Our family arrived at the Citadel, in Amman Jordan in a cloud of ethereal white dust. It made the whole world feel like it had been perfectly Instagram filtered.
I didn’t grow up hearing stories about Amman. Paris is the Eiffel Tower. Rome is the Colosseum. Amman? A big city in Jordan… There’s an AP office there. This was the extent of my early awareness of Amman, which is not something I’m boasting about. Prior to this visit I’d known nothing about the Citadel and the treasures here.
Our time in Amman was short. Like most tourists here, we were only passing through en route to the jewel in the crown of Jordan tourism, Petra. There we would see the jaw dropping city of the ancient Nabateans, with it’s clever natural design and awesome architecture. But first, en route to Petra, we passed through Amman, slowly weaving through the market streets and stopping at the Citadel.
The Citadel is situated atop a hill, in a cluster of seven mountains. Here, on this hill, you can find evidence of occupation dating back to the Neolithic period. There are gaps in the history here and there, but Amman is still one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.
I’ve toured Israel extensively and been to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Rhodes, Crete and Cyprus, where I’ve spent dozens of days touring centuries of ruins. I know this entire region of the world is rich with history, thousands of years of history, from multiple religions. Discovering the Citadel for me, was like finding treasure.
Do you know that random line of shells, pebbles and tiny crab skeletons from far and wide that builds up along the shore after many tides? This is the Citadel.
Atop this hill you can see both time and human tide as many great civilizations occupied the city and planted themselves here, enjoying the view. The view is still spectacular as you can see the new parts of the city here. Thousands of buildings and structures in desert tones, across a horizon that fades like a painting.
Also scattered across this sprawling park-like hilltop, in various states of renovation and ruin, there are buildings from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. You are free to wander through time. There is information available but it’s a somewhat informal space. So much future potential too. Archaeologists have been working here for almost a hundred years but most of the area remains un-excavated. It’s more than likely least as much going on beneath the soil beneath you, as what you see above it.
It’s easy to be overcome by a sort of warm and fuzzy historical reverie as you slip between eras. Modern Muslims snap selfies in the Temple of Hercules. Christian pilgrims visit Byzantine ruins. (My) Jewish kids frolic around ancient wells and cisterns.
I would recommend this as a stop for families. There is plenty of space for kids to run and play and be kids – but do try to keep your bearings and follow the correct tour group if you are with a tour.
My 13 year old son became so mesmerized here, that it took him a full ten minutes to realize he was following the wrong tour group. When he went to ask a question, he suddenly realized his mates were all elderly and speaking German. This quickly broke the spell.
Fortunately it is a contained space – and we did not panic when he went missing briefly. We were quickly reunited.
All of the tourists we encountered were friendly, helpful and wanting to share. I did a live stream video (below) with this woman, who I left a hand painted stone with. She wanted to take a selfie with me as well.
I was pulled aside many times by local women who wanted to take selfies with me. I suspect it was all my (uncovered) blond hair and somewhat obvious American-ness. I try to pretend I’m Swedish sometimes.
As a photographer, I was in heaven here.
Petra aside, you don’t hear about ruins in Jordan nearly as much as you hear about ruins in Europe. But my recent trip to Jordan taught me that the ruins to be explored in places like Jerash and Amman are especially dazzling to history nerds like me.
There is still a sense of discovery at these sites – of the ruins still being somewhat alive and wild. While certain things are preserved, many things – a column, a corner of a building, a crumbling cistern – are left in a half-lost and decaying state, their mysteries unprobed.
As much as I love preservation, I also love permission to touch the stones, to see nature doing what nature does, to use my imagination and all my senses as I let history wash over me. I understand the need for velvet ropes. I just don’t love them.
We loved touring the Citadel.
We toured the Citadel with Abraham tours as part of a 3 day trip to Petra and Jordan highlights. If you are looking for a company to travel with, I would recommend them, but also recommend that you do your own research. Most of their guides and drivers are excellent, but it’s good to also be prepared yourself and know what to expect for border crossings etc. I would also recommend you go for a little longer than three day – our trip was very rushed and we would have liked more time in Jordan! This is not a sponsored post.