I grew up in a young nation. The First Australians inhabited and stewarded the land for millennia, but urban record (as Europeans think of it) really dates only back from British colonisation (from 1776 onwards).
So, until I was 25, I had no real exposure to ‘old stuff’.
Visiting Amman Citadel was thus my first real encounter with an ‘old’ urban landscape. In my home town, Melbourne, properties from 1950 are considered old! By contrast, Amman Citadel has an archaeological record spanning from pottery Neolithic peoples through to the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods.
In my first visit, I was amazed at the length of the period of occupation, the scale of the site and the varied architecture.
Having since undertaken some additional study in archaeology, and visited it again a few times, I understand the features of the site better than I did then. I can appreciate better its strategic elevated location, the fortifications, the record of building and re-building; the use and re-use of materials… and the crucial focus on preserving water.
But nothing compares to that first visit, fresh from a ‘young’ urban tradition, placed deep into the middle of an old one. A few highlights for me are always the following.
Temple of Hercules
Nobody could subjugate a city like the Romans could subjugate a city. You can imagine how the population must have felt about the might of Rome whilst looking the immensity of this temple atop the raised portion of the city.
The Byzantine Church dates to 550CE. While I stood in the ruins of the church, I was struck that I was standing in the very spot where, over a millennia ago, fellow believers had stood (or knelt) and worshipped in the same tradition that I do. Imagining the practicalities of services in that building (and its annexes) was a real joy.
The entryway to the place is a beautiful cross-shaped entry hall with a stunning roof reconstruction, opening out into an immense palace (with, of course, water works and a colonnaded street).
Amman Citadel is in the heart of Amman downtown. Entry is 3JD and a visit will take about 2 hours.