Amman: Where history meets modernity

Amman: Where history meets modernity

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2017-02-21 14:01 View of roman theatre from CitadelOn my way to Tel Aviv in Israel, I decided to take a short break at Amman, the capital of Jordan, and see the surrounding places including Petra and the Dead sea. When I landed at Queen Alia International Airport, I did not know that Amman itself is one of the most visited Arab cities. Located on the East Bank Plateau, Amman is built on seven hills and because of its modernity, it attracts a large number of visitors from far and wide.  It is also safe city.With a population of more than four million, Amman is a historic city and was known as Rabbath Amman in the 13th Century. In 720 BC, a Neolithic village known as Aingazal flourished at the site of present day Amman. When this Neolithic city was discovered in 1974, historians were able to get a wealth of information about the life in ancient times.  Statues of human figures made of plaster of Paris were found at the site.  Byzantine ChurchKing Abdullah MosqueUmayad Palace complexThe city centre of Amman has a historic site called Citadel. Located on a hill-top, Citadel has been inhabited by different generations of people since 7000 years. It is considered the world’s oldest continuously inhabited place, since people were living here from Bronze Age through Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Arab Muslim periods. The Citadel has a number of buildings from Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods and is located inside a fortress. The most significant monument in citadel is the Roman temple of Hercules. According to an inscription, this temple was built during 160 to 166 AD.  What remains now are only two giant pillars. A hand carved out of stone near the site is said to be the hand of Hercules. The next important building is the Umayyad Palace, a palace complex built in 720 AD. Though ruined by an earthquake in 749 AD, the complex is now restored and the palace dome is very beautiful indeed. The palace has an audience hall shaped like a cross and to the north of this hall is a wide street. On either side of the street are residential buildings, including the former governor’s residence. On the eastern side of the palace is located the Umayyad Cistern, a huge stepwell which supplied water to the palace complex. Now the well is dry. There is also a museum in the complex which has exhibits of items excavated at the site.Very close to the citadel is the Roman theatre. Built in second century AD during the Roman period when Amman was known as Philadelphia, this circular, open-air theatre could seat 6000 persons. It is built on a hill face using the hill contours to create a gallery-like seating. The theatre is even now used for performances. A notable feature is that the voice of the performer can be heard by spectators sitting at any place in the theatre.Next to the theatre is a busy market called Al-Balad, which has many cafés, shops selling clothes, artefacts, souvenirs etc. The market reminded me of Chandni Chowk. Rainbow Street is also popular with the tourists. Later, we visited King Abdullah Mosque, a magnificent and peaceful place. But it is not comparable to the Blue Mosque of Istanbul in its architecture.Author infront of Hercules templeAl Balad MarketCar museumEarliest statue of man in the museum I was told that the Royal Automobile Museum is a must see in Jordan and hence I visited the museum. It has an excellent collection of various vehicles owned by late King Hussain. I was reminded of the Automobile Museum I had seen in Coventry in the UK. The children’s’ museum, which is worth a visit, is adjoining the Auto Museum.I was tempted to taste the local cuisine for which Amman is famous. I tried ‘falafel’, which is like our 'dal vada' or ‘ambode’, and found it to be yummy. I also had ‘hummus’ and ‘moutabel’. What appealed to me the most was ‘manakish’, a cross between pizza and ‘paratha’. Non-vegetarians have a wide variety of choices, the most famous being ‘shawarma’. Amman is a place which lingers in one’s memory for a very long time.Author: Dr. D V Guruprasad (Former DGP) is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.