HOME CONTACT US SITEMAP
 Language
 عربي
You are hereExplore Jordan > History & Culture
old tools
Wallpapers
Jordan Triva Quiz
Time in Jordan is:
Copyright 2005 by The Jordan Tourism Board. Privacy Statement | Legal Disclaimer
 

 

 
 
 
You are hereExplore Jordan > History & Culture
> The Treasury (Khazneh) at Petra.

HISTORY & CULTURE

There is no mistaking the fact that Jordan is a Kingdom steeped in history and culture. From the moment you arrive, you get a sense of its rich heritage; all around are remnants of ancient civilizations long since passed, yet they still remain, stamped into the very fabric of this amazing Kingdom and etched into the soul of the people who live here. To find out more about historical sites in Jordan, select a destination from the dropdown below:

Download Jordan Brochures Online

Interactive History Timeline
HISTORICAL SITES



Amman

img_theatre2.jpg

The Roman Theatre in Amman.

A sprawling city spread over 19 hills, or "jebels," Amman is the modern - as well as the ancient - capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Known as Rabbath-Ammon during the Iron Age and later as Philadelphia, the ancient city that was once part of the Decapolis league, now boasts a population of around 2.3 million people. Amman, often referred to as the white city due to its low size canvas of stone houses, offers a variety of historical sites. There are a number of renovations and excavations taking place that have revealed remains from the Neolithic period, as well as from the Hellenestic and late Roman to Arab Islamic Ages. The site which is known as the Citadel includes many structures such as the Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and the Byzantine Church. At the foot of the Citadel lies the 6,000 seat Roman Theatre, which is a deep-sided bowl carved into the hill and is still being used for cultural events. Another newly restored theatre is the 500-seat Odeon that is used for concerts. The three museums found in the area offer a glimpse of history and culture; they are the Jordan Archaeological Museum, The Folklore Museum and the Museum of Popular Traditions.


Madaba

img_st_george_mosaic.jpg

The Mosaic at St. Georges Church in Madaba.

The trip south from Amman along the 5,000-year-old Kings Highway is one of the most memorable journeys in the Holy Land, passing through a string of ancient sites. The first city to encounter is Madaba, “the City of Mosaics." The city, best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, is home to the famous 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of coloured stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. Other mosaic masterpieces found in the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles and the Archaeological Museum, depict a rampant profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Literally, hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba's churches and homes.


Petra

img_treasury.jpg

The Treasury at Petra.

The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan's national treasures and by far its best known tourist attraction. Located approximately three hours south of Amman, Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that enchants visitors from all corners of the globe. Much of Petra's appeal comes from its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. The site is accessed by walking through a kilometre long chasm (or siq), the walls of which soar 200m upwards. Petra's most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the Siq. Used in the final sequence of the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." the towering façade of the Treasury is only one of myriad archaeological wonders to be explored at Petra. Various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds of buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, colonnaded streets and haunting rock drawings - as well as a 3,000 seat open air theatre, a gigantic 1st century Monastery and a modern archeological museum, all of which can be explored at leisure. A modest shrine commemorating the death of Aaron, brother of Moses, was built in the 13th century by the Mamluk Sultan, high atop mount Aaron in the Sharah range.

unesco_logo_en.jpg

Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site



Jerash

img_temple_artemis.jpg

The Temple of Artemis at Jerash.

Aclose second to Petra on the list of favourite destinations in Jordan, the ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. The city's golden age came under Roman rule and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. Beneath its external Graeco-Roman veneer, Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of east and west. Its architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed and coexisted - The Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.

Aqaba

img_aqaba_fort.jpg

The Fort at Aqaba.

Famed for its preserved coral reefs and unique sea life, this Red Sea port city was, in ancient times, the main port for shipments from the Red Sea to the Far East. The Mameluk Fort, one of the main historical landmarks of Aqaba, rebuilt by the Mameluks in the 16th century. Square in shape and flanked by semicircular towers, the fort is marked with various inscriptions marking the latter period of the Islamic dynasty. The current excavations at the ancient site of the early Islamic town Ayla, with its two main streets intersecting in the middle and dating back to the 7th century already revealed a gate and city wall along with towers, buildings and a mosque. The museum houses a collection of artefacts collected in the region, including pottery and coins. Aqaba also hosts the house of Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, the great grandfather of King Abdullah II. Other places of interest include the mud brick building thought to be the earliest church in the region.

Desert Castles

img_qusair_amra.jpg

Quseir Amra.

Jordan's desert castles, beautiful examples of both early Islamic art and architecture, stand testament to a fascinating era in the country's rich history. Their fine mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carvings and illustrations, inspired by the best in Persian and Graeco-Roman traditions, tell countless stories of the life as it was during the 8th century. Called castles because of their imposing stature, the desert complexes actually served various purposes as caravan stations, agriculture and trade centres, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local Bedouins. Several of these preserved compounds, all of which are clustered to the east and south of Amman, can be visited on one - or two-day loops from the city.

Quseir Amra, one of the best preserved monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colorful mosaics.

unesco_logo_en.jpg

Quseir Amra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Qasr Al-Mushatta, Qasr A-Kharrana, Qasr A-Tuba and Qasr Al-Hallabat have been restored and are all in excellent condition. The black basalt fort at Azraq, in continuous use since Late Roman times, was the headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab Revolt.



Crusader Castles

For those fascinated by the Crusader Legends and Lore, a second group of castles beckons. The scenic Kings' Highway is littered with the remains of Crusader forts and outposts. The most important among these are Karak and Showbak - fascinating examples of architectural and military traditions of the time. Their galleries, towers, chapels and ramparts still echo with the resolve of the Crusaders who built them almost a thousand years ago.

Ajlun

img_ajloun_stairway.jpg

Ajlun Castle.

Ajlun Castle (also known as Qal'at [Castle] Ar-Rabad) was built in 1184 by 'Izz ad-Din Usama bin Munqidh, a general of Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders in 1187. A fine example of Islamic architecture, the fortress dominated a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley and passages to it. From its hilltop position, Ajlun Castle protected the communication routes between south Jordan and Syria, and was one of a chain of forts that lit beacons at night to pass signals from the Euphrates as far as Cairo. Today, Ajlun Castle is a splendid sight with a fascinating warren of towers, chambers, galleries and staircases to explore, while its hilltop position offers stunning views of the Jordan Valley.
Karak

img_south_wall.jpg

Karak Castle.

The fort itself is a dark maze of stone-vaulted halls and endless passageways. The best-preserved are underground, and to be reached through a massive door (ask at the ticket office). The castle in itself is more imposing than beautiful, though it is all the more impressive as an example of the Crusaders' architectural military genius. Karak's most famous occupant was Reynald de Chatillon, whose reputation for treachery, betrayal and brutality is unsurpassed. When Baldwin II died, his son, a 13-year-old leper, sued for peace with Saladin. The Leper King, however, died without an heir, and in stepped Reynald, who succeeded in winning the hand of Stephanie, the wealthy widow of Karak's assassinated regent. He promptly broke the truce with Saladin, who returned with a huge army, ready for war. Reynald and King Guy of Jerusalem led the Crusader forces and suffered a massive defeat. Reynald was taken prisoner and beheaded by Saladin himself, marking the beginning of the decline in Crusader fortunes. The castle was enlarged with a new west wing added by the Ayyubids and Mameluks.
Showbak

img_shobak_castle.jpg

Showbak Castle.

A lonely reminder of former Crusader glory is Showbak Castle, less than an hour north of Petra. Once called "Mont Real," Showbak dates from the same turbulent period as Karak. It is perched on the side of a mountain, with a grand sweep of fruit trees below. The castle's exterior is impressive, with a foreboding gate and encircling triple wall. Despite the precautions of its builder, the fortress fell to Saladin only 75 years after it was raised. Inscriptions by his proud successors appear on the castle wall.


Umm Qays

img_umm_qais.jpg

Ruins at Umm Qays.

In addition to Jerash and Amman, Gadara (now Umm Qays) and Pella (Tabaqit Fahl) were once Decapolis cities, and each has unique appeal. Perched on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, Umm Qays boasts impressive ancient remains, such as the stunning black basalt theatre, the basilica and adjacent courtyard strewn with nicely carved black sarcophagi, the colonnaded main street and a side street lined with shops, an underground mausoleum, two baths, a nymphaeum, a city gate and the faint outlines of what was a massive hippodrome.


Pella (Tabqit Fahl)

img_pella.jpg

Graeco-Roman ruins at Pella.

Pella is exceptionally rich in antiquities, some of which are exceedingly old. Besides the excavated ruins from the Graeco-Roman period, Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, evidence of Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches, early Islamic residential quarters and a small medieval mosque.



Umm Al-Jimal

img_umm_al_jimal.jpg

Basalt arches at Umm al Jimal.

The eastern most of the major northern cities, Umm Al-Jimal is located at the edge of the eastern basalt desert plain, along a secondary road that was close to the junction of several ancient trade routes that linked central Jordan with Syria and Iraq. Among the most interesting structures to visit are the tall barracks with their little chapel, several large churches, numerous open and roofed water cisterns, the outlines of a Roman fort, and the remains of several town gates.



Umm Ar-Rasas

img_umm_ar_rassas.jpg

Excavations at Umm Ar-Rasas.

Excavations in Umm Ar-Rasas have uncovered some of the finest Byzantine church mosaics, including a large carpet depicting Old and New Testament cities on both the east and west banks of the Jordan River. Another feature at Umm Ar-Rasas walled settlement is a 15m Byzantine tower used by early Christian monks seeking solitude.

unesco_logo_en.jpg

Umm Ar-Rasas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site



Iraq Al-Amir

Iraq Al-Amir is within the municipality of Amman in the Jordan Valley. Located about 15km southwest of the town of Wadi Al-Seer, it has a population of about 6,000 people. Located on the hills, the area has many springs and is famous for its olive trees, in addition to other forest trees. About 0.5km south of the town is the historical site of Al-Iraq. It was built by a Persian prince in the 3rd century BC. There are many caves in the hills that date back to the Copper Age.

Some precious artifacts, pottery, glass and weapons dating back to the Bronze Age and the Nabataen and Roman periods, as well as inscriptions, gold Islamic coins and the silver Ptolemaic hoard recently discovered at Iraq Al-Amir are displayed at the Exhibition of Arab Heritage and Recent Discoveries, which was opened in 1992.


The Kings' Highway

   img_obelisk.jpg

A towering monolith at Petra.

The Kings' Highway winds its way through the different ecological zones of the country, including forested highlands, open farmland plateaus, deep ravines, the edge of the Eastern Desert, and the warm tropical Gulf of Aqaba. Lining both sides of this 335km (207 mile) thoroughfare is a rich chain of archaeological sites that reads like an index of ancient history and a biblical gazetteer -- prehistoric villages from the Stone Age, biblical towns from the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom, Crusader Castles, some of the finest early Christian Byzantine mosaics in the Middle East, a Roman-Herodian fortress, several Nabataean temples, two major Roman fortresses, early Islamic towns, and the rock-cut Nabataean capital of Petra. First mentioned by name in the Bible, the Kings' Highway was the route that Moses wished to follow as he led his people north through the land of Edom, which today is in southern Jordan. The name may, however, derive from the even earlier episode recounted in Genesis 14, when an alliance of "four kings from the north" marched their troops along this route to do battle against the five kings of the Cities of the Plain, including the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.


CULTURAL INFORMATION

Art Galleries in Jordan

img_gallery.jpg

Art Gallery in Amman.

Jordan has a rapidly developing fine arts scene, including an increasing number of female artists. Today, artists from various Arab countries find freedom and inspiration in Jordan. The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts (Tel: 4630128, Fax: 4651119), for example, boasts a fine collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics by contemporary Jordanian and Arab artists. The Jordan Association of Artists can help in organizing studio and gallery tours of Amman.

Click here to download the Art Galleries brochure.


Cultural Centres

Jordan hosts a number of centres devoted to local arts and culture, such as the Royal Cultural Centre - a modern complex housing theatres, cinemas, and conference / exhibition halls. A monthly programme is available upon request and local English-language newspapers carry details of upcoming events.

Click here to download Al-Balad's brochure.

Museums

Click here for a complete list of museums in Jordan.
Click here to download the Museum's brochure.



Theatres & Cinemas

Foreign language films are shown with the original soundtrack and Arabic subtitles. Times are listed daily in The Jordan Times, the daily newspaper.



Handicrafts

img_handicrafts.jpg

Hand-woven Rugs.

A visit to Jordan is certainly incomplete without an introduction to its rich legacy of ancient handicrafts. Traditional handicrafts in Jordan have been passed down over many generations, from a time when all Jordanians met their domestic needs by weaving their own rugs and making their own earthenware vessels and utensils. An impressive cultural mélange of Arab and Islamic imagery is reflected in Jordanian crafts, which include beautiful handmade glass, handy earthenware vessels, skillful basket and carpet weaving, and exquisite embroidery. Crafts produced on a smaller scale include artistically decorated sand bottles, finely chiseled sculptures, and uniquely crafted silver jewellery. During the past century or so, Jordanian crafts have benefited from the skills and influences of other diverse cultural traditions.

 

baniamman.jpg
Right across the corner from Mukawir, be sure to visit the Bani Hamida women’s weaving project and learn first-hand how traditional rugs are woven. Be it under an historic olive tree or in their homes, do not miss the opportunity to visit the women behind the products and experience Jordanian hospitality in its truest form. This project has helped revive Jordan’s traditional weaving techniques whilst creating hundreds of employment opportunities for underprivileged women in fourteen villages. 

Contact Information:

Helen Al Uzaizi
email: h.aluzaizi@jrf.org.jo 
Tel: (9626) 593-3211 ext. 210


Please Click Here for a complete "Historical Sites List" all around Jordan.




Bookmark and Share
 

During the second half of the 2nd century BC and down to the year 63 BC, the history of Jordan was linked to the history of the Nabataeans. Their capital city was Petra, the meeting centre of the trade routes coming from the Persian Gulf, Western Arabia, and the Red Sea.

Quseir Amra, one of the most preserved Desert Castles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colourful mosaics.

Three Popes visited Jordan :

  • Pope Paul VI in 1964
  • Pope John Paul II in 2000
  • Pope Benedict XVI in 2009

Transformers II Revenge of the Fallen was filmed in Jordan in 2008.

Hurt Locker was filmed in Jordan in 2007