Amman is a modern, safe, and friendly capital city. No more than a five-hour drive from anywhere in the country, it is a convenient place to base your tour from. Known as Rabbath-Ammon during prehistoric periods and later as Philadelphia, the ancient city that was once part of the Decapolis league, now boasts a population of around 4 million. Often referred to as the white city due to its canvas of white stone houses, Amman offers a variety of historical sites including the Citadel and the magnificent Roman Theatre. Amman also contains an impressive array of restaurants, bars and shopping areas.
The Surprisingly Rich and Ancient History of Amman
Amman has a rich and ancient history housing many civilizations dating back to ancient times. First recorded was during the Neolithic period when discovered artwork suggests a settled life and a well-developed civilization. After that, Amman was called Rabat Ammon by the Ammonites. The Assyrians conquered it, followed the Persians and then Macedonians who changed its name to Philadelphia which later became part of the Nabatean Kingdom up until 106 AD when it came under Roman control and joined the Decapolis, a group of 10 cities sharing a similar language and strategically located at the eastern corner of the Roman Empire. The Byzantine era came after and churches from this period are still present.
The name Amman came during the Ghassanian era in the early 3rd century, drawing from the ancient name of Rabat Amon. The city saw a period of growth and prosperity during the early 7th century under the Caliphates of Umayyads (in Damascus) and Abbasids (in Baghdad) which also contributed to the spread and establishment of Islam in the area. It is during this time that the magnificent desert castles in eastern Jordan and the Umayyad Palace on Amman’s Citadel were built.
After the Umayyads and Abbasids, the city underwent a long period of decline marked by several earthquakes and natural disasters and conquests respectively by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluk Sultanate, and lastly by the Ottomans. It was only in 1878 that the Circassians arrived from the Caucasus region of western Asia due to Southward Russian expansion and re-built the city, thus contributing to the start of Amman’s ‘modern’ history.
The Hejaz railway during the Ottoman period also helped, as it linked Damascus and Medina; a development which made Amman a major station and put it back on the commercial map. Due to its strategic role, the city was also at the centre of the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I and the Arab Revolt in the First and Second Battle of Amman which resulted in the British mandate over Jordan.
Modern Jordan was founded by King Abdullah I after World War I. It was ruled by his grandson, The Late King Hussein, for 46 years until his death in 1999, when his son King Abdullah II assumed the throne. Jordan has grown into a modern nation that has enjoyed a remarkable measure of peace, stability and economic growth in recent decades. Jordan’s progress is reflected in the urban and demographic development of Amman, which grew in less than a century from a small Circissian village of less than 10.000 inhabitants to one of the most populous Middle Eastern cities with more than 4 million people. Hosting many nationalities from neighbouring countries arriving during the frequent crisess in the region, Amman today provides a rich representation of Middle Eastern culture, society and history.