Known as Philadelphia when it was part of the Decapolis (a group of 10 cities on the eastern border of the Roman Empire), Amman, Jordan's capital and largest city, lies just a short drive from the country's borders with Syria and Israel.

The area has been continuously inhabited since 6,000 BC, though few ancient buildings remain. This relatively drab, modern and sprawling city was not much more than a village when it became the seat of government in the 1920s—since then it has grown dramatically. Its population swelled with the arrival of succeeding waves of displaced Palestinians, who today make up a majority of the city's residents.

Nowadays, Amman has little of the atmosphere or medieval architecture one might describe as typically Middle Eastern. If you're trying to get away from Western life, you'll have a particularly hard time in the Amman West section of the city, which is lined with upscale shopping malls.

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