La città delle scalinate
Amman è la capitale della Giordania, ed una delle città più antiche del mondo, con almeno 7000 anni di storia documentata. Un tempo era conosciuta con il nome di Philadelphia, che nulla ha però a che vedere con la capitale della Pennsylvania. Il nome deriva da Ptolemy Philadelphus, figlio della regina Cleopatra, che ricostruì la città prima che questa fosse conquistata d Erode e consegnata ai Romani. Dell’epoca è quello che è forse il suo più bel monumento, il Teatro Romano, tuttoggi utilizzato per ospitare eventi all’aperto. Amman è anche nota per la sua vibrante vita notturna e la buona cucina. La Raimbow Street nel distretto di Jabal-Amman offre splendidi scorci sulla città vecchia.
Luoghi da vedere e cose da fare ad Amman
L’Amman contemporanea è una città giovane, ma con vestigia che sono le radici di una storia antica ed affascinante, come testimoniato anche dai suoi musei. La Giordania è anche nota per la sua buona cucina ed Amman ne è l’ambasciatrice. La città è inoltre in una posizione comoda per raggiungere altre importanti località del Paese e della regione in poche ore di strada.
La Cittadella guarda Amman dall’alto di una collina, a 850m sopra il livello del mare, ed è il sito archeologico dell’antica Rabbath-Ammon. E’ circondata da mura di 1700m, ricostruite nel tempo a più riprese. I due principali monumenti da vedere sono il templio di Ercole ed il Palazzo Ummayad. E’ accessibile solo da Al Malek Ali Bin Al Hussein St. Si consiglia di salire in taxi e poi scendere a piedi.
Il teatro romano
This magnificently restored theatre is the most obvious and impressive remnant of Roman Philadelphia, and is the highlight of Amman for most foreign visitors. The theatre itself is cut into the northern side of a hill, and has a seating capacity of 6000. The best time for photographs is the morning, when the light is soft – although the views from the top tiers just before sunset are also superb.
The theatre was probably built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138–61). It was built on three tiers: the rulers, of course, sat closest to the action, the military secured the middle section, and the general public perched and squinted from the top rows. Theatres often had religious significance, and the small shrine above the top row of seats once housed a statue of the goddess Athena (now in the Jordan Museum), who was prominent in the religious life of the city.
Full restoration of the theatre began in 1957. Unfortunately, non-original materials were used, which means that the present reconstruction is partly inaccurate. However, the final product is certainly impressive, especially considering that the theatre has again become a place of entertainment in recent years. Concerts are sometimes put on here in the summer – check with the tourist office or ask at your hotel.
Caves of the 7 sleepers
The legend of the ‘seven sleepers’ involves seven Christian boys who were persecuted by the Roman Emperor Trajan, then escaped to a cave and slept there for 309 years. This is one of several locations that claim to be that cave. Inside the main cave – also known as Ahl Al Kahf (Cave of the People) – are eight smaller tombs that are sealed, though one has a hole in it, through which you can see a creepy collection of human bones.
Above and below the cave are the remains of two mosques. About 500m west of the cave is a large and slightly unkempt Byzantine cemetery. The cave is to the right of a large new mosque complex in the village of Rajib, off the road from Amman to Sabah. Buses from Amman to Sabah pass 500m from the mosque; catch them at Wihdat bus station; the journey costs less than 500 fils and takes 15 minutes. Alternatively, take a minibus from Quraysh St in downtown, ask for ‘Al Kahf’ and the driver will show you where to get off to change for a Sabah bus. The easiest way here is by chartered taxi (around JD8 each way).
Qasr Al Abad
The small but impressive Qasr Al Abad, west of Amman, is one of the very few examples of pre-Roman construction in Jordan. Mystery surrounds the palace, and even its precise age isn’t known, though most scholars believe that Hyrcanus of the powerful Jewish Tobiad family built it sometime between 187 and 175 BC as a villa or fortified palace. Although never completed, much of the palace has been reconstructed, and remains an impressive site.
The palace was built from some of the biggest blocks of any ancient structure in the Middle East – the largest is 7m by 3m. The blocks were, however, only 20cm or so thick, making the whole edifice quite flimsy, and susceptible to the earthquake that flattened it in AD 362. Today, the setting and the animal carvings on the exterior walls are the highlights. Look for the carved panther fountain on the ground floor, the eroded eagles on the corners and the lioness with cubs on the upper storey of the back side. The gatekeeper will open the interior, as well as a small museum (which includes drawings of what the complex once looked like) for a tip of JD2. If he’s not around, ask for the miftah (key) at the small shop near the gate.
Qasr Al Abad is best visited by private transport. It’s on the outskirts of Iraq Al Amir village, about 10km west of Wadi As Seer, which is served by minibus from Amman’s Muhajireen Bus Station. There are only occasional minibuses between Iraq Al Amir and Wadi As Seer.
I principali musei di Amman
Un’introduzione alla ricca storia della Giordania.
The Jordan Museum, located next to the City Hall, is one of the best in the Middle East. Housed in a grand modern building, a series of beautifully presented and informative displays tell Jordan’s historical epic from the first people through the Nabataean civilisation to the cusp of the modern era. Highlights include the oldest-known human statues (the spookily modern 9500-year-old plaster mannequins of Ain Ghazal), Jordan’s share of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a host of remains from Petra and surrounds.
We hope that one day the upstairs galleries, covering Islamic Jordan to the Arab Revolt, will finally be finished, but even without them, this museum is a must.
Royal Automobile Museum
You really don’t have to be a car enthusiast to enjoy this museum, which displays more than 70 classic cars and motorbikes from the personal collection of King Hussein. It’s something of a gem, and a great way to recount the story of modern Jordan. Vehicles range from pre-1950s glories to modern sports cars, taking in chrome-clad American cruisers to regal Rolls-Royces along the way, with accounts of presidential visits, Hollywood stars and defunct Middle Eastern monarchies enlivening the narrative.
The final display of suitably dusty rally cars is a neat rejoinder to the polish and chrome of the rest of the vehicles, while outside Matt Damon’s ruggedly cool Martian rover from The Martian (filmed in Wadi Rum) gives a vision of possible future road trips. The museum is in the northwestern suburbs, north of 8th Circle.
This brilliantly designed hands-on museum for kids is a complete joy. In its many zones, young visitors can play and learn about everything from the working of the human body to lasers and rainbows. Particular favourites (possibly because they also involve dressing up) are the building site with its bricks and pulleys, and the mocked-up Royal Jordanian plane and air control tower. There’s an outdoor play area and a cafe, plus a lovely library if the children need some quiet time.
All displays are in English and Arabic. Staff offer a caring and welcoming hand. If you’re based in Amman long-term, a family membership ticket (from JD60) is a good investment for unlimited visits plus access to special events.
Unaccompanied adults are not permitted.