If you Google “museums in Jordan” you get a basic list of ten or eleven, though I’m sure there are countless more. I can’t vouch for all of them, but I can definitely recommend Jordan’s newest: aptly named “The Jordan Museum.”
Its grand opening was less than a year ago, and in truth it’s not completely finished yet (the restaurant and second-floor exhibits are incomplete), however what they have completed is truly worth seeing.
It’s located downtown, right next to City Hall (Greater Amman Municipality) on Ali bin Abi Taleb Street (GPS coords: 31.945744, 35.927299). It is currently free to enter and even has its own parking lot. But do note that it has limited hours, only being open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, from 10:00am - 2:00pm.
Before walking in, be sure to take a moment and admire the little stone houses displayed outside. These are 5,000 year old structures called Dolmens discovered in the Jordan Valley... and if you're a child of the Hanna Barbera age you might have a few images of Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty come to mind, as I did. But they're definitely not built for anyone over hobbit size.
The museum is described as an historical and cultural museum of Jordan, but offers a lot more. Often these museums are presented as if the country existed on its own for millennia, however these curators have done a great job of integrating Jordan’s history with that of the rest of the Middle East, Northern Africa, Europe and even the Far East. And the museum is laid out chronologically, starting with the paleolithic and neolithic eras.
One of the first exhibits you'll come to are some astounding statutes on display discovered in Ayn Ghazal, in northern Jordan, that date from 7,500 BC! And I thought the Saqqara pyramids dating from 2600 BC were amazing! (And not to diminish them, they really are amazing on such a large scale.)
All of the displays are well laid out, have excellent descriptions, and are integrated nicely with the museum’s historical and cultural aims. The museum is stroller friendly, for the little ones, but also has some nice interactive displays for the older kids.
They have a replica of the Mesha’ Stele (revealing the ancient Moabite language).
There’s a fascinating display on the history of alphabets around the world. They even have a computer that can print out your name in the Aramaic, Nabataean, Greek and Arabic alphabets.
The ground floor concludes with a nice display on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the lesser-known copper scrolls. Really quite fascinating!
So if you’re looking for something to do on a quiet Saturday morning, pack up the family and head on down. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two getting to know the amazing and extensive history of Jordan.
And as a side note, after finishing our museum visit, we decided to further our explorations and drop in on the Al-Hussein Cultural Center just up the road.
After wandering around outside a bit, we were approached by a guard who seemed rather bemused to find visitors. We asked whether there were exhibits we could see, and after a fairly confusing exchange of half- Arabic half-English, we determined that this was more of a performing arts center. So we thanked him for his time and wandered on. As we were heading back to the car, my husband noted an art gallery across the road. Still feeling in an exploratory-cultural mood, we crossed over and walked up. We were stopped by the parking lot guard, who asked what we wanted, and my husband explained quite simply that we were here to see the art gallery. To which, the guard smiled and gestured us on. Upon approaching the door of the gallery we could see that it didn't appear open, or even populated. Another gentleman came out and inquired as to what we needed. My husband explained we just wanted to see the art gallery. The man left and returned with a woman who asked the same, repetitive question. Again, my husband said, "We just wanted to see the art gallery." In very clear English she politely informed us that there was nothing to see in the art gallery, there was nothing on display. We thanked her and returned to our car, wondering whether we should inform the parking attendant on our way out to just not bother letting anyone in so as to prevent others from wasting their time as well.
So, despite ending on a little bit of a low note on our otherwise culturally interesting day, I guess the take-away from all this is, don't get culturally greedy and push your luck. So noted for next time.