The Jordanian capital Amman, formerly known as Philadelphia under Greek rule, fits most people’s image of an Arab or Middle Eastern city.
The city vista is of low-rise brown and white limestone and cement buildings spread over several hills, the most notable being the central Jebel Amman. It is dusty and noisy, tempting most visitors to pass straight through on the road to Petra and the country’s more attractive destinations. However, the city is a microcosm of Jordan’s history and identity, and home to a number of ancient ruins.
I spend a day wandering around the Roman amphitheater in the blazing sun and admire the views from the Umayyad Palace at the Amman Citadel, which dates back 7,000 years and much of which remains to be excavated. The Amman Archaeological Museum at the citadel used to house the Ain Ghazal statues, the oldest statues ever made by humans, and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls – both of which have now been moved to the state-of the art Museum of Jordan in the new downtown Ras al-‘Ayn area.
“It is amazing to think that most visitors to Jordan miss seeing both these priceless treasures,” says Omar. “When you look at the Ain Ghazal statues, you are seeing something fashioned by our human ancestors perhaps 10,000 years ago.” The statues are hauntingly beautiful, with eyes that stare through the millennia.
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