An enchanting mixture of ancient and modern, Amman is the energetic capital of Jordan and a great base for day trips. The city is built on seven hills with its main street running east to west, broken up by eight intersections called circles. These circles roughly define the different sections of the city. You will find 1st Circle closest to Downtown—the city’s historical core dotted with white stone villas, cafés, souqs, and galleries. It was once Roman Philadelphia and these ancient roots can still be seen throughout the city. As you wander along the streets, you will be able to see the transformation from ancient Amman to modern Amman as a thriving and bustling city merges with ancient monuments.
The best time to truly experience Amman is at sunset as the sun reflects off the white stone, basking the streets in warmth while Call to Prayer echoes from the stately minarets gracing the city. Amman’s greatest charm however, is the genuine hospitality of its people and you will not leave Jordan without feeling like you belong.
Amman is one of the oldest populated cities in the world. In 1994, an excavation uncovered towers and homes belonging to the Stone Age—7,000 BC. It is referenced throughout the Old Testament as Rabbath Ammon, the Ammonite capital. According to the Book of Samuel, the Ammonites fought numerous wars with King David.
What happened during the time of the Ptolemiaic dynasty (approximately 585 BC), is still a little unclear. All we really know from this period is that the Ptolemaic king and Alexander the Great’s successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, rebuilt the city and changed its name to Philadelphia around 300 BC. The Romans restored the city in 63 BC after the Seleucid takeover and formed the province of Syria. Philadelphia became part of the Decapolis League which included Gadara (Umm Qais) Jerash, Arbila (Irbid), and Pella, greatly benefitting from the improved trade and communications. During its Roman reign, Philadelphia was built to emulate typical ancient Roman architecture. It sported theatres; colonnaded streets; baths; and a citadel, which still exist today.
During the Byzantine period, Amman was the seat of a bishopric, and as a result, many churches were built. Philadelphia declined during the late Byzantine era, overrun by the short-lived rule of the Persian Sassanians. In 635, the Islamic armies took the city and renamed it to ‘Amman’.
It remained an important pit-stop for caravan routes for many years; later, trade patterns shifted and the city declined almost to the size of a village and remained that way for centuries. Amman’s ‘modern’ history began in the late 19th century when a colony of Circassian emigrants were settled there by the Ottomans in 1878. Their descendants still reside in the city today. In the early 20th century the neighbouring city of Salt became a regional administrative and political centre, and in 1921 King Abdullah bin al-Hussein made Amman Jordan’s capital after the Great Arab Revolt.
Amman grew into a thriving city with a population of over 1 million. Amman’s growth was driven by political events in the region. For example, after the wars of 1948 and 1967, the Arab-Israeli conflict, resulted in successive waves of Palestinian refugees. Moreover, the population continued to grow during the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis with waves of immigrants arriving from Iraq and Kuwait, and still does today with Syrian refugees.