Amman is the capital and is a perfect blend of old and new nestling on a hillside between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley. The downtown area of the city is a fascinating place to explore and there is evidence of the city's much older past everywhere you turn.
Places of interest downtown include the restored Roman Theatre which dates back to the 2nd Century AD and the Roman Forum, a public square bordered by the theatre and the Odeon which was the largest of the Empire. Whilst, the thriving commercial district boasts amenities that can be found in any modern day city from internationally renowned hotels to art galleries and shopping centres
Amman City Tour
Start the day with a city tour of Amman. Amman is the capital of Jordan which is a fascinating city of contrasts – a unique blend of old and new, ideally situated on a hilly area between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley. Due to the city’s modern-day prosperity and temperate climate, almost half of Jordan’s population is concentrated in the Amman area. The residential suburbs consist of mainly tree-lined street and avenues flanked by elegant, almost uniformly white houses, in accordance with a municipal law, which states that all buildings must be faced with local stone. The downtown area is much older and more traditional with smaller businesses producing and selling everything from fabulous jewellery to everyday household items. The people of Amman are multi-cultural, multi-denominational, well educated and extremely hospitable. They welcome visitors and take pride in showing them around their fascinating and vibrant city.
The visit will include the fascinating Roman Theater and Nymphaeum that reflect the historic legacy of the city, and the enchanting Citadel which has stood since the ancient times of the Ammonites. On Fridays during summer you may also enjoy Jabal Amman 1st Circle Walking Trail with its coffeehouses and grand traditional villas. If it's shopping you're after, then the pedestrian Wakalat shopping district offers a wide selection of international brand names to choose from. For a more exotic and traditional experience you can visit the old-downtown, also known as the ''Souq'', and take in the traditional sights and smells of the spice market, and shop for authentic souvenirs.
Iraq El-Amir (to be added to Amman City Tour)
Iraq al Amir is about 15 km southwest of the town of Wadi Al Seer, it has a population of about 6000 people. It is located on the hills with high and medium altitude; the area has many springs, and is famous for its olive trees, in addition to other forest trees. About 0.5 km south of the town is located the so-called Al-Iraq historical site, which was built by a Persian prince in the 3rd century BC. There are many caves in the hills which date back to the Copper Age. Close to Iraq al-Amir, there is Qasr al Abd which is a large ruin dating from approximately 200BC and widely believed to have been built by a Tobiad notable, Hyrcanus of Jerusalem, head of the powerful Tobiad family and governor of Ammon. The trip includes a brief stop at Iraq Al-Amir Women Cooperative Society to have tea and check the hand-made stuff made by the local women.
Madaba & Mount Nebo
Mosaic Map of the Holy Land in St. George's Church.
After breakfast, embark on a tour of Madaba Best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, Madaba is home to the famous 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. The Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which is located northwest of the city centre. The church was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. The mosaic panel enclosing the Map was originally around 15.6 X 6m, 94 square meters, only about a quarter of which is preserved.
Other mosaic masterpieces found in the church of the Virgin and the Apostles and in the Archaeological Museum, depict a rampant profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and the everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Literally, hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba's churches and homes.
In line with Jordan's commitment to restoring and preserving its mosaic masterpieces, Madaba’s extensive archaeological Park and Museum complex encompasses the remains of several Byzantine churches, including the outstanding mosaics of the Church of the Virgin and the Hyppolytus Hall, part of a 6th century mansion.
Institute For Mosaic Art and Restoration at Madaba.
Close to the Church of the Virgin is the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration, which operates under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism. The only project of its kind in the Middle East, the Institute trains artisans in the art of making repairing and restoring mosaics.
The Byzantine Church at Mt. Nebo.
Continue to visit Mount Nebo, the mountaintop memorial of Moses with captivating views of the Jordan Valley, Dead Sea and The River Jordan. A small Byzantine church was built there by early Christians, which has been expanded into a vast complex. During his visit to Jordan in 2001, the Late Pope John Paul II held a sermon here that was attended by some 20,000 faithful.
Umm Rasas + Mukawir
Excavations at Umm ar Rasas.
Drive to Umm Rasas - Excavations in Umm Rasas have uncovered some of the finest Byzantine church mosaics, including a large carpet depicting Old and New Testament cities on both the east and west banks of the Jordan River. Another feature at Umm ar Rasas walled settlement is a 15-metre Byzantine tower used by early Christian monks seeking solitude. Umm Rasas is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Herod's hilltop stronghold of Mukawir.
Within an hour’s drive from Madaba along the picturesque King’s Highway, is Mukawir. Mukawir the hilltop stronghold of Herod the Great. Upon Herod’s death, his son Herod Antipas inherited the fortress and it is from here that he ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded after Salome’s fateful dance.
Drive to Jerash - A close second to Petra on the list of favourite destinations in Jordan, the ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. Jerash lies on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins. Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, it came under Roman rule and was one of the ten great Roman cities, the Decapolis League
The city's golden age came under Roman rule, during which time it was known as Gerasa, and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
Beneath its external Graeco - Roman veneer, Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of east and west. Its architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed and coexisted, The Graeco - Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the traditions of the Arab Orient.
The modern city of Jerash can be found to the east of the ruins. While the old and new share a city wall, careful preservation and planning has seen the city itself develop well away from the ruins so there is no encroachment on the sites of old.
Ajlun (in combination with Jerash)
After visiting Jerash continue to Ajlun - The marvels of nature and the genius of medieval Arab military architecture have given northern Jordan two of the most important ecological and historical attractions in the Middle East: the sprawling pine forests of the Ajloun-Dibbine area, and the towering Ayyubid castle at Ajloun, which helped to defeat the Crusaders eight centuries ago.
Ajloun Castle (Qal'at Ar-Rabad) was built by one of Saladin's generals in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajloun, and to deter the Franks from invading Ajloun. Ajloun Castle dominated the three main routes leading to the Jordan valley and protected the trade and commercial routes between Jordan and Syria; it became an important link in the defensive chain against the Crusaders, who unsuccessfully spend decades trying to capture the castle and the nearby village.
The original castle had four towers; arrow slits incorporated into the thick walls and it was surrounded by a moat averaging 16 meters in width and up to 15 meters deep. In 1215 AD, the Mameluk officer Aibak ibn Abdullah expanded the castle following Usama's death, by adding a new tower in the southeast corner and a bridge that can still be seen decorated with pigeon reliefs.
The castle was conceded in the 13th century to Salah al-Din Yousef Ibn Ayoub, ruler of Aleppo and Damascus, who restored the northeastern tower. These expansion efforts were interrupted in AD 1260, when Mongol invaders destroyed the castle, but almost immediately, the Mameluk Sultan Baybars reconquered and rebuilt the fortress.
Ten Salah Ed Din soldiers are guarding the castle every day of the week. They are placed at the four different gate levels that the castle has. Two are on the roof where the yellow Mameluke is flying. Siege ladders leaning on the wall adds to the war like atmosphere.
Ajloun is just a short journey from Jerash through pine forest and olive groves and boasts scores of ancient sites, including water mills, forts and villages, all in the beautiful hills and valleys of north Jordan.
Drive East to see Jordan's Desert Castles, beautiful examples of both early Islamic art and architecture, stand testament to a fascinating era in the country's rich history. Their fine mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carvings and illustrations, inspired by the best in Persian and Graeco - Roman traditions, tell countless stories of the life as it was during the eighth century. Called castles because of their imposing stature, the desert complexes actually served various purposes as caravan stations, agriculture and trade centres, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local bedouins. Several of these preserved compounds, all of which are clustered to the east and south of Amman.
Qusair Amra, one of the best preserved monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colorful mosaics. Qasr al - Kharrana, has been restored and in excellent condition. The black basalt fort at Azraq, in continuous use since Late Roman times, was the headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab Revolt.