|The Martyr Memorial in Amman, Jordan|
In 1977 His Majesty, the late King Hussein ordered the establishment of a national memorial to soldiers who fell in the line of duty since the Great Arab Revolt of 1916-1919. The result was the Martyrs' Memorial, designed by Victor Adel Bisharat (1920-1996), enshrining the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. The structure was located at the summit of a pine-forested hill and is approached by a steep incline. Verses from the Holy Qur’an are inscribed on the walls of the shortened pyramid structure of white stone.
The memorial begins with the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The revolt, which included 100,000 Arabs united under the leadership of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, began on 10 June 1916. It was not a strictly Jordanian war. It was an Arab revolt against non-Arab occupation. One year later Aqaba was wrestled from Ottoman control, and on 25 January 1918 the Ottoman Empire was totally routed.
A key target of the revolt was the relatively new Hejaz Railroad, which was the backbone of Ottoman communication. Interestingly, the exploits of “Lawrence of Arabia” (TE Lawrence, 1888-1935) and his attack on the railroad, as well as his famous role in fighting the Ottomans, is missing.
Astonishingly enough, the Amman-Damascus segment of the Hejaz Railroad still carried passengers until very recently. Dingy, authentic trains departed Amman on Monday and Thursday at 0800 and returned later the same day. A trip to Mafraq on the Jordanian side of the border, without entry into Syria, can be a delightfully unique experience.
Abdullah bin Hussein next lead the Trans-Jordan, first as leader of the Emirate created in 1923, and later as King. In 1930 he appointed John Bagot Glubb (1897-1986) to establish the Desert Patrol. From 1939 until 1956 Glubb served as commander of the Arab Legion, the name given to the Jordanian army at the time. It was under his able leadership that the Legion fought against Israeli forces during their “War of Independence”.
The museum houses models recreating 1948 battles in Bab El-Wad/Latrun. The Arab goal was to cut the communication and supply lines between besieged Jerusalem and Zionist forces in the Tel Aviv and Shefela areas. Another of the items in the memorial is a large painting (to the left of the entrance) depicting a fierce battle at Herod's Gate in 1948.
The years that followed saw repeated conflict with Israel. There were Jordanian successes as well as Israeli successes. Amongst the items on display in the museum are captured Israeli military rations and an IDF (Israeli Defense Force) rifle.
The Six Day War receives little treatment in the museum, but the 1968 Battle of Karameh is highlighted. The museum does not purport to be an academic chronology of military events. It is a memorial to the fallen, but in a wider sense it is an effort to remember the contribution of the fallen to the success of shaping the modern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Six Day War was a Jordanian military defeat. Karameh, a year later though, was the regaining of Jordanian pride.
In the exhibition mention is also made of Jordanian troops dispatched to the Golan in 1973 and a 1975 border confrontation.
A visit to the Martyrs' Memorial is definitely recommended. It gives better understanding to the history of a country that has shown how differences can be resolved through negotiation.
The museum is located in the Sport City Complex in Amman and can be easily reached by taxi or bus. The opening hours are 9 am to 4 pm Saturday through Thursday and the admission is free. The telephone number for the museum is +96265664240 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +96265664240 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.