5 Things You Didn’t Know About Amman

1. Amman was once called Philadelphia

To say Amman is an old city is an understatement. Excavations around Amman’s Citadel have turned up artifacts that suggest inhabits settled there as far back as 3500 BC. Some of the oldest known references to the city, Rabbath-Ammon (Great City of the Ammonites), are in the Old Testament. It was King David’s Army that destroyed the city of Rabbath-Ammon (also in the Old Testament) leaving it in complete ruins and thus laying the groundwork for the renaming. Fast forward several hundred years and the city was now under the rule of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-246 BC), king of Ptolemaic Egypt. It was during his reign that the city underwent a major reconstruction and thus in his honor was renamed Philadelphia!

citadel amman jordan

While Ptolemy’s rule came and went the name of the city remained unchanged during the rule of both the Greeks and Romans. It was finally during the Byzantine era (330 - 1453 AD) that the name changed to Amman and has remained that way ever since.

 

2. Amman has a train station

Even if you have traveled to Amman before chances are high you didn’t know there’s a train station here. During the latter part of the Ottoman Empire (1285-1923) the narrow-gauge Hejaz Railway was built to connect Damascus with Mecca passing through Amman. The railway never made it to Mecca, but instead stopped in Medina about 454 kilometers north of Mecca. The once vital route allowed travelers from as far afield as Istanbul to travel by train to the Hejaz (in Saudi Arabia).

Entrance to Amman’s now defunct train station

While the Amman train station is no longer in use much of the track and most of the stations remain. You can catch glimpses of the track when you take the Desert Highway between Amman and Aqaba. The track in southern Jordan (from south of Ma’an to Aqaba) is still in service today carrying phosphate from mines to the port in Aqaba. The section of track north of Amman is no longer in service because of the conflict in Syria. The Government of Jordan has proposed plans several times to upgrade the line and return service back to what it once was.

Read: Road trip across Jordan

You can visit the Amman train station today located near the Raghadan Interchange. It’s not the most well-known landmark, so it helps to know the name in Arabic and/or have a map pulled up on your phone to show the driver. I took Careem, a car-hailing service like Uber to reach the site and funny enough the train station isn’t even an option as a destination so I had to pin the printing warehouse across the street from the train station as my destination.

It cost 1 JD to enter the station and rail yard. You can get a private tour if you like for a small tip. I opted for the tour and was shown around the old train station which is now a museum. Having the guide helped as there aren’t descriptions of what you’re looking at. After the museum, I was taken through several of the train cars, ranging from something the elite would have taken down to a second-class car. The train cars and signage are in great shape considering they haven’t been used in years. It’s well worth the trip if you’re a train enthusiast or like me just interested in history.

A luxurious way to travel through Jordan back in the day

3. Amman is home to just under half of Jordan’s total population

According to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s Department of Statistics, the total population of Jordan was 10,053,000 in 2017 of which an incredible 42% reside in the Amman Governante. Amman’s population continues to grow placing increasing pressure on both infrastructure and housing.

Amman’s amphitheater is surrounded by modern development, all built to accommodate the city’s ever growing population

4. Amman is spread out over 19 hills

Amman was originally built covering just 7 hills, but due to a staggering population boom since the late 19th century the city has grown to cover 19 hills! We live on top of one of the 19 hills - Jabal al Weibdah.

Two of Amman’s 19 hills

5. Medical Tourism is Big Business in Amman

Amman is undoubtedly a popular destination for those seeking adventure, but you might not know Amman also attracts another type of tourist, one seeking medical care. It ranks Amman as the top medical tourism destination in the Middle East according to the World Bank. Many facilities in Amman have received international accreditation and use physicians trained in Europe and the United States, resulting in a high standard of care. Care can be 10-30% of US costs, making it very affordable.

Data from 2007 show that approximately 250,000 patients traveled to Jordan for medical care spending over $1 billion USD. The King Hussein Cancer Center is ranked as the best in the Middle East, attracting patients from well beyond the borders of Jordan.

 

So what do you think? Did you know all five? Do you know a fact about Amman that’s worth sharing? Comment below!

Also, now that we live in Amman we can explore the city to its fullest. Send us an email if there is something about Amman or even Jordan that you’d like us to write about. Email albert@backpacking-with-the-bonds.com

All Photography by Albert Bond

 

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