36 Hours in Amman, Jordan

For a city smack in the middle of an ancient region, Amman can be charmingly modern. Its rolling hills and tolerant attitude have long been a refuge for displaced Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian neighbors, and a base for nongovernmental organizations. It is also home to a worldly creative class, increasingly inserting Western trends, like a Manhattan-style speakeasy, into the fold. Known as Philadelphia in Hellenistic times and reduced to a forgotten village until it became Jordan’s capital in 1921, Amman has expanded from its original seven hills to around 20, steadily progressing westward since the 1950s, and developing a split personality along the way. In the east, a gritty, more traditional old city is centered downtown, where the hillsides are blanketed with white, boxy homes. In the west, stately villas, malls and glass-and-steel towers predominate. Visitors often use Amman as a pit stop on the way to Petra, the Dead Sea and desert preserves, but there are more than enough old and new flavors to keep you satisfied here for a weekend.

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