Middle East Chronicles: Amman

While waiting at the bus station in Jerusalem we bumped into a group of German tourists who ask us: “Why are you going to Amman” and I replied ” What do you mean?” “There’s nothing to see there!” they respond.

When we planned our trip we thought of Amman as a base to visit Jordan but we didn’t know much about what the city offers. Besides, the Jerusalem – Amman journey (about 70 km) took us over 10 hours, so we were happy to just chill for a night. Thanks God, Marwan and Layan took us to a very nice restaurant where we could catch up some energy and enjoy some really nice food and great narguilé. It really recharged out batteries.

Amman forms a great base for exploring Jordan and does, despite popular belief, hold a few items of interest to travellers. The city is generally well-appointed, reasonably well-organized, and the people are very friendly. To my experience many Ammanians understand some English especially all taxi driver and hotel staff. Even in a small kebab shop (where we could have a 1 dinar kebab) the owner spoke good English and was quite friendly. Charmingly, the most commonly known English phrase seems to be “Welcome to Jordan”. There is no obligation to wear an Islamic headscarf and many women do not.

Amman is experiencing a massive (some would say: reckless) change from a quiet sleepy village to a bustling metropolis. Amman’s roads have a reputation of being very steep and narrow in some parts of the city but now the city has state of the art highways and paved avenues.

A city built of white stone, Amman’s growth has skyrocketed since it was made the capital of Trans-Jordan in the early 1920s, but especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees settled. Another wave arrived after the second Iraq war, with Iraqi refugees forming the majority of newcomers.

Its history, however, goes back many millennia. The settlement mentioned in the Bible as Rabbath Ammon was the capital of the Ammonites, which later fell to the Assyrians. It was dominated briefly by the Nabataeans before it became a great Roman trade center and was renamed Philadelphia. After the Islamic conquests, Amman became part of the Muslim empire, until the Ottomans were forced out by the Allies, with the help of the Hashimites, who formed a monarchy that continues to rule until the present.

Today, West Amman is a lively, modern city. The eastern part of the city, where the majority of Amman’s residents live, is predominantly the residential area of the working class and is much older than the west.

After dinner we go sleep early and organize our next excursion. A less “historically interesting” day chilling on the coast of the Dead Sea.

A view of Amman by night

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