I’ve wanted to go to Jordan for some considerable time and was delighted to find a tour that covered many of the highlights of the country. I flew into Amman, the capital and home to half of the Jordanian population. Also known as the White City, as many of the buildings are clad with limestone or painted white, my first panoramic views were seen from the citadel, situated on one of the higher hills around Amman. They were certainly impressive made more so by a huge Jordanian flag flying from one of the government buildings.
Within the remains of the citadel archaeologists have uncovered evidence to show that settlements on this site date back almost seven thousand years, but one dominant feature is the remains of a temple dedicated to the supreme Roman deity: Hercules.
Coins have been found referencing this deity and during the Roman and Byzantine periods Amman was known as Philadelphia, equally referenced on the coins.
Numerous earthquakes throughout the ages have left the site in ruins, but the competence of the Roman builders is shown by the presence of an open cistern which held plenty of water to supply latrines, baths and other areas around the settlement.
At the foot of the hill is a Roman amphitheatre where plays were performed and sacrifices made to Dionysus, the god of celebration and theatre. It houses an audience of almost six thousand, the more important members seated in the large stone seat in the centre. Full restoration of the theatre began in 1957 and it is used today for concerts and entertainment.
Also damaged due to earthquakes a few metres from the Temple of Hercules is the remains of an Islamic city, dating back to 750BC. It comprised of a mosque, a souk, hammam and palace. Work is being done to restore some of the architecture and the semi-circular stone carvings are actually called shark’s teeth, just because they look like the jaws of a shark! (I’m assured there is no symbolic meaning whatsoever.)
Today, ninety percent of Jordanians are Muslims, (the rest Christians and other denominations). In Amman I was woken at 4am by the first call to prayer and, to my surprise, I was allowed, for the very first time, into a mosque at the Islamic Centre of King Abdullah I. I have visited other countries where Islam is the main religion and I’ve never been allowed to enter a mosque, not being a Muslim. However I always travel with a headscarf in case I visit holy sites and I was loaned a black robe with which to cover myself and told to remove my shoes before entering.
The exterior of the complex is stunning: white and blue marble shimmered in the morning sun, and inside the large, circular room I was taken aback by the intricate decoration. All the décor is geometric except for inscriptions from the Koran written in gold just below the stained glass windows circling the domed roof.
My feet sank into the carpet, the linear pattern showing worshippers where to stand and kneel. I learned that there are to be no distractions when praying to Allah, hence the men pray in one area, the women another.
I will always remember Amman as the White City where I was given the opportunity to enter a mosque and I’d like to thank all those at the centre for widening my knowledge and understanding of Islam.
The capital of Jordan is a very modern, vibrant city, the traffic at times horrendous, but the country has a history which is fascinating and I learned a great deal about early civilisations during my stay as can be seen in my next blog when I describe my visit to the ancient city of Petra.
One of the most amazing places I visited whilst in Jordan was Wadi Rum. Read more about this desert paradise by clicking on the link:
One of the Wonders of the World, my trip to Petra did not disappoint. To learn more please clink on the link:
During my visit to the Dead Sea I discovered much more than I expected. Please click on the link to read about the conclusion to my trip: