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  • April 2012
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Jordan A to Z: ​A is for … Amman!

Jordan A to Z:  A is for … Amman!

Panoramic view of Amman from the Citadel hill.

Amman is the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  The kingdom (pop. 6.5 million) is conveniently located between Palestine, Israel,  Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Red and Dead Seas.  2.5 million reside in the city of Amman, which can be located at the following coordinates: 31° 56′ 0″ N, 35° 56′ 0″ E.  I have lived here in Amman for the last 3.5 years and I can honestly say that I love it here.  Everyday I walk out of my house it is like stepping into a cultural and historical learning lab.  As with anyplace in the world Amman has its high points and low points.  In this case both figuratively and literally as it is a city spread out over 19 hillsides.

Greater Amman Municipality Website – Contains a lot of good information, including current events and initiatives around the city

Amman is one of the oldest settled cities in the world.  In Roman times it was known as the city of Philadelphia  (meaning: brotherly love) and was one of the chief cities of the Decapolis.  At that time the area was under Roman rule and there are many ruins from that era that remain in the city today, including a well preserved (and restored) amphitheater that is still in use for concerts and shows.  The area has been under a variety of rulers throughout history: the British, the Ottomans, the Umayyads, the Byzantines, the Romans, the Nabateans and all the way back into the earliest days of recorded history the city was the capital of the ancient Ammonite people.  The influences of all of these times and rulers can be seen throughout the city if one pays attention in the right way.

View of Amman with Roman Amphitheater pre-1950

View of Roman Amphitheater today ... note all of the buildings on what was once a barren hillside.

Today Amman is a bustling metropolis … but most of the development has happened since the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Modern Amman is a study in contrasts.  There are many uber-rich folks and a lot of the very poor as well.  Many label the city as divided between two halves with the balad or Old City (in this case) being the dividing line:

East Amman: poorer, more conservative socially, religiously and perhaps politically.  More traditionally “eastern” in its feel.  You won’t find any big supermarkets, mega malls, major hotels, or fast food chains on this side of town.  People shop at their local neighborhood butcher, fruit stand, and bakery.  The pace of life is more relaxed and the neighborhoods tend to be more crowded and honestly a little run-down.  Arabic is the default language.  You will find very few non-Arab  foreigners living here, although we did for 2.5 years and it was great for learning language and culture.

East Amman

West Amman: wealthier, and more liberal (at least by local standards).  It is more “western” in its feel.  You will find almost any western thing you are looking for on this side of town … McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chili’s, Safeway (supermarket), the Marriott  … fast food, big supermarkets, malls, major hotels, etc.  Of course Arabic is the official language, but many people on this side of town speak English and will actually prefer to communicate with non-Arabs in this manner.  Popular neighborhoods include: Jabal Amman, Abdoun, Swufiyeh, Um Udhayna, Khalda, and Jubeiha … just to name a few.

Western style coffee shop at a mall in West Amman

I also like to identify Central Amman: for me this is comprised of the three hill-top neighborhoods of Jabal Amman, Jabal al-Webdeh, and Jabal Hussein, located in the middle of town … just west of the balad and running north.  These three neighborhoods are a bit older and more residential.  They seem to be a happy medium between east and west to me.  Mostly smaller shops with some modern conveniences, but with wider and cleaner streets and only minutes away from everything available in west Amman while still retaining some local culture and flavor.

Jabal Hussein, Jabal Amman and points West from the Citadel hill

So much for short posts!  That’s it for A is for … Amman!  Enjoy the gallery below and look tomorrow for Jordan A to Z: B is for ….. ?

Also if you have a moment check out these 5 random links from the A to Z challenge (I cannot vouch for their content … I am simply providing random links from the participant list at the A to Z website).

The Jersey Shore Mom     Doris and Dave’s Excellent Adventure     Tasha Seegmiller     Libby Heily     Life’s Autumns

Some Random Pics of Amman

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