The Amman Citadel (Jabal Al-Qal’a) stands on one of Amman’s seven hills in the Jordanian capital. The ancient hilltop remains to look down on the city of Amman as a constant reminder of Jordan’s role in ancient history. Today it is an archaeological site, but the citadel has a long and illustrious past. To understand the importance and size of the Amman Citadel, imagine that it would have been larger than iconic Roman structures such as the Forum, Coliseum, or Pantheon in Rome. The impressive Roman complex includes tombs, stairs, walls, arches, and columns from various periods, but the site is not yet fully excavated.
History of the Amman Citadel
As early as 1800-1200 BC, the Bronze Age, Citadel Hill was fortified with 1,700-long walls that surrounded the hill. In the Iron Age Citadel Hill became the capital of the Kingdom of Ammon, also known as Rabbath Ammon. The Amman Citadel Inscription was recovered from this period and is the oldest known inscription in the Ammonite language.
Various conquering empires occupied the citadel over the years including the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BC, Neo-Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BC, and the Seleucids in the 3rd century. But most of what has survived at the Amman Citadel site dates back to the Romans who arrived here in about 30 BC and remained into the 1st century AD. There are also archaeological remains from the Byzantine era (3rd century AD) and Umayyads (7th century AD). During the Ayyubid rule, in the 13th century, the citadel lost its importance and a watchtower was constructed on the hill.
What to See at Amman Citadel
Temple of Hercules
The remains of the Temple of Hercules are the most significant Roman remains in the complex. An inscription tells us that the temple was built sometime between 162-166 AD while Geminis Marcianus was governor of the Province of Arabia. When it was first constructed the temple would have been 30 meters by 24 meters, with an additional outer sanctum more than twice that size. The facade boasted six tall columns. Two 13.5 meter-high columns have survived as well as several broken columns.
A colossal 12-meter-high statue of Hercules once stood at the temple. But it was destroyed by an earthquake. Today the only part of the statue that remains is a very Instagramable hand, or rather three fingers of a hand.
During the Umayyad period (661-750 AD) a large palace complex was built on Citadel Hill. It may have been built on the remains of an earlier Byzantine structure as the palace mimics the pattern and layout of Byzantine architecture. The ruins include a restored entrance chamber topped with an impressive dome, and a monumental gateway or kiosk. Within the palace complex, you can also see the remains of a mosque, residential buildings, and a large water cistern.
Jordan Archaeological Museum
This museum was built on Citadel Hill in 1951 to hold the artifacts found at the site. The collections are arranged chronologically, so you can see the site's history and how it changed over thousands of years. Museum highlights include the Ain Ghazal statues, large-scale lime plaster, and reed figures dating back to approximately 7250 BC-6250 BC.
See the ruins of a Byzantine-era church, including parts of its original floor mosaic and pillars.
Plan Your Visit
- Opening Hours: Winter (November through April) 08:00-16:00; summer 08:00-18:30; April and May 08:00-17:30; holy month 08:30-18:00.
- Prices: Entrance is 2 dinars, but free with the Jordan Pass which also gives you free admission or discounts for over 40 other sites like Petra Archaeological Park, Wadi Rum, and the Madaba Mosaic Map site.
- Average Visit Duration: Plan to spend 1-2 Hours at the Amman Citadel.
- Popular Times: Try to visit in the late afternoon, when there are fewer
crowds and cooler weather.
- Visiting the Amman Citadel with a guided tour is also an option; this way you can learn a lot more about the site. You can also combine a trip to Israel and Jordan with a stop at the Amman Citadel.