Top 5 Historical Highlights of Jordan

Sightseeing Jordan
Top 5 Historical Highlights of Jordan

Jordan is a Kingdom steeped in history and culture. From the moment you arrive, you get a sense of its rich heritage; all around are remnants of ancient civilizations long since passed, yet they still remain, stamped into the very fabric of this amazing Kingdom and etched into the soul of the people who live here.

Petra

The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan's national treasures and by far its best known tourist attraction. Located approximately three hours south of Amman, Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that enchants visitors from all corners of the globe. Much of Petra's appeal comes from its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. The site is accessed by walking through a kilometer long chasm (or siq), the walls of which soar 200m upwards. Petra's most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the Siq. Used in the final sequence of the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," the towering façade of the Treasury is only one of myriad archaeological wonders to be explored at Petra. Various walks and climbs reveal hundreds of buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, colonnaded streets and haunting rock drawings - as well as a 3,000 seat open air theater, a gigantic 1st century Monastery and a modern archeological museum, all of which can be explored at leisure. A modest shrine commemorating the death of Aaron, brother of Moses, was built in the 13th century by the Mamluk Sultan, high atop mount Aaron in the Sharah range.

Amman

A sprawling city spread over 19 hills, or "jebels," Amman is the modern - as well as the ancient - capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Known as Rabbath-Ammon during the Iron Age and later as Philadelphia, the ancient city that was once part of the Decapolis league, it now boasts a population of around 2.3 million people. Amman, often referred to as the white city due to its array of stone houses, offers a variety of historical sites. There are a number of renovations and excavations taking place that have revealed remains from the Neolithic period, as well as from the Hellenestic and late Roman to Arab Islamic Ages. The historical site known as the Citadel includes many structures, such as the Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and the Byzantine Church. At the foot of the Citadel lies the 6,000 seat Roman Theater, which is a deep-sided bowl carved into the hill and is still being used for cultural events. Another newly restored theater is the 500-seat Odeon that is used for concerts. The three museums found in the area offer a glimpse of history and culture; they are the Jordan Archaeological Museum, The Folklore Museum and the Museum of Popular Traditions.

Jerash

A close second to Petra on the list of favorite destinations in Jordan, the ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. The city's golden age came under Roman rule 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 found throughout the Middle East. It comprises paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theaters, 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 ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.

Madaba

The trip south from Amman along the 5,000-year-old Kings Highway is one of the most memorable journeys in the Holy Land, passing through a string of ancient sites. The first city one encounters is Madaba, “the City of Mosaics." The city, best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, is home to the famous 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of colored stone, the map depicts hills, valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. Other mosaic masterpieces found in the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles and 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 everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Literally hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th century are scattered throughout Madaba's churches and homes.

Aqaba

Famed for its preserved coral reefs and unique sea life, this Red Sea port city was, in ancient times, the main port for shipments from the Red Sea to the Far East. The Mameluk Fort, one of the main historical landmarks of Aqaba, was rebuilt by the Mameluks in the 16th century. Square in shape and flanked by semicircular towers, the fort is marked with various inscriptions marking the latter period of the Islamic dynasty. The current excavations at the ancient site of the early Islamic town Ayla, with its two main streets intersecting in the middle and dating back to the 7th century, have already revealed a gate and city wall along with towers, buildings and a mosque. The museum houses a collection of artifacts collected in the region, including pottery and coins. Aqaba also hosts the house of Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, the great grandfather of King Abdullah II. Other places of interest include the mud brick building thought to be the earliest church in the region.

Content courtesy of Jordan Tourism Board

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