The Amman Citadel: Exploring my own backyard

It seems like the whole world (myself included) has been breathlessly following the election results in the United States. The “count every vote” vs “stop the count” is deeply personal to me, as someone who has voted via absentee ballot for the last three elections. However, as anyone reading this blog is probably well aware, the United States is far from the only country to hold elections this year.

In fact, today is election day in my current home country of Jordan. While Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, the king has the power to dissolve parliament. This current election is up for discussion because the country enters a four-day total lockdown starting tomorrow. Supposedly, to help stem the rising rates of Covid in the country, but with the bonus of preventing protests to election results.

However, due to Jordan’s lack of size and influence, I doubt the election will be heavily covered. The government did announce the lockdown weeks in advance so that citizens could better prepare for it, after the spring lockdown debacle.

That said, Jordan has a pretty fascinating history and decent track record of keeping the peace. Not only culturally, within its borders, between Christians, Muslims, and Circassians, but also regionally, as an ally for Palestine. In fact, seats in their House of Representatives are even set aside for minority groups, including 15 for women, 9 for Christians, and 3 for the Chechen & Circassians.

Which isn’t to say that women are treated as equals here, but there are definitely strong, independently-minded women fighting to have their voices heard. And as an expat and Christian, I’m given plenty of leeway in my actions and choice of dress.

Despite that, I don’t find myself exploring the city as much as I had anticipated. I know Covid is probably the biggest factor keeping me home, affecting not only my sense of safety, but also my motivation.

Last weekend was a five-day weekend for our school and we managed to pry ourselves out of our home for an entire morning. My husband and I have lived in Amman for 15 months now and had yet to make our way to the most famous landmark in the city: The Citadel. We had tried on a previous trip to Jordan, winter 2017, but the rain kept us away.

This time we went on a Sunday, the first day of the work week in Jordan, and pretty much had the place to ourselves, just like our visit to Jerash a few months prior. Unlike Jerash, the area was a bit smaller than anticipated, but still highly worth the trip.

Recognized as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places, the site has been occupied since the Bronze age (1800 BC) and was rebuilt during the Iron age, as well as the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods.

Our first site was the Temple of Hercules. Built between 162-166 AD, the portico contains six columns and a lack of additional columns suggest that the temple was never finished.

The site is also home to a colossal statue, identified as Hercules, that is estimated to have been over 12 meters tall. However, all that remains are three fingers and an elbow. Despite the height, the fingers are quite small and Chandler and I missed them on our first walk through the ruins. It wasn’t until we were on our way out that we spotted them.

Another major site at the Citadel is the Umayyad Palace. Built in the the first half of the 8th century it has mostly been destroyed, however, the domed entrance chamber has been restored.

It is part of what is considered a complete Islamic City. Behind the palace you can see the ruins of a mosque (religious building), souk (store), hammam (baths), as well as several residential units used by the governor and his family.

Reminiscent of both our time in Jerash and our time at Beng Mealea in Siem Reap, most of the ruins have been left to the elements. No particular rules seem set in place to protect them and visitors can walk, hop, and jump on what’s left of the walls.

It always amazes me when sites like this exist within city walls. One of the best parts of the Citadel are the amazing views of surrounding Amman – that is if the sun and sand ever let you get a clear view.

We probably spent an hour and a half – tops – here. We skipped the museum because we’re trying to avoid public indoor locations during the pandemic. With a few more years left in Amman, we have no doubt that we’ll make a return trip to the Citadel.

With the last of our remaining time out and about in the city, we ate at one of our favorite restaurants, the Wild Jordan Center. Our brunch consisted of shakshuka, hummus, foul, Circassian cheese saj, and, of course, French toast. Not to mention some delicious, freshly-squeezed juices.

It was a nice reminder of who we are and what we did before the pandemic: Travel. I have no doubt that one day, we’ll start doing more of it.

  1. My friend and I traveled to Jordan in October last year, just a few months before borders were dramatically shut across the globe due to the pandemic. I was surprised that I ended up liking Amman. I loved the food (mansaf is my favorite!), the museums, as well as the city’s hilly topography. And after traveling to Lebanon in early 2019, I realized how calm and relaxed the drivers in Jordan were, generally speaking of course.

    1. I HATE driving in Amman 😂 But I haven’t been to Lebanon, so I can’t compare. I agree with you though that Jordanian food is delicious and the hills make the city stunning. Which museums did you go to?

    2. Maybe because I’m from Jakarta, so to me the traffic in the Jordanian capital was a bliss. 🙂 In Amman, we went to the Jordan Museum (which was very nice, although in my opinion the new museum in Petra was even better) and the Jordan Archaeological Museum (located at the citadel).

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