The seven hills of Amman are an enchanting mixture of ancient and modern. Honking horns give way to the beautiful call to prayer which echoes from the stately minarets which grace the city. Gleaming white houses, kabab stalls and cafés are interspersed with bustling markets—known in Arabic as souqs—and the remains of civilizations and ages long
past. Sunset is perhaps the best time to enjoy Amman, as the white buildings of the city seem to glow in the fading warmth of the day. The greatest charm of Amman, however, is found in the hospitality of its residents. Visitors to Amman—and the rest of Jordan, for that matter—are continually surprised by the genuine warmth with which they are greeted.
"Welcome in Jordan" is a phrase visitors will not soon forget.
Amman is built on seven hills, or jabals, each of which more or less defines a neighborhood. Most jabals once had a traffic circle, and although most of these have now been replaced by traffic lights, Amman’s geography is often described in reference to the eight circles which form the spine of the city. First Circle is located near downtown, and the series extends westward through Eighth Circle.
Amman has served as the modern and ancient capital of Jordan. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a 1994 excavation uncovering homes and towers believed to have been built during the Stone Age, circa 7000 BCE. There are many Biblical references to the city, which by about 1200 BCE had become the Ammonite capital of Rabbath-Ammon. The Ammonites fought numerous wars with Saul, David and others.
The history of Amman between the end of its Biblical references (around 585 BCE) and the time of the Ptolemies is unclear. We do know that the city was renamed Philadelphia after the Ptolemaic ruler Philadelphus in the third century BCE. After coming under Seleucid and Nabatean rule, Philadelphia was taken by the Roman vassal King Herod in 30 BCE. The city became part of the Decapolis League, a loose alliance of ten Roman-ruled cities including Jerash, Gadara (present-day Umm Qais), Pella, Irbid and others. Under Roman rule, Philadelphia was replanned and reconstructed in typically grand Roman style with a colonnaded street, baths, an amphitheater and impressive public buildings.
During the Byzantine period, Philadelphia was the seat of a Christian bishop, and several expansive churches were built. The city declined somewhat during the late Byzantine years, and was overrun by the Persian Sassanians in 614 CE. Their rule was short-lived, however, collapsing before the Arabian armies of Islam around the year 635. The name of the city then returned to its Semitic origin of Ammon, or "Amman." It remained an important stop on the caravan routes for many years, but eventually trade patterns shifted and dried up the lifeblood of Amman. The city declined to little more than a provincial village for many centuries.
Amman’s "modern" history began in the late 19th century, when the Ottomans resettled a colony of Circassian emigrants there in 1878. Many of their descendants still reside in Amman. During that time and the early decades of the 20th century, the neighboring city of Salt was more important as a regional administrative and political center. However, after the Great Arab Revolt secured the state of TransJordanstrong>Jordan, Emir Abdullah bin al-Hussein made Amman his capital in 1921.