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THE CAPITAL OF JORDAN
Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is a great place to explore the interesting mix of old and new.
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 Occupying one of the highest of the seven hills which originally made up Amman, the Citadel hill was inhabited for thousands of years.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, and the National Archaeological Museum which, although small, houses a good collection of the antiquities of Jordan.
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 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. Not to be missed is 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.
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. 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”. 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 amongst the locals.
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.