This city in Jordan is actually home to some of the best Roman ruins outside Europe

Visiting the Jordanian capital of Amman can quickly turn into an open-air history class.

Tourism officials note that the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines and Muslims all left their mark on the city, with plenty of historical reminders found in both Amman itself and nearby as well.

Roman ruins — including an amphitheatre — can be found in some parts of Amman, with local guide Ahmad “Ace” Malhas saying there was a time when the Roman presence was even more visible.

“Wherever we’re stepping there was a ruin,” Malhas told a recent group.

“Roman ruins are not just in Italy,” adds local tourism official Tamer Nassar.

A hilltop museum also tells of the long past of Amman, known as Philadelphia during the Roman era.

Near Amman are the Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash, home to remarkably well preserved structures.

“Basically the Greeks came and then the Romans added their fingerprints,” Malhas says of Jerash. “I believe it is the most preserved Roman city outside Rome and signifies the history of the Middle East.”

Jerash attractions include the Hippodrome, which the Romans used for chariot races.

Many Jerash ruins have yet to be excavated, Malhas adds.

Malhas notes that Amman’s largest mosque faces a Coptic church, which he says underscores the “peaceful co-existence” found between Christians and Muslims in his homeland.

Meanwhile, Malhas says there’s a lot more to Jordan than a historical side underscored by the likes of Roman ruins and the famed archeological site of Petra.

“If they (tourists) come to Amman they will  know this is an urban country too,” he said, citing the likes of stores, restaurants, upscale hotels and nightlife found in the city.

—STORY BY IAN STALKER

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