The seven hills of Amman are a captivating assortment of ancient and modern. Honking horns give way to the beautiful call to prayer which echoes from the splendid minarets which grace the city. Luminous 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 repeatedly surprised by the genuine warmth with which they are greeted.
Thirty miles from Amman is the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 400 metres below sea level and believed to be the site of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. To the south are the ruins of the 2000-year-old city of Petra, engraved out of sandstone cliffs and used in the final progression of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Further south are more historical sites including a 12th-century crusader castle and Wadi Rum, made well-known by Lawrence of Arabia. 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 reinstated by traffic lights, Amman’s geography is often described in reference to the eight circles which form the spine of the city.
Indisputably the most famous attraction in Jordan is the Nabatean city of Petra, nuzzled away in the mountains south of the Dead Sea. Petra, which means “stone” in Greek, is perhaps the most magnificent prehistoric city remaining in the modern world, and certainly a must-see for visitors to Jordan and the Middle East.
The city was the capital of the Nabateans -Arabs who dominated the lands of Jordan during pre-Roman times- and they carved this wonderland of temples, tombs and convoluted buildings out of solid rock. Yet words can barely do justice to the majesty that is Petra. In order to best savor the atmosphere of this ancient wonder, visit in the silence of the early morning or late afternoon when the sandstone rock shines red with quiet opulence.