The visit to Amman was made on a press trip together with Jordan Tourism Board and Royal Jordanian Airlines, but all thoughts and opinions are, as usual, my own.
Three fingers of a clenched hand with manicured nails. That's basically all that remains of the 12-meter-tall marble statue of Hercules, which once looked out over the city from the top of the Amman Citadel. Had the statue still stood today, it would probably have been the world's largest marble statue, but something got in the way of the Romans' grandiose plans.
A visit to the Citadel in Amman is not only a journey back to the impressive architecture and wealth of Roman times, but the area's history begins thousands of years earlier.
Everyone has been here
It is difficult to find a place on earth where so many civilizations have set foot, as here on kullen Jebel Al Qala'a. Greeks, Romans, Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Umayyads. They've all been here. Built, lived and left.
The story of Amman's highest point began already in the Bronze Age, when the 850 meter high kullen began to consolidate. Over the years the site has had several variations of protective walls, temples, palaces, churches and bathhouses, but each new civilization has left its mark on the site and very little remains of the creations of the original builders. Among all the archaeological finds, however, there are two buildings that stand out a little extra. Temple of Hercules and The Umayyad Palace.
Temple of Hercules
Bigger and grander than the biggest temple in Rome. The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius hit it big when he started building the temple at the citadel in Amman. What remains today are 10 meter high columns topped by decorated ones kronor. From inscriptions it has been established that the construction of the temple began in the year 160, but the archaeologists do not believe that the temple was ever completed. No other pillars have been found in the ruins of the 30 meter long temple. Maybe a big earthquake got in the way. Maybe it was some political crisis. Regardless, the grand plans fell apart. The temple that would be greater than the temples of Rome became only an emperor's dream.
At one end of the temple are two large lumps of marble. If you look closer, you see that one lump is a giant hand with three fingers. The lump next to it is part of the arm. Through ancient Roman coins from the excavations and through the size of the statue, it is believed that the statue represented the demigod Hercules, known for his superpowers and great strength.
Next to the Temple of Hercules is a viewpoint over the city. Popular at sunset and a perfect spot if you want to get an overview of Amman and its seven hills. If we tourists mostly walk around the ruins and marvel, it is here at the viewpoint that you will find loving couples and families from the city. Because the view is extensive and the city is impressively beautiful with its sandstone colored facades.
The Umayyad Palace
The area's most beautiful building is located at the top of Jebel Al Qala'a, surrounded by green meadows with bright spring flowers. The blue domed roof shines in the sun as I approach the imposing Ummayad Palace. In the middle of a large ruined area of servants' quarters, a bath house, a mosque and a large water cistern is the cruciform palace with the blue roof. An impressive building with beautiful floral patterns and impressive stone arches.
The district around the palace was built in the eighth century by the first Muslim dynasty – the Umayyad dynasty. Here lived the governor of the city with his family, surrounded by his servants. But the city's glory days were few and far between kullen, when an earthquake came to crush the city's dreams.
The earthquake in the area in 749 did not pass Amman unnoticed. Documented sources tell of villages that were destroyed, cities that were moved and tsunamis in the Mediterranean that swallowed everything in its path. Most of the buildings in this Umayyad area were razed and fell into ruins. Today, the palace has been restored and can once again show parts of its splendor.
Although there have been archaeological excavations here kullen for over 100 years, the entire citadel has still not been explored. The many layers of remains of the many different civilizations take time to explore, date and analyze. This is an area that should not be run through. You need to take the time to read the information boards to understand the context, eras and civilizations. We visited the area for an hour, but I would have liked to have added an hour to see everything and also explore the museum.
How do I visit the citadel?
The Citadel is located on a hill in central Amman. It is possible to walk up to the citadel, but considering how high the area is, I would recommend taking a taxi up and walking down.
Entry for tourists is 3 JD, but if you Jordan Pass admission is included.
Map (opens in Google maps)
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bmlarreseblogMay 4, 2023 at 9:51 pm
What a nice post about the Citadel. It was the first place we visited when we landed in Amman just before the pandemic.
It's certainly a fascinating place and a country with an incredible history that was on our bucket list for a long time.