There’s history and then there’s the history depicted in Jordan museums. There’s a lot to unpack in a country where the world’s oldest human statues were found. Artefacts date back through the millennia and exhibits show you what life may have looked like in Jordan from Neolithic times right through to the 20th century. It’s not all ancient pottery and pieces of flint though, the fine art gallery showcases the region’s best artists and the Dead Sea museum has views you won’t want to miss.
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
If you’ve trawled the curated walls of Europe’s art galleries, you could be tempted to give the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts a miss. Mainly because you’d expect them to be exhibiting a touring collection of Monet, Rembrandt or Da Vinci. And, while there’s an element of that – this gallery’s exhibits focus on work from the Arabic and Islamic community. A chance then to see something different, in the 3,000 works hosted in the permanent collection. As well as the classic oils and watercolours on canvas, video art, sculptures and installations reflect on the world. Expect to see work from regional artists alongside pieces from Australia, Africa, Latin America and Asia.
For decades, artefacts from Petra were displayed within the Nabataean capital. And, handy as that was for visitors, it proved to be a logistical nightmare in terms of collection curation. Which is where the new Petra Museum comes in. A $7m grant from Japan saw the museum pop up on the edge of Petra in 2019. Home to a glittering array of finds, frescoes and artefacts, the galleries display several pieces never shown to the public before. Exhibits look at stone age life in Petra and sculptural and artistic endeavours sit alongside a deep dive into just how the city managed to engineer a water supply to a desert city.
The Jordan Museum
Although it might contain a few spoilers, The Jordan Museum is THE place to visit before you start to work your way through Jordan’s tourist attractions. As well as clueing you in to a few spots you might not be aware of, the museum reveals the history and cultural importance of the country’s iconic sights. 2,000 artefacts tell Jordan’s story over 1.5million years in a series of galleries that take you on a journey from the past and into the future. And, by dropping in here before you visit a site like Petra, you get a feel for how daily life in Jordan played out through the ages.
Orbzii tip: Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen at the Jordan Museum – moving from their previous home, the Jordan Archaeological Museum.
Jordan Archaeological Museum
Take a chronological trot through the artefacts at the Jordan Archaeological Museum. Home to finds plucked from various archaeological sites across the country, you can piece together what life might have looked like in Jordan from the pre-historic age onwards. Browse Neolithic pottery from 5,500 B.C, ponder what the coins might have paid for in early Jordan life and muse over jewellery and statues. The pieces that stand out in this museum’s collection are the Ain Ghazal statues. Depictions of early human life that date back as far as 7200 BC. A rare chance to see prehistoric art.
Orbzii tip: Don’t miss the chance to explore the nearby Temple of Hercules, the remains of a once-formidable Roman temple.
Jordan Folklore Museum
Jordan’s museums have a habit of picking up footfall from nearby historic sites, but the Jordan Folklore Museum goes a step further. Picking a prime spot on the west wing of Amman’s Roman theatre, the museum is an attraction within an attraction. And, we’re back on familiar territory with the exhibits too. Three sections curate objects used in daily life across three environments: towns and cities, the desert and villages. Except the finds and artefacts are much more modern – by Jordanian standards. Rather than looking back over millennia, we’re just popping back in time over a couple of centuries. Expect to see costumes from the 19th and 20th century – alongside every day staples, such as cooking utensils.
Royal Automobile Museum
There’s a rather sizeable hangar in Amman’s Al Hussein Public Park dedicated to all things automobile. But rather than being an abstract gathering of vehicles, the Royal Automobile Museum is a collection of cars owned by the late King Hussein. And while classic car enthusiasts will get a kick out of seeing the shapely fenders from days gone by, there’s a historical jaunt through Jordan to be had here too. Each of the 80 cars is paired with a story and photographs from the life of King Hussein and his 47 years on the throne. From the 1920s to the present day, cars and motorcycles range from the simple classics to the sleek and modern.
Expect to see familiar models from Ferrari, Aston Martin and Rolls Royce, alongside rare one offs from Mercedes and more.
Orbzii tip: There are two more museums on the western side of the park, the Children’s Museum Jordan and the Prophet Muhammad Museum.
Panorama Dead Sea Museum
Dead Sea activities in Jordan go beyond an idle bob around in hyper-floatation. So when you’re done experimenting with buoyancy, pop into the Panorama Dead Sea Museum. It’s a fairly low-tech look at local life over the years. But it’s refreshing to see the Dead Sea as much more than a spa-mineral enriched day out. Exhibits show the various civilisations that went about their daily lives alongside the lake, as well as the geology at play in the saline-rich waters. Ecology and the Dead Sea’s future gets a mention too. So expect to not only walk away clued up on the Dead Sea and why it needs to be protected – but you’ll pick up some facts about Jordan along the way.
Orbzii tip: Don’t mix up The Panorama Dead Sea Museum with the confusingly named Dead Sea Museum. The first serves up real life panoramic views of the sea – along with a museum to experience in person, the other is a virtual gambol through Dead Sea art that one day could become a physical exhibition.