"Amman's Roman Amphitheater by Day & Night" by Lindsey McGuire
I’ve been in Amman for almost a week now and have slowly begun exploring the city, starting with some of its major tourist attractions. AMIDEAST arranged a tour of the city that brought us to the Roman amphitheater in downtown Amman. The amphitheater is a truly amazing sight – it was built in the second century and can seat around 6,000 people! Bearing in mind the afternoon heat and steeply inclined steps, I decided to explore the two museums on-site rather than climb to the top of the amphitheater. The museums are small but contain beautiful mosaics, examples of traditional clothes, ancient jewelry, and more.
While touring the amphitheater, we noticed chairs had been set up at the bottom-most level. The AMIDEAST staff asked the security guards about the chairs and were able to determine that an Italian opera was going to be performed the next night – La Bohéme. I was originally undecided about if I wanted to attend the opera. The cheapest seats were JD 30, and I was unsure if I wanted to spend that much. I had also never been to an opera and knew nothing about La Bohéme. However, I am so glad I decided to attend.
After taking a taxi to al-Madraj al-Romani and handing over enough dinar for a ticket, we received a pamphlet informing us that La Bohéme was being performed for two nights only at the second annual Amman Opera Festival. The festival was described as the first of its kind in the Arab world and the cast and crew of the opera were noted for featuring people from countries all over the world. The previous night, HRH Princess Muna al-Hussein (the king’s mother) had even been in attendance!
After passing through security, I bought a cookie at the food stand and grabbed some free samples from the companies running booths at the event, telling myself that maybe this would offset the price of the ticket. With tickets in hand, our group walked past stilt walkers, mimes, and the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Band to the entrance to our seating section. After climbing up the steep stone stairs to our seats, we took in the amazing view of Amman by night and waited for the opera to start.
Having never been to an opera before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At this performance, subtitles in English were shown on two screens so you could follow along with the general plot as the performers sang. My favorite part was definitely the children’s choir. These young kids were incredibly talented. The opera itself was beautiful, but also sad and somewhat confusing. Googling a synopsis of the plot during the intermission definitely helped me understand it better.
Attending an Italian opera at a 2,000 year-old amphitheater in the middle of Amman is not an experience I would have ever predicted for myself when I decided to study abroad in Jordan. Amman constantly surprises me and breaks any stereotypes I have. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any future events at the amphitheater and would wholeheartedly recommend that anyone see their first opera at this incredible venue.