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Experience Jordan’s History: Amman Citadel

Jordan has more amazing historical sites than most people realize. This historic fortress, the Amman Citadel, is located on top of Jabal al-Qal’a, the highest of seven hills on which the city was built (jabal means ‘mountain’, qal’a ‘castle’).

Travel through time…

The citadel boasts a diverse range of previous inhabitants: Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as well as Umayyad and Ayyubid dynasties. Of course, this is a paradise for everyone else who loves history. The first signs of human occupation that archaeologists found date back to the Middle Bronze Age (1650-1550 BC). At that time, most likely either a fortress, or an agora (a public space for arts, sports and politics) occupied the hill. Today’s visitors can trace the great ancient civilizations through the remnants of a Roman Hercules Temple, a Byzantine church, a spectacular Umayyad palace, and many other ruins and fragments. They can also visit the Jordan Archaeological Museum. In the museum many excavated artifacts are preserved, including both every day items, and the finer things of life such as jewels and statues.

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“I’m not interested in History…” – Here is why you should still visit:

You may say, “Thanks for all the information, but historical sights are not really my cup of tea. Why should I visit?” – We have a few more reasons to convince you…

1. The Location

The citadel is the perfect place to take a moment of rest. This is in particular from the busy and sometimes even stressful atmosphere in downtown. Since the site is located only a few minutes walking distance from Roman theater and Husseini Mosque (to be honest though, that’s downhill), you can fit a visit easily into your schedule. The way from downtown to the citadel is mostly a steep uphill. We therefore recommend to take a taxi (should cost less than 1 JD), or plan a few extra minutes of walking.

2. The View

From the citadel’s vantage point, situated atop the highest hill in Amman, you can see far out in every direction across the beautiful city. As you look west, the tallest freestanding flag in the world flies proudly in the wind. At the foot of the hill the amphitheater and downtown Amman buzz with life. And all throughout the year you can see flocks of domesticated doves circle over the city, that are joined by numerous kites during winter and spring time. It is a strange and fascinating feeling to stand in the ancient site that has been occupied by so many cultures, all while observing the modern city of today.

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3. The Atmosphere

Like the many locals coming to the Citadel, you can take time to relax, have a chat with friends and let you gaze wander over the sea of houses. Due to the variety of people present, you oftentimes find yourself enveloped by an atmosphere that is as diverse and multicultural as the traces of history covering the place.

Practically speaking, there are WC facilities on the mountain and a nice little market where you can get ice cream, waters, snacks, and coffee. The site closes around sunset – so make sure to be there early enough, so you can lean back to enjoy Amman in the glow of the golden hour (or any other hour of the day).

St. George Church Madaba
Experience Culture: Madaba

Madaba is a city that may on the offset seem less historic than modern. But, it is a city with ancient roots, mentioned two times in the Old Testament of the Bible, that can still be explored today. We wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on experiencing this unique part of Jordan.

As you drive to Madaba the experience begins. On the outskirts of the city, there are many family homes that have been there for generations. You’ll notice the goats and sheep wandering in the fields. The fields are either green or brown depending on when you visit. As you enter the town, you will see it full of life. People everywhere you look.

Welcome to Madaba, the city of mosaics and religious history.

Before heading out to one of the many local attractions, first, stop at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. This church has the famous map of the Holy City circa 70 AD. Not only does it depict Jerusalem, but it also depicts the areas of Palestine and the Nile delta. It is the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land. If you just look at the tile inside, you may miss the significance. Be sure to check out the large post outside the church that explains the map.


Mosaic Floor in Madaba


As you leave the church, spend some time wandering the small tourist shops. Yes, they are touristy, but they also represent families who have been shopowners in this area for generations. These shops often have mosaic replicas of the well-known designs in Madaba, as well as many other things. The owners usually speak basic if not excellent English and they love to share about their city and country. Ask them some questions and don’t be surprised if they ask if you would like tea. 


In Madaba, there is also an Archeological Park where you can see more mosaics. It is easy to see why Madaba is well known for this art form.


Archeologocial Site Madaba


We don’t recommend leaving without a food break. There is a lot of food in Madaba. One of our favorites is Harat Jdoudna. It is a fantastic restaurant in an old home.


Orthodox Church madaba


When you are ready to head out, there are many different options awaiting you. Close to Madaba, you will find other attractions such as Mount Nebo, La Storia Museum, Dead Sea, Ma’in Hot Springs, Bani Hamida, Umm Ar’rasas, and the Baptism Site.


Enjoy your experience in Madaba!

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Experience History: Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo, according to scripture, is the mountain on which the prophet Moses was shown the Promised Land before he died.


Located just outside of the city of Madaba, Nebo is a top attraction in Jordan due to its religious and historical significance; it boasts a large collection of ancient mosaics amongst other artifacts. If you want to experience history, this should be on your “must see” list.


A sculpture of Moses' staff

A sculpture of Moses’ staff


It’s quiet here if you are lucky enough to arrive when there are no buses of tourists, just a few others who are like you, in awe of the beautiful scenery and fresh air.


From the top of the mountain you can look out in all directions, onto the Baptism Site, Jerusalem, Jericho, the Dead Sea, Amman… The whole land is spread out before you, just as God showed it to Moses, only with a few more buildings!



Looking out over the Dead Sea, towards Jericho and Jerusalem


There’s a fantastic renovated church at the top of the hill, filled with an impressive selection of mosaics that date back thousands of years to when the first church was established in this location.


Ancient mosaics in the renovated church atop Mt Nebo

Ancient mosaics in the renovated church atop Mt Nebo


A short walk down the Mount is the “La Storia” museum that, as the name suggests, documents history- specifically religious and Jordanian. The displays consisted of life size models, some moving and some stationary, depicting key stories from the Qur’an, Bible and Torah (such as Noah’s Ark, Moses parting the sea, and Jesus’ baptism), plus a whole section named “the village”.


la storia


This latter area is literally a large model village recreating Jordanian life as it used to be, complete with all the traditional professions, shops and a school. It is very impressive to see, and the museum guides are entertaining and knowledgeable; it is worth incorporating into your visit.


From Mount Nebo there are several other sites that can be included in your tour. Madaba is a historic city that is very close, the Dead Sea is a short drive and along the way you pass the Baptism Site. Also, there is Makawir, Ma’in Hot Springs, and Lot’s Cave.


A trip to Mount Nebo offers fascinating insight into history, religion and general Jordanian culture. We highly recommend including this great spot on your Jordan tour.



Top Five Things to Experience While in Jordan

At Experience Jordan we have been in conversation about what it means to “experience Jordan”. What are the essential experiences that we would like our honored guests to have regardless of the length of their tour (3 day tour, 5 day tour, or 10 day tour)?


Here are the top five experiences that we want people to have no matter how long they are in Jordan. I’ll be honest and say we cheated a bit by making the categories very broad. In the future, we will have more lists that are a little more specific for those of you who are wanting to go deeper into experiencing the culture.



The Jordanian people are famous for their warm and caring hospitality. But often times tourists to Jordan ask, “How do I experience this?” It’s not too difficult actually. It begins with your Jordanian tour guide. Pay attention to how they interact with you and very quickly you will start to think that they are the nicest person you have ever met. This “niceness” is hospitality.


If you choose not to use a guide, pay attention while you are interacting with people in shops and tourist locations like Petra and Um Qais. Both employees and local people will often say to you, “Welcome to Jordan!” It is perfectly fine to reply back, “Thank you!”


Important phrase: Ahlan wa sahlan!

This translates as, “Welcome!” but the meaning is much deeper than that. The meaning is more like, “When you are here you are family.” Family is not a simple word here; it holds deep significance.








If you haven’t heard, Arab food is amazing! While you are in Jordan experience the full variety of Arab food. Being in the center of the Middle East allows hungry travelers to try food from the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Northern Africa, and of course Jordan. Eat and enjoy!


When we start talking about specifics about which foods are essential, arguments can erupt (more about this later when we talk specifically about food experiences). For now, we recommend getting in as much Arab food as you can.


Breakfast: Falafel, humus, mtabbel, foul

There are many places where you can get these treats. Hashems in the downtown is really famous and delicious, but if don’t find yourself downtown there are a variety of Kalhas  and also Abu Jabara.


Lunch: Manageesh and tea with mint

These are actually easy to find if you know what you are looking for. We can recommend several places near our office, but most people don’t find themselves near us. However Jaffra downtown is really yummy and easy to find as it is popular amongst locals, expats, and tourists. Zeit and Za’atar is also popular and has several locations.


Dinner: Mansaf followed by Turkish coffee

Mansaf is the national dish and really should not be missed. Rice, lamb, and jameed (yogurt) are the main components of this amazing food. There are several places that sell this delicious food, but everyone will tell you mansaf in a home is best. If you don’t find yourself invited to a home you can find good mansaf at Reem Al Bawadi or Tawaheen al Hawa. Both of these places will also have most everything on this short food list.


Late night snack: Kanafeh

The desert that when describes sounds horrible, but when tasted will never be forgotten. It comes in different forms, but at the end eat it however you find it. Cheese, something like shredded wheat and lots of sugar syrup. Trust us, it’s worth tasting. You may be surprised by how much you can eat of it and how long it will sustain you for all of your tourist adventures. Habibah is the local favorite, but if you find yourself in Taj Mall you can also visit Kanafanji.


Important phrase: Sa7tane! (sa-hh-tane)

This means to your health. Check out this video for more details about this excellent phrase.


Jordan Photo Tour 7History

Jordan has more historical sites than can be seen in a month. Most people aren’t able to take a month in Jordan, but even if you have less time than this, you can still see many of the most famous sites. Our sightseeing tours cover most of them. You can view them here.


Petra is by far the most famous historical site, but others include Jerash, the Citadel, Um Qais, Madaba, Um Rasas, or the many desert castles.


Important phrase: Ma’shallah (ma – sha- allah)

There are many of these phrases that have similar meanings. In the way we are suggesting to use it the meaning is more like, “Wow! What I am looking at is amazing and I praise God that it exists.”





Not everything in Jordan is old. There are many modern things to do while you are here. Most of these are in the city of Amman. Arguilah (hookah) cafes, microbrewery, bars, art, shopping, and concerts are just some of the many things to see and do.


Each month there seems to be new festivals in the city including: the Image Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Modern Dance Festival, the Sheffield Film Festival, the Arab Film Festival, and the Jerash Music Festival to name a few.


Important phrase: Shukran (shoe-kran)

This phrase means, “thank you!” and can be used almost everywhere for everything.



Jordan boasts a diverse landscape of forests in the north and deserts in the south and the east. While you are here, enjoy a day hike or a trek. If you are not able to get out and hike enjoy the Dead Sea or head to Azraq nature reserve to do some bird watching. If you are lucky you might even see a water buffalo.

Important phrase: Sabhan allah (sab-han-allah)

The meaning of this word is a praise to God for whatever it is you are looking at.



We will be sharing more information with you that will be helpful as you come for your visit to Jordan, so stay tuned to the blog or connect with us on your favorite social media platform.