amman's sense of history, dating back 5,500 years to its position as the ancient capital of the Ammonites, Rabbath-Ammon of the Old Testament, and later as Philadelphia, the Roman city that became part of the Decapolis. Overlooking the city from atop Jabal al-Qala'a is the Citadel, the site of the ancient Rabbath-Ammon, and at its foot lies the impressive Roman amphitheatre that is the most remarkable remnant of ancient Philadelphia.
Amman is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world, and today functions as a thriving commercial and administrative centre with modern facilities, historical attractions and a longstanding tradition of hospitality. It is an excellent base from which to explore the surrounds, even the rest of the country, being no more than five hours drive from anywhere, and is surprisingly agreeable for a capital city.
The site contains several structures including the impressive Omayyad Palace (al-Qasr), a small Byzantine basilica and what was once the Temple of Hercules, the Great Temple of Amman. Also on the site is the Jordan Archaeological Museum, which has an excellent collection of artefacts from Jordan dating back to the earliest settlement in the region over 700,000 years ago. The Dead Sea Scrolls, Iron Age sarcophagi and a copy of the Mesha Stele are its most important exhibits.
The theatre was built during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 CE) and is today a famous landmark in Amman and of course the ancient Roman city Philadelphia. It surrounds the Hashemite Plaza, Odeon theatre and the Nymphaeum.
Address: Quraysh Street, Downtown
Desert Castle Loop
Other desert castles include the black rock fortress at Azraq, which was the desert headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia during the Great Arab Revolt in 1917, the mysterious Qasr al-Kharrana, Qasr al-Hallabat's crumbling remains and the well-preserved complex at Qastal.
Transport: Most of the castles can be visited on a day trip from Amman via Azraq by using a variety of public buses and minibuses combined with hitching or walking, although it is easier and less time consuming to hire a car or a taxi for the day; hotels can arrange drivers who know the way and speak English
The hilly capital of Amman is packed with wonderful sightseeing opportunities and fantastic activities for all types of travellers. One favourite route for tourists is the Desert Castle Loop, which spans east and west of the city and has numerous sights to visit on the way and makes for an intriguing day out for the whole family, visiting different castles and exploring the scenic desert landscape. Within the city of Amman there is also plenty to do, including a tour of the spectacular Roman Amphitheatre and a stroll up the Citadel Hill to take in an eagle eye's view of the city. And when your feet are tired, sitting in one of the bustling street cafes is one of the best ways to see what the city is all about. Whether it's talking to people around your or simply watching the routines and traditions of those around you, make sure you find a spot to hang out for an hour and simply enjoy your surroundings.
Not far from the city, one can experience many great day excursions from Amman, to sights such as the Jaresh, Madaba and Mount Nebo, each with their own specific cultural significance and each with their own special charm. Also, not to be missed, is the short trip from the capital to the shores of the Dead Sea. Here the northern hills, rich with olive trees, teeter over the rift of the Jordan Valley, which in turn runs down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. It is a spectacular sight and an experience not to be missed when visiting Amman, something that can truly be appreciated by all visitors to this exciting desert city.
Excavations dating to the Neolithic Age have indicated that Jerash was continuously occupied for more than 6,500 years. Today visitors can marvel as the ancient amphitheatre comes to life at the annual Jerash festival of Culture and Arts, where artists from around the globe sing, dance, act and play music on stage in a celebration of Jordanian and international culture.
The Dead Sea
Most holidaymakers go to the main resort area on the northern shore at Sweimeh, where the Government Rest House provides showers, a restaurant, a beach and the opportunity to smother oneself in the mineral-rich black mud. Accommodation is available at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel where various medical treatments are also on offer.
Transport: Buses leave from Muhajrin station to the Government Rest House at Sweimeh.
A modern day shrine sits on the ruins of a 6th-century Byzantine monastery, and affords protection to the original floor mosaics, while in the grounds stands the symbolic Serpentine Cross.
Millions of pieces of coloured stone embedded on the church floor create a vivid picture of Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dead Sea, Jericho and the Jordan River. It is the earliest surviving original map of the region and was laid around 560 AD. Madaba is also known for its hand-woven carpets and tapestries and it is possible to see them being made in several shops around town.
Dead Sea Ultra Marathon
The race is hosted on behalf of the Society for the Care of Neurological Patients headed by HRH Prince Firas Bin Raad and also in aid of increasing awareness of neurological diseases and traumas.
Venue: Amman to the Dead Sea; Date:Race postponed until April 2017; Website: deadsea.runjordan.com
Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts
Their legacy shines today in the splendid cities of the Greco-Roman and Arab East, such as Petra, Jerash, Gadara, and Palmyra. The full power and glory of that ancient drama is revived in Jordan every summer in the form of the two-week Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts bringing together local folklore dancers and troupes from all over the World.
Date:June and July 2016;
Jordan International Rally
The Jordan leg of the World Rally Championship takes place in May around the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area - the lowest point on earth. The route has been built specifically for the rally and top racers and spectators alike rate this as one of most enjoyable rally events on the global circuit.
Venue: Jordan Valley; Date:May 2017 TBC; Website: www.jordanrally.com
Queen Alia International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 20 miles (32km) south of Amman.
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3, from the last Friday in March to the last Friday in October)
Contacts: Tel: +962 (0)6 445 1739.
Getting to the city: There is a public bus service to and from Amman leaving every 30 minutes between 6.30am and 5pm, and every 60 minutes between 5pm and 12pm. Tickets costs fluctuate, but average around JOD 3,250 per person.
Car rental: Car rental is available and includes major companies such as Budget and Sixt.
Airport Taxis: Airport taxis are available at both terminals. Prices are fixed.
Facilities: Facilities include banks and bureaux de change, duty-free shopping, bars and restaurants, and a medical centre. There are also VIP and business lounges. A tourist help desk is also available. Facilities for the disabled are good.
Parking: Costs will vary depending on the parking lot, starting from JOD 1.75 for each hour or part thereof, rising to as much as JOD 26 for the first hour and JOD 39 per hour thereafter. The best daily rate is in the long-term parking lot, which charges a total of JOD 11 for every 24-hour period and JOD 1 for every additional hour.
Departure tax: JOD 5 (typically pre-paid in the fare)
Amman is a relatively small city and is thus easy to navigate. Metered private taxis are available at reasonable prices, and white shared taxis cover fixed routes. Locals are usually very friendly and helpful regarding directions and drivers are usually forthcoming about route information. Municipal buses travel along most routes in Amman; although they are efficient and safe to use, most routes are only written in Arabic and they are not popular with visitors. Car hire is available and offers a viable means of exploring the city; it's a good idea to hire a vehicle with a driver, which usually comes at an extra cost.
Amman has a semiarid climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Summers last from June to September and are dry and hot with high temperatures averaging 86°F (32°C). There is also low humidity and frequent breezes that provide some relief from the heat. Rain is uncommon during the day, but at night there is often fog and drizzle. Spring is brief, lasting from April to May, with rain sometimes falling during the morning and the afternoons. Winters last from December to April, and are wet and cold. Temperatures in winter drop below 24°F (-5°C), with snowfall and heavy fog. It can snow anytime between November and March. The best time to visit Amman is during the warmer months between June and September.
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