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Amman is the capital of Jordan and both economically and culturally the most important city of the country. While under British mandate (early 1900s), Amman was still only a town with roughly 2,000 residents, but these days it is a modern and vibrant city with almost 4 million inhabitants. Between the urbanized West and the more traditional East, there is a wealth of things to see and to do in the city of the seven hills!
Things to See and Do in Amman
When planning your sightseeing in the capital, it is good to know that the city consists of two parts. The modern West, mainly residential, and the traditional East, where most ancient sites are located. Historic downtown Amman is where the Romans, Byzantines and Umayyads have left their traces. If you are looking for a blend of modern and old world culture, there may not be a better city in the region than Amman. There is plenty to do in Amman. Below you will find some inspiration of what to see and do to in Amman.
#1 Roman Theater
The Roman Theater, located just off one of the main roads of the city, is a great place to begin your sightseeing. Enter through what is left of the Roman forum and enjoy the restored architecture of the largest Roman theater of Jordan. If you have some time left, visit the smaller Odeon Theater or the Museum of Folklore and Popular Traditions, located on either side of the theater.
#2 Amman Citadel
Next, head to the Citadel (Jabal al Qala’a) and wander the grounds to admire what was the ancient center of civilization from the Bronze Age until the Umayyad period. The most significant structure of the Citadel is the Temple of Hercules, built by the Romans in the same period as the nearby Roman theater (166-166 AD). In addition to the remains of the Romans and an old Byzantine church, the site also incorporates an impressive Umayyad palace. Look out for a square-shaped building with a blue cupola, the so called Qasr. Built around 720 AD on top of a 750 m (2,460 ft) hill, the Qasr used to be the highest building of the area until modern Jordan.
#3 Jordan Museum
The city’s cultural heritage reflects the diversity of the dynasties that inhabited the area. Its first inhabitants, who lived in the area around 7250 BC, created one of the first large-scale human figures in history. The famous Ain Ghazal statues can be visited in the Jordan Museum, along with hundreds of other artifacts, such as the popular Dead Sea Scrolls. The Jordan Museum lets you wander through ten thousand years of history in just one day.
#4 Visit a Mosque
The largest mosque in Jordan is the King Hussein Mosque, situated next to the Royal Automobile Museum. While non-Muslim visitors are not allowed to enter inside this mosque, the square-shaped construction is a true architectural masterpiece even from its outside.
The King Abdullah Mosque is the only mosque in the city that allows non-Muslim visitors to enter. Beautiful from the outside as well as inside, Jordan’s second largest mosque is absolutely worth visiting. Built in 1989, the complex covers about 18,000 m² (193,750 sq ft) and consists of numerous prayer rooms that fit up to 10,000 people. The inside is carefully decorated with Quranic inscriptions. A large blue dome on top of the building makes it stand out from its surroundings. If you intend to visit King Abdullah Mosque, make sure to dress conservatively. Ladies should bring a scarf to cover their hair.
#5 Experience a Hammam
Would you like to incorporate some wellness and relaxation to your trip? Head to one of Amman’s hammans (Turkish bath) where you can relax with a steam bath, Jacuzzi soak, scrub down and oil massage – all in true Ottoman tradition. Note that gender segregation is common in Jordan. Women are welcome during the day, but evenings are typically men only. If you are planning a couples spa day, you might better head to the Dead Sea, where the rules are less conservative.
#6 Souqs and Shopping
Souqs are an integral part of Arabic culture. Thus, if you are looking for a traditional shopping experience, you should head to one of Amman’s souqs. There are various souqs across the city, offering everything from fruits, vegetables and clothing to gold, … and countless traditional Jordanian products. Most importantly, the atmosphere at a souq is a feast for all senses and should definitely be part of your trip to Jordan. If you are looking for a more modern experience, head to Western Amman where the contemporary malls are located.
#7 Enjoy Jordanian Food
Once you are finally tired of walking and sightseeing, treat yourself to a delicious meal! Food is an integral part of Jordan’s culture. Most dishes that you will find in Jordan originate from the Levantine cuisine, popular not only in Jordan but also in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. However, there are a number of dishes and cooking techniques unique to Jordan, such as the national dish Mansaf. From classic falafel with houmous, juicy kebab with rice or vegetarian Mujadara, Jordan’s diverse kitchen is a delight for every palate.