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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Ancient monuments, forts, castles: 5 places in Jordan travel lovers must visit

Go off the beaten path on your next vacation. If you love history, culture and architecture, Jordan is the perfect destination for you.

travel Updated: Aug 31, 2017 15:29 IST

Asian News International, New Delhi
A part of the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Amman.
A part of the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Amman.(AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

Jordanian cultural roots go back to pre-historic times when mankind itself was evolving. The earliest human habitation evidence dates back to 250,000 years, wherein, the land has been home to humanoids from the pre-Paleolithic era seeing the onset of evolutionary specimens of the Homo-Erectus to the Early Man (Neanderthals) to finally the onset of the Modern Man.

The Kingdom of Jordan has some of the world’s best preserved archaeological sites and monuments while maintaining vast historical significance to the world; such as the rock-carved city of Petra or the baptism of Jesus Christ on the banks of river Jordan. The awe-inspiring beauty of this Hashemite Kingdom is mirrored aptly in its deep rooted history and cultural traditions. Here are some of the most culturally entrenched destinations in Jordan:

1) Amman: The capital city of The Hashemite kingdom is both modern and ancient. It is also frequently referred to as ‘white city’ due to its low size canvas houses which neighbor and complement its renowned ancient structures. The city has canvassed its ancient dwellings along with its modern infrastructure, and many historical sites in Amman lay side by side their modern counterparts.

The 6,000-seat Roman amphitheater is still used for cultural performances.
The 6,000-seat Roman amphitheater is still used for cultural performances. ( AFP/Khalil Mazraawi )

Ancient monuments include; The Citadel is an archeological complex containing a temple dedicated to Hercules, a Byzantine era church, and an Umayyad Palace. The Citadel complex is considered to be one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places. The city also has a 6,000-seat Roman amphitheater which is still being used for cultural performances and dates back to when the city was under Roman occupation under the name of Philadelphia.

2) Petra: The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan’s most treasured national sites and by far its best tourist attraction. Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab tribe who settled in Southern Jordan approx 2000 years ago. Admired for its refined culture, rock-cut architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of the World. Much of Petra’s charm comes from its spellbinding setting which lays within narrow desert gorge and the pinkish-red hue of the stone from which the buildings are carved.

An ancient temple in Petra.
An ancient temple in Petra. ( Shutterstock )

3) Jerash: Another ancient settlement, second only to Petra in the list of favourite destinations of Jordan is Jerash, an ancient city boasting of occupancy for more than 6,500 years. It is acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Jerash was hidden for centuries in the sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years. The Roman era city displays a fine example of the grandness of Roman urbanism found within the middle eastern frontiers of the once grand republic; comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls projecting towers and gates.

An ancient theatre in Jerash.
An ancient theatre in Jerash. ( Shutterstock )

4) Aqaba: Renowned for its coral reefs and unique sea life, Aqaba lays at the mouth of the Red Sea and in ancient times was the pivotal port for shipments from the Red Sea to the Far East. Apart from offering an array of marine diversity and water sports, this beautiful port city has a Mameluk Fort from the 16th Century. The fort is in a shape of a square and is flanked by semicircular towers, the walls have inscriptions describing the latter period of the Islamic dynasty. The ongoing excavations at the site of Avla (an ancient Islamic town) revealed a gate and a city wall along with towers, building, and a mosque, with its two main streets intersecting at the middle and dating back to the 7th Century.

Explore marine life in Aqaba.
Explore marine life in Aqaba. ( Shutterstock )

5) Ajlun Castle: Built in 1184 by Izz ad-Din Usama bin Munqidh, a general of Saladin, who successfully defeated the European Crusaders in the fight for the Holy Lands in 1187, the Ajlun Castle (Qal’at Ar-Rabad) was built to protect the commutation routes between south Jordan and Syria. The castle is a fine example of Islamic architecture and because of its strategic location on a hilltop, it dominated a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley and the passage through it.

The castle was one of a chain of forts that lit beacons at night to pass signals from the Euphrates to as far as Cairo. At present time, Ajlun Castle provides a splendid sight with a fascinating warren of tower chambers, galleries and staircases to explore, while its vantage point at the top (being on a hilltop) offers stunning views of the Jordan Valley.

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First Published: Aug 31, 2017 15:29 IST