Amman: a city with two faces
A city of fascinating contrasts, Amman offers incredible modernity side by side with time-honoured tradition. Is it this elusive aspect that gives it so much charm? Its Oriental warmth and glorious past, and its location, just a few kilometres from the Dead Sea? Probably all of the above.
Amman, along with Damascus and Jericho one of the oldest cities in the world, is also one of the most misunderstood in the Middle East. Today, it is difficult to imagine its splendour and influence when it was still called ‘Philadelphia' more than 2,000 years ago. It has retained many relics from its glorious past, including its citadel, which sits imperturbably, facing the modern city.
Originally built on 7 hills, Amman today has 19, and just as many neighbourhoods. Still expanding, it represents a fairly successful marriage of past and present. If you look at it from the Citadel, you will notice that no street is straight and each constantly rises and falls, slaloming between new buildings, mosques, and numerous sites. The topography is inherited from ancient times and blends beautifully with the urban bustle.
Lower Town, with its cafés, small shops, and souks, is the best place to shop for jewellery, perfumes, fabrics, pottery... the list is long. Further north, in the residential area, a few houses from the 1920s and 30s recall the time of the emirates. This is a prelude to the modern city, which boasts ever more buildings, ultra-design restaurants, and shopping centres, with art galleries alongside.
This architectural diversity is the image of a cosmopolitan city whose population is steadily increasing, following numerous waves of migration. Men and women who flock to the city give new life to this metropolis in constant turmoil. The nightlife and culture is intense, and there is music everywhere. Amman definitely deserves a close look. It has another advantage, too, a very significant one for the tourist: its location allows easy access to the entire country, and thus is a perfect base for visiting some of the most beautiful wonders of the world.
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