Archeological Historical Sites

cidadel

The Citadel, Amman

An important site due to its long history of habitation by different civilisations. Located on one the seven hills of Amman the area was occupied as early as the Neolithic period and then fortified in the Bronze Age. Sometime after 1200 BC it became the capital of the Kingdom of Ammon.

The list of occupiers is impressive – Assyrians, Babylonians, Ptolemies, Seleucids, Romans, Byzantines and the Umayyads. After this the city was abandoned and became a pile of ruins. The major buildings are the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church and the Umayyad Palace. Much of the site still has to be excavated.

The Jordan Archaeological Museum is on site.

roman-theatre-amman

Roman Amphitheater, Odeon and Nymphaeum, Amman

Built at the end of the 2nd century AD to honour the Emperor Antoninus Pius, the threatre consists of three horizontal sections with 44 rows seating 6000 people who were seated by rank, the poor, foreigners, slaves and women at the top and the rich at the bottom. On each side the buildings now house the Folklore Museum and the Museum of Popular Traditions.

Close by there is a smaller theatre called the Odeon seating 500 people, this was restored recently along with the Nymphaeum Fountain which is thought to have had a 600 sqm pool.

All three sites were built at the same time and flank the new Hashemite Plaza.

jerash

Jerash

Noted for its fine Roman and Byzantine ruins, Jerash has been inhabited since the Neolithic Period 7500 to 5500 BC and became an Hellenistic city in the 2nd Century BC. After the Roman conquest in 63 BC the city was annexed to the Roman province of Syria and in 106 AD was part of the Roman province of Arabia. Most of the structures date from Roman rule but when the city passed to the Byzantine Empire many more monuments were erected most notably the Baths of Flaccus.

The Persian Sassanians captured and plundered the city between 614 and 630 AD leaving it vulnerable to the Arab army that arrived in 636 AD. The city’s wealth declined with the rich citizens leaving and the new trade routes bypassed the area. A series of earthquakes further destroyed the buildings and by 1130 AD the city was in ruins and abandoned.

The archaeological remains are well preserved and there are two museums on site plus more artifacts in the Visitor Centre. It is well worth having a guide as this is a large area to cover.

cave 7 sleepers

Cave of the Seven Sleepers

A religious site of great importance with Byzantine ruins and a Mosque close by. Legend goes that seven Christian men and their dog were being persecuted for their beliefs and were guided by God to the cave where they slept for 309 years until they would could awake safe from persecution.

Located 10 kms east from Amman in the village of Rajib.

ajloun castle

Ajloun Castle

A great example of Islamic military architecture, Ajlun Castle was first built in 1183 to prevent the expansion of the crusaders. Under the Mamluk governors the castle was expanded and served as the administrative centre safeguarding the trade and pilgrims routes from Damascus.

Damaged by earthquakes in 1837 and 1927 the castle was restored by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.

Located in the northwest of Jordan, forty minutes drive from Jerash and 50 kilometres from Amman.

deir ain abata

Deir Ain Abata

A Christian pilgrimage site known as the Sanctuary of the Prophet Lot, there is a monastery built around a cave in which the Prophet Lot took sanctuary with his daughters during the destruction of Sodom. God ordered Lot to flee but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. There is a salt rock close by which is believed to be Lot’s wife.

Located 30 minutes southeast of Amman.

umm-qais

Umm Qais – Ruins of Gadara

Located at Umm Qais in the north west corner of Jordan near the borders with Syria and Israel, Gadara was the centre of Greek culture in the area. During the Hellenistic period the city was besieged and passed back and forth between the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt until the region passed into Roman control when it was rebuilt by Pompey.

During the Roman reign the city prospered until coming under Muslim rule in 636 BC and was finally abandoned in 749 after being mainly destroyed by an earthquake.

There is a Visitor Centre and Museum on site.

Pella

Pella

Located in north west Jordan the site has been inhabited since Neolithic times but became an important city during Greek and Roman times and was one of the ten cities of the Roman Decapolis League in the Levant. The city prospered during the Byzantine and Islamic period until being devastated by the earthquake in 749.

This is a big site and requires a lot of walking.

Madaba

Madaba

Located 30 kms south of Amman, the site has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. The city is known for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially the large map of the Holy Land found in the Basilica of St George.

Excavations in the area are ongoing and it is worth visiting the Archaeological Park and Visitors Centre.

Mount-Nebo

Mount Nebo

An important place for Christian pilgrimage due to the belief that this 3300 ft mountain is the place where God showed Moses the Promised Land before he died. The Franciscans purchased the site in 1932 and they have excavated the remains of an early church and Byzantine mosaics.

It is thought a sanctuary was built to honour Moses in 4 AD and finished in 349 AD. It was enlarged into a basilica in the 6th century. The site was abandoned in 1564 until being bought by the Franciscans.

Mount Nebo is just a 15 minute drive from Madaba.

machaerus

Machaerus

Thought to be the fortress where John the Baptist was kept for two years before being beheaded around 32 AD.

Originally built in 90 BC for a Hasmonean king, it was destroyed by the Romans and then rebuilt by Herod the Great in 30 BC as a military base. Excavations were started in 1968 finding the ruins of the Herodian palace.

Located approximately 53 kilometres south west of Amman on the eastern bank of the Dead Sea.

petra jordan

Petra

This lost city was discovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer and became a World Heritage site in 1985. Thought to have been inhabited since 9000 BC the city became the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom between 400 BC and 106 AD. The Nabataeans, originally merchant nomads from Arabia, ruled most of modern day Jordan until overthrown by the Romans in 106 AD.

Their success was due the city becoming a oasis in the middle of the desert. The Nabataeans were experts at collecting water hence the caravans on the trade routes passed through the city paying the tolls and stocking up on fresh water in a safe environment. Myrrh, aloe and incense came from Yemen, spices from India and white bitumen from the Dead Sea all passed through the city before making their way to the markets of the great cities around the Mediterranean and beyond.

A lot of the monuments in Petra were constructed between 8 BC and 40 AD under the reign of King Aretas IV but once the Romans took over the city went into decline becoming a backwater capital under the Byzantine empire. Earthquakes damaged many of the buildings causing the city to be abandoned. During the crusades the city was occupied by a Christian King and was consequently returned into Muslim hands after the defeat of the Crusaders. Only the local Bedouins continued to use the city and kept it secret from the rest of the world until its discovery by Johann Ludwig Burchhardt in 1812 disguised as a muslim.

The rest is history!

Bethany beyond

Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond Jordan” (Al-Maghtas)

Accepted as the location where John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth, although the exact spot cannot be identified due to the Jordan River changing course over the centuries, this site has recorded visits by Christians on pilgrimage since 4 AD. It is now of immense importance to all denominations of the Christian faith and became a World Heritage site in 2015.

The remains of 20 sites have been discovered including churches, a water collection system and baptismal pools dating back to Roman and Byzantine times. Excavations began in 1996 due to the fact that the area was previously a minefield between the Jordan and Israel border from 1967 to 1994.

The site can be found at the southern end of the Jordan River just across from Jericho, 40 minutes drive from Amman and 8 kilometers south of the King Hussein/Allenby border bridge.

quseir amra

Quseir Amra

Designated in 1985 the fortress and palace/residence was built sometime between 723 and 743 for Walid ibn Yazid before his short reign as Caliph. The reception hall and hamman have exceptionally colourful frescos showing an artistic blend of the Byzantine and Islamic cultures with a bit of classical pagan influences thrown in.

Qusair Amra is one of the best preserved Umayyad period castles in Syria and Jordan.

Located an hour’s drive from Amman there is a visitor centre on site with licenced guides. It is also easy to visit two other desert castles in the area on the same day.

wadi rum

Wadi Rum Protected Area

12,000 years of human occupation, numerous inscriptions, 154 archeological remains and 25,000 petroglyphs make Wadi Rum not just a stunning natural wonder but also a showcase of human evolution in the region.

The protected area comprises 74,200 hectares and includes Jordan’s highest point, Jabal Umm ad Dami. Wadi Rum is a classic desert landscape renowned for its spectacular beauty of red rippling sand dunes, massive sandstone mountains and valleys, narrow gorges, landslides and canyons all under a star studded night sky.

Located off the Desert Highway in the south of Jordan, close to Aqaba and approximately one and a half hours from Petra.

um er rasas

Um er Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)

Designated in 2004 the remains here date from the 3rd to 9th centuries covering Roman, Byzantine and early Muslim periods although much of the site has yet to be excavated, the work is ongoing. Sixteen churches, a fortified Roman military camp and a unique complete 14 metre high stylite tower have been uncovered.

Mosaic floors have been found in a number of the churches and especially the floor map in the Church of St Stephens is of great artistic value.

Located 30 kms southeast of Madaba.

As Salt

As Salt

Designated in 2021 As Salt has been inhabited since the Iron Age and was called Saltus by the Romans. During the Ottoman rule in the 19th century it became the main trading centre in the region and by 1925 was a prosperous city with a thriving and tolerant society with joint habitation of different religions. European and Middle Eastern traditions are reflected in the distinct architecture.

The historic centre is unique in Jordan and visitors can explore on foot the narrow alleys and stairways to see the excellent Ottoman architecture.

As Salt is located 30 kms northwest of Amman.