Amman is the biggest and most modern city in Jordan by a long way. It is the only city with modern urban infrastructure
, and its residency of 1 ½ million represents a large fraction of the population
. Because of this, it is also the center of commerce
and international trade
However, in many ways it is unlike the cities I knew before I went there - aside from being Jordanian. Amman is a new and still developing city, described as having an unfortunate divide between the rich and the poor, but equally having a good social/cultural/religious sphere, and a warm, friendly atmosphere. This friendliness within themselves and to foreigners, and their identity with origins outside of Amman, in particular the Bedouin, are positive consequences of this. Prices were low too, although they appear high at first since they add three zeroes after the price in Jordanian dinars. On the other hand there were the crazy roads and traffic, the ongoing construction, the sprawl of the city over the seven hills it was built on, and the lack of certain urban developments.
The Amman people may not have all the opportunities of Western urbanites, but they certainly know how to have a good time. Instead of bars and club life, they hang out in cafes drinking coffee, surfing the net, and taking large puffs from Argeelahs. The Jordanians I met stayed up late at night, puffing from Argeelahs, drinking thick coffee and playing card games or backgammon or talking, and then would get up early too, for morning prayers.
Amman has a very long and interesting history, which could not be guessed from observing its huge, peaceful mass. Only thirty years ago, civil war swept through its streets as Palestinian guerrillas were defeated by the government at the expense of the city. Many refugees from the West Bank had come to Jordan, especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars in which Israel triumphed over the Arabs, and sought Jordanian support or at least approval for revenge. Jordan had only become independent in 1946, and it is really since then that modern development occurred. Before that, it had only existed since 1921 under the British associated rule of Abdullah, as Transjordan, formed by the British Mandate in Palestine after World War I.
From 1878 to 1921, Amman was only a small village, and for nearly six hundred years before this it was non-existant completely. However, remains from before this time survived, and were conveniently grouped near Citadel Hill, which we visited. There were remains from several cultures there, built up on each other, and it is an area that fascinates archaeologists. The hill has Bronze-Age tombs and a temple from before 1200 BC, which is five thousand years newer than the oldest settlement evidence in Amman, but still very old. The next remains there were Roman, who left the Temple of Hercules, the Amphitheatre and the larger walls on the Citadel. After this was the Byzantine culture, which made Amman a bishopric and built two churches on the hill. The next culture was the Islamic culture, which captured Amman in 635, and left an Umayyad palace, a well and water system and a mosque at the highest part of the hill.
Another sight important to Jordanians, though for a rather different reason, is the Military History Museum, which had a path spiralling upwards lined with images and text about Jordan’s war history, and then at the top had an Olive Tree to symbolise peace. The military in Jordan is very important, although they normally try to avoid nasty political situations and war, and this imposing museum commanded respect from its visitors. The hill outside gave a good view of the city, as had the Citadel hill previously.