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  • By Tim Campbell

Amman - The Heart of Jordan


After a four hour flight on Royal Jordanian Airlines from London Heathrow I touched down at night struggling to see anything much out of the windows on my ride to the hotel. However, come the morning and the bright sunshine it was easy to see why they called this the heart of Jordan. I was collected by my guide and driver, Mohammed, who was a certified guide for the Jordanian Tourist Board. An elderly gentleman, he would be with me throughout the trip which was to include Madabat, Ma'in Hot springs, the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum and Amman.

I was on a week long journey throughout Jordan, and Amman was the beginning and end of the trip. I had just the one night and then a whole day and night on my return. The first thing you notice about Amman is the overwhelming friendliness of the people.

Amman is the real middle east. Desert, dry, sunny, dusty, Arab and dirty. When I say dirty, I mean just untidy and disheveled as opposed to disgusting dirty. It was as I had seen on the TV and I couldn't wait to explore.

The mosque was quiet as you'd expect in this holy sanctum. It was right in the middle of the city and served as the five times a day prayer mat for the masses. Built in xxx it had already seen generations of Muslims pass through its doors. I was almost ushered out of the building when someone saw me taking photographs, but Mohammed my guide, reassured the man that I was with him and was threat with my camera.

The eclectic style and tiling of the mosque was unique in the way that it all fit together perfectly. I took a few photos and sat quietly in a corner while Mohammed said his prayers with the others. It seemed comforting that his religion made him pray for a better life and be thankful for what he had already, rather than asking for what he did not have as so many westerners do.

The market was a hive of activity. Sellers yelling their wares and trying to convince visitors that they had the best produce. It was a visual delight and an abundance of colour making you want to buy everything they had from the glorious array of sweets and dates to the plump green marrows. Spices were abundant, everything from saffron to Turmeric and xxx grown here in the holy land.

Downtown was chaotic. Horns blaring and cars not following any signs or rules. You took your life in your hands trying to cross the road. Clothes shops were prominent with all the latest arab styles from hijabs for the women to long male cloaks, but western wear was especially prominent in this almost democratic country. If you've been to Dubai you will know what I mean. I did not see beggars but Mohammed assured me there were plenty in the city looking for handouts. The King provided healthcare and education but it was up to the individual to survive the economic upturns and downturns.

This was not a shoe shiner but a freelancer making his way through life. I watched him for a while before I got my shoes shined and noticed that he didn't accost anyone, didn't talk to anyone, didn't market what he was doing, just shined shoes to the best of his ability and experience to whoever stopped. For two dinars it was worth it just for the photos, and he did an excellent job. On asking he confirmed he had been shining shoes for 50 years and had had no other job his whole life.

Amman was, like many cities in Europe the Middle East and Africa, colonized and conquered by Alexander the great, the Macedonians, the Byzantines and the Romans who arrived in 63 BC and stayed for four centuries. Their influence is everywhere in its architecture. none more so than the theatre arena which dominates the downtown area of the city. With its own museum off to one side this wondrous arena is now home to plays and musical festivals such as the Al-Balad.

Among the world's oldest inhabited places, the Citadel is where you get a full sense of history of this grand city. Formerly known as Philadelphia when it was conquered by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, Amman has been around for 3000 years since the Iron and bronze ages. Statues of Hercules which date from the 2nd century AD show in the architecture, but standing in the middle gives you a sense of being a part of the past when this city was alive at the turn of the first millennium. Being amongst the giant pillars and carved stones are like being in a Cecille B.De Mille movie where you almost expect to be part of the Ten commandments.

The Archaeological museum is extremely small but well worth the effort if you have time. At times this unique building houses the famous Dead Sea scrolls, but unfortunately they were out on tour during my visit. There is no guided tour inside, just pay for a ticket then wander around and look at items carved thousands of years ago. Some of them so intricate you wonder if they are man made. Built in 1951 this classic museum houses artifacts from the Paleolithic prehistoric times to the 15th century.

The Kings palace, is a must see during your visit. Known as the Rhagadan Palace it is close to both the railway station and airport in the old sector. Constructed in traditional Islamic style, the palace can be used by local residents for daily prayers. it has daily tours. For more information go to

http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/royal_palaces.html.

Amman is a brand new modern airport and one of the best in the Middle East. Named the Queen Alia airport after the monarch was killed in a helicopter crash in 1977, this airport was renovated and new terminals built in 2013 and 2014 replacing the old out dated structure. It has recently won awards as the best in the Middle East.


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