In Jordan culture and art go hand in hand. Poets, writers, novelists, painters and other artists preserve their rich Jordanian cultural heritage through their works. The Kingdom has 17 art exhibition galleries ranging between cultural centers, large private art institutions and privately owned exhibition halls and galleries. During the summer of 2001, galleries were busy holding exhibitions of paintings ceramics, wood or metal sculptures, and seminars and lectures on different art issues. The art movement in Jordan passed through several stages, with impressionism finding its way first into Jordanian homes in the 1920s and 1930s.
Impressionism was also the most popular style among Jordanian artists during the 1960s, and the country as a whole in the 1970s witnessed considerable increase in artistic activity. The signs of a modern art movement in Jordan started to show in the early 1950s. Eight amateur artists, among them, prominent Arab artists Muhanna Durra and Kamal Oudeh held an exhibition in the country. Art societies were formed in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Art Club, the Association Patronizing Art and the Jordanian Sculpture and Painting Club. In 1966, the Department of Culture and Arts was founded within the Ministry of Youth to support and promote cultural activities related to fine arts, theatre, music and literature.
The Ministry of Culture began playing a more active role at the national level in 1990. In 1977, members of the first generation of artists like Durra and Ali Ghul founded the Artists Association, which succeeded in establishing a headquarters for artists where they could meet, discuss their problems and hold occasional exhibitions and lectures. In 1979, the Royal Society of Fine Arts was established to promote visual arts in Jordan, Arab and Islamic countries and the Third World. Meanwhile, Jordan's serious production of novels started in 1967 through the works of three prominent writers:
Tayseer Sboul, Ameen Shinnar and Saleem Nahhaass. Novelists in Jordan have firmly moved in this decade from the period of establishing the novel's identity to competing with other novels that have acquired international recognition for their artistic merit. Realizing the importance of art and culture, Jordan offered Jordanians, Arabs and the international world a festival held in a perfect venue: one of Jordan's most important archaeological sites, Jerash.
Her Majesty Queen Noor Al Hussein founded in 1981 the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts to promote Jordanian, Arab and international cultural and artistic interaction at one of Jordan's most important archaeological sites. The annual international festival provides a vibrant venue for Arab and international performing artists, and serves as a dynamic catalyst for the promotion of Jordanian and Arab culture and arts. Moreover, Jordan's capital Amman was chosen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the 2002 Arab Cultural Capital.
The decision was made following the 1998 Arab Culture Ministers' conference in the Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Previously, Beirut acted as a cultural capital in 1999, followed by Riyadh in 2000, then Kuwait in 2001. The UNESCO project aims to highlight the cultural wealth and heritage of the chosen city, and to enhance its global image. In turn, this will contribute to strengthening the capital's capabilities in cultural production and resources, and provide new opportunities for cultural enrichment for all members of society.
On several occasions, both Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania have described the event as a springboard that will promote Jordanian culture on the local, Arab and international levels. Their Majesties have also supported and patronized numerous cultural events in the Kingdom including introducing awards to outstanding intellectuals such as the State Award for distinguished writers and artists whose work contributed substantially to progress in the field of literature, abstract art and theatre production.
In August 2001, a Royal Decree was issued giving birth to the Song Festival in order to bring back the touch of originality and popularity to Jordanian songs and to enrich the identity of the contemporary local song. Organizers worked hard to crystallize King Abdullah's vision for a better cultural life for the youth and to confirm the aspirations of making Amman's designation as the cultural capital a success. The Greater Amman Municipality also made achievements to promote local culture. It launched the JD4.5 million King to enhance cultural awareness.
Hussein Cultural Center The center, the first of its kind in the Kingdom, also seeks to create an appropriate environment for intellectual interaction amongst countries and a good setting for creative abilities and intellectual intercourse to prosper. Queen Rania, who heads the National Council for the Amman Arab Cultural Capital 2002, has said the event should be seen as a boost to the Kingdom's cultural movement.
Her Majesty also opened, as part of the events marking Amman as the cultural capital, a cultural avenue to promote local art and cultural scenes in Shmeisani. The avenue has several attractions, to mention only a few, the "Sunken Court", an art gallery constructed below the street and kiosks displaying books and artwork ranging from paintings to handicrafts and photographs.
Jordan, a country rich in cultural heritage, offers tourists a unique variety of experience, whether through its historical, religious or other beautiful sites. Amman, Jordan's capital, is an ancient city, first known as Rabbath 'Ammon in the Iron Age and later as Philadelphia which is one of several Greco-Roman cities in the urban confederation known as the Decapolis. One of Amman's treasures is the Roman Byzantine and early Islamic ruins on Jabal al-Qal'a (Citadel Hill); a 2C AD Roman amphitheater built to hold 5,000 spectators, and an archaeological museum.