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As-Salt: World Heritage City

The city of As-Salt, tightly built on three hills (Jada'a, Qala’a and Salalem) with a central plaza at the valley floor, is just a half hour drive from Amman. The historic center, with its fine Ottoman architecture of yellow sandstone, narrow alleys, stepped passages and shared courtyards, unfolds a distinctive townscape - unique in Jordan - which welcomes visitors to explore it on foot, diving into a rich history and lively traditions.

The combination of European and local architectural styles, visible in more than 650 heritage buildings, is the result of the fusion of traditional rural customs and innovative practices brought by bourgeois merchants and artisans during the so-called Golden Age of As-Salt, between 1860 and 1920. The town's unique hospitality system, the madafas (places where families welcome guests), dates back to that period and is still continued into the present.

The most significant characteristic of As-Salt is the prevalence of tolerance and mutual support between the city's Muslim and Christian communities, which defines a way of life for its residents based on a sense of community and belonging to a shared space.

On 27 July 2021, the Committee of UNESCO inscribed the city of As-Salt on the World Heritage List, highlighting it as "Place of tolerance and urban hospitality."

History and architecture

Walks and Highlights

Heritage Museums

History and architecture

Occupied since the Iron Age, due to the mild climate, rich water source and fertile land, As-Salt became one of the most important settlement between the Jordan Valley and the Eastern Desert. It was called Saltus (forest) by the Romans, and Gadaron in the Bizantine Era.

In the 19th century, during Ottoman rule, it was the center of lucrative trading between the region and the main cities of Palestine, and benefited from its position on the Syrian pilgrimage route to Mecca. Between 1865 and 1925, As-Salt was transformed from a rural settlement into a prosperous city with the arrival of merchants from Nablus, Syria and Egypt. This new entrepreneurial class consolidated a thriving and tolerant society, respectful of different religions, who invested in businesses and in representative residences. Among the stone masons and architects who helped build the new city, Abdel Rahman al Aqrouq from Nablus (1851-1944) became the leading personality of a group of builders, stonecutters and craftsmen, who followed his charismatic character and original ideas. They incorporated European references and Middle-Eastern traditions in the buildings that –combined with their technical skills and individual tastes– created As-Salt's distinct architecture.

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With the end of the First World War, and Ottoman rule, Emir Abdullah Bin Al Hussein declared the establishment of Transjordan in 1921 in As-Salt, and the city served as the first capital for the young state. After Amman finally became the Jordan's capital, the golden days of As-Salt ended, and as a result, it never experienced a modernization boost, and could therefore maintain a large part of its historic fabric.

As-Salt’s architectural heritage, with more than 600 historical buildings, many of them with domed roofs, interior courtyards, and characteristic tall, arched windows and fine ornamental elements, was reappraised in 1984 and 1990. Since then, several restoration and development projects have been carried out and continue today, also in cooperation with foreign institutions.

© Text and photos: Pat Binder & Gerhard Haupt. Universes in Universe.

Sources include:
Texts in the exhibits of the Historic Old Salt Museum; Various Nomination documents (2017) for Inscription on the World Heritage List; As-Salt. The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality, Nomination Document for the Inscription on the World Heritage List, 2019, File Coordinator, Author & Preparer: Dr. Rami Farouk Daher; and the final UNESCO Statement of Outstanding Universal Value 2021.

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Location, access:

As-Salt
Balqa Governorate
Approx. 30 km NW from Amman
Location on map

Visit As-Salt
Official website incl. online booking of walking tours and experiences, as well as information on the city and where to eat and to stay.


© Texts and photos are protected by copyright.
Compilation of information, editing, translations, photos: Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder - Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated


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Contemporary art, archaeology, art history, architecture, cultural heritage.

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