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With more than 7,000 years of recorded history behind it, Amman is one of the Middle East’s cultural epicentres. The first thing you’ll notice about the Jordanian capital is its skyline, defined by the seven hills on which the city was originally built. These hills have helped define the city’s various districts, each showcasing its own charm and attractions.
Formerly called Philadelphia, after the Ptolemaic king Philadelphus, Amman has been influenced by several cultures. Many expanding civilisations have left their mark on the city, from the Ammonites, Assyrians and Nabateans, to the Romans, Umayyads and Ottomans. Each of them once considered the city their home and are credited for having a profound impact on its remarkable architecture. As a result, Amman’s buildings are as varied as they are startling, charting the ages between antiquity and modernity, but with no more than a street between them.
Book a flight to Amman with Qatar Airways and discover a rich tapestry of history against the backdrop of a slick, modern and vibrant city.
If you have come to Amman to soak up its culture, then there’s no better place to start than Jabal Amman district, near the downtown area. This relatively small neighbourhood offers a tantalising glimpse into Jordan’s past. It encompasses a variety of historic homes and even an ancient, but still-thriving, market, hosted by the Jabal Amman Residents’ Association.
During their reign, the Ancient Romans built an amphitheatre carved into Amman’s hillside overlooking the city centre. Back then, the open-air venue, which can hold over 6,000 spectators, was probably used for gladiator battles and chariot races. Today, it offers dramatic ambiance for cultural and sporting events. It also forms part of the Roman Forum, which hosts the Jordanian Museum of Popular Traditions and the Jordanian Folklore Museum. Here you can immerse yourself in the history and customs of this ancient city.
Travel to Amman and discover its well-developed café culture and dynamic social scene. Streets are lined with shops that offer strong, dark coffee, often served with a glass of water to wash down the bitterness. The city has a strong oral tradition and nowhere is it more prominent than on Rainbow Street, where shops brim with the sound of chatter and the aroma of coffee.
You should also try to fit in a visit to the ancient Citadel. This is arguably the best place to watch the sunset, as it is serenaded by the city’s mosques, calling the faithful to prayer. For a spectacular view of the surrounding hills and a glimpse into the city’s fascinating past, head for the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace.
The local cuisine will not disappoint you during your trip to Amman. Jordanian specialities are available in local restaurants – each having their own “family recipes” that they claim are more authentic than those of their rivals. If you enjoy falafel, pitta and dips, washed down with traditional Jordanian tea, then head to King Faisal Street in the east of the city.
Jordanians love sweet dishes, and are particularly partial to anything that includes honey in the recipe. Kanafah is a pastry fried in butter, topped with soft cheese, another layer of pastry and then green pistachios. However, if you’re not feeling too adventurous, head back to Rainbow Street, where you will find restaurants selling giant pizzas and pasta dishes.
In addition to a wide range of shopping centres in Amman, you’ll find designer boutiques, particularly in Sweifieh and Al-Wakalat streets. For a greater range of designer clothes and goods, try the various malls, such as Taj Lifestyle Centre, The Galleria Mall, City Mall and Mecca Mall.
However, if you would rather get a taste of what the locals have on offer, head to the Gold Souq in Downtown. There you will find stunning examples of gold and silverwork, with the majority of it handmade. For a good day of local shopping, seek out local markets in Jabal al-Hussein.
Essential facts about Amman
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip