The capital city of Jordan was once spread across seven hills, but nowadays it is more like 19. Amman is predominantly a modern city, with a bustling downtown area brimming with restaurants, bars and souks. However, there are also ancient historical sites to explore, and the majestic Roman ruins of Jerash to the north are very impressive indeed.
Amman only became the capital of Jordan in 1921 (then called the Emirate of Transjordan), however its history is much more extensive. Artefacts have been found which date back to a Neolithic settlement around 8,500 BC, and remains of fortified towns can be traced back to approximately 3,500 BC. The city is referenced as Rabbath Ammon in the Old Testament, and was the capital of the Ammonites. During the rule of Philadelphus (283-246 BC) of the Ptolemy dynasty, Amman was under Egyptian power. The city was rebuilt and also renamed Philadelphia, before becoming part of the Roman Empire in around 30 BC, a period which saw the construction of many new buildings, some of which remain today. The Persians invaded during the 7th century, and Amman became a stop along the trade route between the Red Sea and Syria. However, from around the 10th century the city sank into relative obscurity until it again became a prominent power as capital in the 20th century.
Today it is possible to see the remnants of Roman rule in the dramatic Citadel, which sits atop Amman’s highest hill; Jebel al-Qala’a. The hill overlooks the imposing Roman Theatre, which has a seating capacity of around 6,000 people. To the north of Amman, the town of Jerash boasts arguably some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world. This huge site includes a grand colonnaded street and a restored hippodrome, which would have once hosted chariot races and athletics competitions.
Leisure time in Amman can be spent strolling along the colourful Rainbow Street and through the bustling downtown area. There are a number of souks and markets, selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to sparkling gold jewellery and ornaments.