Sometimes history repeats itself to teach you some new lessons, as I learned in the trip to Jordan
Words and pictures: Ambica Gulati
As I stepped into the city of Amman, I was once again reliving my memories of 2009. A country which lives by the principle of peace, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is surrounded by strife-ridden Syria, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The landlocked country is one of the oldest lands on earth located on the cross roads of Asia, Africa and Europe. It is home to many Biblical sites and some call it the holy passage, others blessed land as many crossed through to reach the holy city of Jerusalem. I call it a lotus, for it remains like Buddha, calm amidst murky waters, taking care of its own patiently.
Seeing the capital Amman in its modern avatar, it’s difficult to believe that the area has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age and has been home to many empires, including the Nabatean Empire, Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire until it became the current kingdom in 1948. But the current name Jordan is based on the Jordan River, a tiny stream now, which was born out of flash floods and muddy waters.
A constitutional monarchy, the country is currently ruled by King Abdullah II. His eldest son Prince Hussein is the Crown Prince of Jordan for the throne always passes to the eldest son. And despite the skeptical views of the world regarding the conditions in the Arab world, Jordan has a high human development index. It’s not surprising to see women in western clothes in Amman. Jordan is an ally of the USA and UK and has signed a peace treaty with Israel.
After a quick lunch at Crowne Plaza Amman where we stayed the night, our mammoth group of 20 headed to see the famed ruins of the Citadel of Amman. In Arabic, the citadel is known as Jabal al-Qal’a, the L-shaped hill, one of the seven on which the city is built. The Citadel of Amman is among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places. If only stones could speak, there would have been infinite tales to hear!
The citadel houses three main structures–the temple of Hercules, dated to the Roman period of 2nd century AD. An Umayyad palace probably built for an official in that era. And a Byzantine church. There are remarkable water cisterns underground from the Umayyad era. And walking around, gazing at the city below leaves one wonderstruck at the resilience of the human race.
Around the citadel are homes of refugees from the neighbouring regions. Even though these create a stress on the government and the economy, the monarch has a soft heart, explains our guide Salah. Around 90% of the population is Sunni Muslim and rest Christians. Far away, one can seen an amphitheatre amid the clutter of small houses.
From the present, we turned to the past once again. Remnants of Middle Bronze Age (1650-1550 BC), examples of early Phoenician writing, signs of occupation by Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians, Greeks during 331 BC, and those of Romans around 30 BC and finally the Muslim rule in AD 661, the museum in here is quite a history lover’s delight. Salah elucidated that archaeologists have not managed to excavate the entire citadel till now, despite many projects undertaken by Italian, British, French, Spanish and Jordanian counterparts since 1920.
While we walked, stopped to explore, yet again the gaze turned to the clutter of houses built without regulations. Before we departed for Jerash, Salah added that a plan to beautify this part of the city is underway. But for that I will have to take another trip to Jordan some years later.
- The currency is Jordanian Dinar but in the city one can use the US dollar well.
- I JD is equal to INR 94.
- There is a fee for entry into the sites.
- It’s best to carry water with you.
- The direct heat creates havoc, so cover your head with a scarf, use lots of sunscreen.
- Evenings are cold, a light jacket helps.
- Though the country is a modern in its outlook, it’s best not to hurt sensibilities by wearing too many revealing clothes.
- Always carry change for the knick-knacks, small souvenirs when walking around.
- The public transport includes taxis and buses.