Jordan: The Ottoman Town of Salt

A visit to Salt is a step back in time. This old historic town, about 30 minutes from Amman, was the administrative capital of Jordan during the time of the Ottomans. Salt thrived because of its trade networks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but when Amman was chosen as the new capital of Jordan, Salt began to decline.

Today, not much has changed. Thankfully there has not been a lot of modernisation and the traditional yellow stone buildings with their long arched windows and iron work survive as a reminder of the Ottoman days.

 

We arrived when the market was in full swing. Parking was tricky but that enabled us to walk through a part of the town that I may not have seen otherwise and find this busy little bakery!

Making bread in Salt, Jordan

 

Unfortunately we were too late to see inside Salt’s Historic Old Museum. The house was built late in 1892 by the Abu Jaber Family. In 2010 it was converted to a museum showcasing the history of the city. The building is one of the best examples of the Ottoman architecture that Salt is famous for.

Historic Old Salt Museum

 

Over the road, Al Ain Plaza was bustling. The Saturday market was in full swing.

Al Ain Plaza in Salt, Jordan

 

Al Ain Plaza in Salt, Jordan

 

Makeshift stalls had been set up here by locals wanting to sell their home grown produce.

The market in Salt, Jordan

 

The main street of the market, Hamman Street, was very busy. Shops line both sides of this narrow street. Fresh fruit and vegetable shops were doing a roaring trade. Meat hung in the window of the butcher shop, chooks waited in cages to be bought,  eggs were sold from the back of a van and home made pickles were stacked high on a trolley.

 

The market in Salt, Jordan

 

Salt market

shops vendors

 

In one part of the market, spice shops were clustered together. The choice was amazing.

Spices in the market in Salt, Jordan

 

This beautiful man sitting outside his spice shop was only too happy for me to take his photo.

A resident of Salt in Jordan

We then spotted a long queue winding out of one of the shops and had to investigate. The local cobbler was in great demand. Working quickly with old and trusty tools, shoes were being bought back to life.

A cobbler in Salt, Jordan

 

Towards the end of Hamman Street, is the Small Mosque, built by local residents between 1905 and 1906.

The Small Mosque in Salt, Jordan

 

I was surprised to learn that 30% of the population are Christian. There are churches of many denominations here including a Greek Orthodox Church but it was the Roman Catholic, Latin Church Complex that we visited.

The Latin Church Complex in Salt, Jordan

 

The Latin Church Complex in Jordan

Christian church and Muslim mosque side by side in Salt,Jordan

Christian church and Muslim mosque side by side in Salt

 

It was then time to start our climb up the stairs to Al-Qala’a Lookout on top of one of the hills. The views over the city were rewarding. The town spreads out below with the houses appearing to be stacked on top of one another.

Salt in Jordan

 

Salt in Jordan

 

Salt-5-2

 

I’d love to go back to Salt. I feel that I only touched the surface with this quick visit and there is so much more to see.

 

Have you been to Jordan? Did you visit Salt?

 

 

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50 Responses to Jordan: The Ottoman Town of Salt

  1. Leigh March 21, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Every part of your trip to Jordan sounds wonderful! What a great find with the bakery and love your selection of shots. How long were you in Jordan in total – and was it enough?
    Looks like a lot of eating locally to me – what a great market.

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      I was in Jordan for just under 2 weeks Leigh. Yes it was a perfect amount of time to see most of the country that I wanted to see. It was a fascinating town to visit..the markets are always a highlight for me!

  2. Lisa @chickybus March 21, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I went to Jordan a couple of years ago, but I didn’t visit Salt. Now, after seeing your photos, I think I’d like to go! Also, one of my students–a very sweet guy–is from there, so I’m also interested for that reason.

    Great photo essay!

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks Lisa. Salt is certainly worth a visit, especially if you know someone from there! I’d love to go back and spend more time there.

  3. Karene March 21, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    What a wealth of photos! Love the market shots, especially because it’s so foreign to my American culture. I think I would want to take pictures of everything. I love that you included so many. I bet you have a ton more that you didn’t even post ;).

    Wondering how the town got the name of Salt. Is it related to the seasoning, or mean something else in Arabic?

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      You’re right Karene! There are many more photos on my hard drive! I have to learn to be more selective in taking photos! No one is really sure where the name came from but the general opinion seems to be that Salt probably comes from the latin word saltus which means valley of trees or thick forest as there were once many trees in the area. Other suggestions talk about the name coming from sultana for the grapes that were once in the area or from a Saranac word meaning hard stone(Wikipedia!)

      • Karene March 22, 2013 at 6:18 am #

        Thanks, Jenny, for checking Wikipedia for me :). I guess I could have done that too! Very interesting. I love getting to know as much history about a place as possible.

        Regarding your later reply to someone else, I saw that you had planned to visit Jerusalem that trip. I think that’s #2 or #3 after France for me. My sister-in-law traveled to Jerusalem, Amman, Petra, etc. last summer, completely on her own, and kept all our family updated on facebook. Your pictures of the area remind me so much of hers, but I am getting more details from you. Thanks! I never get tired of travel photos and info!

        • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

          I’m not sure if it’s been on TV in the States but I have just finished watching a fabulous series from Yotam Ottolinghi called a Mediterranean Feast where he travels to Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Israel. I just googled it and you can see the Israel one on Channel 4/programmes. He also did another called Jerusalem on a Plate…this was the one that inspired me to want to go to Jerusalem! YOu’ll want to go to all four countries after watching the series!!

  4. budget jan March 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Jenny, Salt looks so inviting. The old yellow buildings and friendly people and those aubergines are so fat and luscious. As soon as I saw your first photo, I made myself a coffee and a sample of dark mint chocolate and indulged myself. I would definitiely like to visit Salt one day.

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      How decadent Jan!!Glad you enjoyed the trip to Salt! It definitely is a town that’s worth visiting. Hope you get to see beautiful Jordan one day.

  5. Johanna at ZigaZag WA Travel & Lifestyle March 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    The people look so characterful, the produce looks so fresh and appealing and the scenery looks as if it begged to be explored. What an amazing trip you had to Jordan – and no I haven’t been to Salt, but it’s just one more place to add to my growing travel list 🙂

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      It was an amazing trip Jo. I’m so glad I delayed my departure to go to Salt. I would have hated to have missed this fascinating town.

  6. Life Images by Jill March 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    no I have never been to Jordan so thank you so much for taking me there in your post. It sounds and looks like a fascinating place. I love markets when we travel overseas.
    I am watching an interesting cooking series on TV that goes through this area at the moment. I love exploring cultures.
    Have a wonderful week and thank you for stopping by my blog today.

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      Jordan is a fascinating country Jill. I too have been watching the cooking series! I was hoping to go to Jerusalem after Jordan but because of the Gaza uprising, I had to cancel but it remains high on my wish list. It’s only an hour from Amman so it is easy to combine both in a trip. I hope you get to Jordan one day!

  7. Mary {The World Is A Book} March 21, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    It was such a pleasant surprise to learn about Salt. What a great place to visit. I love those markets and everything you were able to capture from their daily lives. It may be awhile before I head to Jordan but I loved seeing it through your posts. Beautiful photos, Jenny!

    • [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Thanks Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip! It was great to see the markets so busy when we were there and finding the bakery was exciting!

  8. Muza-chan March 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Beautiful photos 🙂

  9. InsideJourneys March 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    I just love visiting old towns like these and seeing people living their everyday lives. It’s just so life affirming.
    Jordan’s been on my list — nearly made it 2 years ago. I’ll definitely have to check out Salt, you’ve made it really come alive for me. Great post. Thanks!

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it Marcia. I hope you get another chance to visit. I’d definitely be putting Salt on the itinerary.

  10. Jackie Smith March 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    What a fabulous outing you took us on today! Makes me want to pack the bags and head to Jordan. Thanks much!

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      Pleasure Jackie. Jordan is certainly an exciting place to visit.There’s actually quite a lot to see. Salt is starting to be included in a few itineraries so I hope it doesn’t mean that it will change too much in the future.

  11. Margaret March 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Love your rooftop view shots! I’m quite interested in architecture, and Salt looks like a wonderful place just to stare at buildings.

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      Thanks Margaret. You’d have loved Salt with their Ottoman architecture and their mix of churches and mosques. I believe a hotel is being built there so soon you will be able to stay and enjoy wandering around the town.

  12. Lisa March 22, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    Thank you for the glimpse into life in Salt – I would love to visit Jordan! The market, the architecture, the people – it seems such a lovely place. Did you find that language was an issue at all during your visit? I’m wondering how easy it is to get around without speaking Arabic.

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      It’s a very easy country to get around Lisa. A lot of people speak English…they are so friendly and often stopped us to ask if we were enjoying the country and see where we were from. I can highly recommend going if you have the chance.

  13. Marisol March 22, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    Hi Jenny, I visited Jordan last year but I didn’t make it to Salt. It reminds me of the old town of Amman, especially the homes on the hill. I enjoyed the photos of the market scene, which looks very local. I also love the photo of the man who posed for a photo for you. Aside from being warm and having great sense of humor, I was amazed how camera-friendly the locals were. I also admired how very tolerant they are about other’s people religion as evidenced by the different denomination of churches in Salt. Thanks for the lovely photo tour of Salt.
    P.S. Photos of the fresh flatbreads are way too inviting. Made me hungry.

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

      There are a few similarities with Amman Marisol but it is actually a lot older than the capital. The views from the hills are very similar with the stacked houses but when you get closer those in Salt have architectural features from the Ottoman days. I loved how friendly the Jordanians were. We were constantly being stopped and asked how we liked their country. Their acceptance of a lot of things has earned them their reputation of being the Switzerland of the East! Glad you enjoyed the tour…and the flatbreads!!

  14. Tonya @ The Traveling Praters March 22, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    Salt looks like a bustling, inviting city. I love the architecture of the old museum building and love those old windows with the iron work! Beautiful!

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      It is very inviting Tonya. There’s a lot to see…I only touched the surface but it certainly was enough to make me want to return.

  15. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} March 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    This is such a picturesque town that I can see why you want to return. Their outdoor market looks lovely, so much nicer than the wet market I shop at. I especially like your photo of the mosque and church side-by-side.

    • [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

      I’d have loved to wandered a bit further than I did but what I saw was great. I love getting lost in the markets..the people you meet are fascinating. I’m sure your market must have some fun parts!

  16. Cathy Sweeney March 23, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    As always, your photos of people, places and food mix together so well to create a wonderful picture of your experience. I wish I could reach right into that bakery photo and get some freshly-baked bread. Interesting background about Salt, too.

    • [email protected] March 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      Thanks Cathy. I loved walking around Salt and seeing everyone going about their daily chores. I’d love to have some of that bread now too…I can smell it!

  17. Anita Mac March 23, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Great photos and story! Thanks for sharing Salt with us! Jordan is high on the bucket list….picked up my guide book last month. Now, I just need to find a way to fit it in! So many places…ahhh!

    • [email protected] March 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Thanks Anita. Jordan is a fantastic country…you’ll love it. Each place you go is different to the other! Hope you get there very soon.

  18. Sophie March 24, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    How interesting! I was in Amman many years ago, visiting friends from uni and I remember they mentioned Salt as an odd kind of place – probably big city kids being a bit blase about the countryside. Same in every country, I think. Sorry I missed seeing Salt. Love your many and varied photos.

    • [email protected] March 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Thanks Sophie. Salt is a step back in time and I suppose that when you’re used to an exciting city, it is a bit different! Hopefully your friends will draw you back and you’ll be able to see salt!

  19. Karen (Back Road Journal) March 24, 2013 at 4:40 am #

    I love touring the world with you through your wonderful photos.

  20. Shing March 24, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    A really nice surprise to learn about Salt from you Jenny (yes, that’s right, despite my trip, Salt somehow slipped past me!). I love the panoramic view, and it reminds me of Amman’s a lot. Exploring food markets is always one of my favourite parts of travel – the colours, noise, smell, and people are always abundant. And of course it’s usually where you find the best and cheapest food! I hope you bought some spices and tea leaves back home with you…!

    • [email protected] March 25, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      Salt is not on everyone’s itinerary but the mention of ottoman houses had me hooked before I arrived in Jordan! The view is very similar to Amman but it is only when you get closer to the houses do you realise the architectural details in them. Markets are fabulous aren’t they! I’m the same..always heading to the markets first. No spices nor tea this time as I was heading to Istanbul!

  21. Turkey's For Life March 26, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    Love the look of Salt, Jenny, and have never heard of it before. Obviously a gap in my ottoman history knowledge. Great pics as usual! 🙂
    Julia

    • [email protected] March 31, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      Thanks Julia. I hadn’t realised it was the old capital either Julia but isn’t that the beauty of travel.

  22. ibrahim April 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    I am from there, and if any would like to go just give me a heads up , and i will give him a tour of life that he can ever imagine, Freeee of charge , just come

    note, i will be there on july 😀

    • Jenny Freedman April 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Thank you for your tour offer Ibrahim. Unfortunately I will not be there in July but I do appreciate your offer. You come from an interesting town. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the blog,

  23. Muna April 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    I am Jordanian and live in Jordan,I love Salt too much,do you know why?simply, because it reflects the busy and crowded traditional markets in Jordan,it is nice city.
    Thank you for your post and nice pictures.

    • Jenny Freedman April 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      I loved visiting Salt and wandering around the markets, They are full of some amazing characters and scenes. The markets in Amman were fascinating too. Thank You Muna for visiting the blog.

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