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Al-Salt (السلط As-Salt ) is an ancient agricultural town and administrative centre in west-central . It is on the old main highway leading from to . Situated in the Balqa highland, about 790–1,100 metres above sea level, the town is built in the crook of three hills, close to the Jordan Valley. One of the three hills, Jabal al-Qal'a, is the site of a 13th-century ruined fortress. It is the capital of Balqa Governorate.

The Greater Salt Municipality has about 97,000 inhabitants (2006)


History
It is not known when the city was first inhabited, but it is believed that it was built by the Macedonian army during the reign of Alexander the Great. The town was known as Saltus in times and was the seat of a . At this time, the town was considered to be the principal settlement on the East Bank of the . The settlement was destroyed by the and then rebuilt during the reign of the Mamluk sultan (1260–1277).

Salt was once the most important settlement in the area between the Jordan Valley and the eastern desert. Because of its history as an important trading link between the eastern desert and the west, it was a significant place for the region's many rulers.

The Romans, Byzantines and Mameluks all contributed to the growth of the town, but it was at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, when the established a regional administrative capital in Salt and encouraged settlement from other parts of their empire, that Salt enjoyed its most prosperous period.


Late Ottoman period
By the end of the 18th century, Salt was the sole permanent settlement in the Balqa region, a situation which persisted well into the 19th century. The rest of the Balqa was dominated by the local Bedouin tribes. It was the most developed town and commercial center of Transjordan from the 18th century until the early years of the Emirate of Transjordan. The town's drinking water was supplied by two abundant springs, which also irrigated the town gardens along the Wadi Shu'ayb stream. It was situated along the slopes of a conical hill, at the top of which stood a fort, and along the ridges of two deep abutting valleys, which provided a natural defense against encroachments by neighboring Bedouin tribes. Salt's inhabitants negotiated terms with the tribes, who guaranteed the townspeople access to their wheat fields in the Balqa's eastern plains in return for giving the tribesmen access to the town's extensive markets. Sharecropping agreements were formed with the tribes whereby Salt townspeople would encamp in Amman and Wadi Wala in the spring until harvest and paid an annual tribute to the dominant tribe of the Balqa. Until around the 1810s, the paramount tribe was the , known as "lords of the Balqa". Afterward, the Banu Sakhr overtook the Adwan and collected the tribute from Salt.

The town's defenses and isolation in a land practically controlled by Bedouin tribes also enabled its inhabitants to ignore the impositions of the Ottoman authorities without consequence. Western travelers in the early 19th century reported that the leader of the town effectively wielded the same authority as any of the provincial governors of appointed by the sultan.

In the early 19th century, the townspeople mostly belonged to the clans of Akrad, Awamila and Qatishat. Each clan was headed by its own sheikh, one or two of whom would act as the shaykh al-balad (town leader), who was based in the fort and was in charge of protecting Salt from Bedouin attack. The population consisted of about four hundred Muslim and eighty Christian families. According to the observations of Buckingham in the 1820s, roughly 100 Christians in Salt were immigrants from who moved to the town to avoid the exactions of , the Ottoman governor of Acre. Muslim–Christian relations were amicable and the two communities shared the same lifestyles, dress and the Arabic language. Salt was organized into quarters, each controlled by one of three main clans, and contained a number of mosques, a church and about twenty shops during this period. Salt served the surrounding countryside as far as , which lacked a market until the late 19th century, and goods in its market originated as far as Tyre and Egypt. It exported raisins, leaves for the tanneries of , qili (a type of ash, a key ingredient of ) to , and ostrich feathers supplied by the Bedouin to Damascus. Nablus was Salt's primary partner, and Salt served as the Transjordanian center of the Nablus-based . Although most of the inhabitants were farmers, there were also craftsmen and smaller numbers of shopkeepers, the latter of whom were commissioned by merchants in Nablus, Nazareth and Damascus.

In 1834 the townspeople and local Bedouin fought together to drive out the forces of the practically autonomous province of Egypt led by Ibrahim Pasha, the first recorded clash of the Peasants' revolt in Palestine. Ottoman rule in the Levant was restored in 1840, but Salt remained only nominally part of the Empire. In 1866–1867, the governor of Damascus Mehmed Rashid Pasha (1866–1871) extended the imperial centralization and modernization reforms in Transjordan. He led a large force of Bedouin tribesmen from the , and Banu Hasan, plainsmen, mountaineers and regular infantry, cavalry and artillery troops toward Salt, stopping three hours north of the village. From there, he offered to pardon Salt's inhabitants for allying with the Adwan and Banu Sakhr against the authorities. The town organized a delegation of Muslim and Christian grandees who negotiated the unopposed entry of the Ottomans into Salt on 17 August. Rashid Pasha repaired the damaged fort where he garrisoned 400 troops. He appointed the Damascene Kurd Faris Agha Kadru as Salt's first district governor and established an elected administrative council composed of Salt's elite families. Rashid Pasha confiscated huge qualities of grain and livestock from the town as compensation for tax arrears.

Salt's heyday was in the late 19th century when traders arrived from to expand their trading network eastwards beyond the . As a result of the influx of newcomers this period saw the rapid expansion of Salt from a simple village into a town with many architecturally elegant buildings, many built in the Nablusi style from the attractive honey-coloured local stone. A large number of buildings from this era survive .


British Mandate, Emirate, and independence
After World War I, the town was the site which Herbert Samuel, British High Commissioner of Palestine, chose to make his announcement that the British favoured a Hejazi ruled entity on the East Bank of the Mandatory Palestine (current Jordan). This wish became reality in 1921 when Abdullah I became Emir of Transjordan. Salt seemed to be the city that would be chosen as the capital of the new emirate since most of the industry and commerce flowed through Salt. During this period Salt had no high schools. Even so, Abdullah picked the city as the capital of his emerging emirate but later changed his mind and moved his compound and entourage to Amman when he and the notables of Salt had a disagreement. Amman at that time was a small city of only 20,000 people which experienced rapid growth.


Municipal districts
The Greater Salt Municipality is divided into nine districts:

1Salt City71,10048
2Zai25807.7
3Umm Jouzeh33554.2
4Wadi Al-Hoor18151.7
5Al-Yazeediyeh9001.1
6Yarqa53004.2
7Ira41004.4
8Allan46403.8
9Rumaimeen28844.3


Agriculture
Salt is famed in Jordan for its fertile soil and the quality of its fruit and vegetable harvests, particularly , , & . Indeed, it is speculated that the town's name provided the root for sultana, a certain type of .

It is thought that the name Salt was derived from the city Saltos of the .

Wadi Shu'aib (Valley of Jethro) is one of the largest agricultural sites in Salt city, a valley with large agricultural areas. It is named after one of the prophets in (as well as and ), (Jethro), who was the father-in-law of and one of the descendants of Ibrahim (). Most privately owned farms are located in this valley; the primary crops are grapes, olives and fruit-bearing trees.


Education
Salt contains many schools, including the public first secondary school of Jordan dating back to 1918, as well as many private schools that date back to the 1800s, such as the Latin School and the Catholic School. It is also the home of the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, a non-profit educational center for people with hearing impairment. The city has two universities surrounding it: Al-Balqa` Applied University established in 1997 and Al-Ahliyya Amman University (Amman National University) located on the highway connecting to Salt.


Tourism

Ottoman mansions
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, when the Ottomans established a regional administrative base in Salt and encouraged settlement from other parts of the empire, the town's status increased, many merchants arrived and, with their newly acquired wealth, built the fine houses that can still be admired in Salt today.

These splendid yellow sandstone buildings incorporate a variety of styles. Typically, they have domed roofs, interior courtyards and characteristic tall, arched windows. Perhaps the most beautiful is the Abu Jaber mansion, built between 1892 and 1906, which has frescoed ceilings, painted by Italian artists, and is reputed to be the finest example of a 19th-century merchant house in the region.


Roman tombs and Ayyubid citadel
Tightly built on a cluster of three hills, Salt has several other places of interest, including Roman tombs on the outskirts of town and the citadel and site of the town's early 13th century fortress, which was built by Al-Mu'azzam Isa, the nephew of soon after AD 1198.


Museums
Salt's Archaeological & Folklore Museum displays artifacts dating back to the period to the Islamic era as well as other items relating to the history of the area. In the folklore museum there is presentation of Bedouin and traditional costumes and everyday folkloric items. A small museum and a handicraft school are presenting the traditional skills of ceramics, weaving, silk-screen printing and dyeing.


Muslim shrines
In the town of as-Salt and its environs are several Muslim shrines at the traditional tombs of the prophets Shu'ayb, Ayyoub, Yusha and Jadur, the Arabic names of the characters , , and . These sites of Muslim pilgrimage are known as An-Nabi Shu'ayb, An-Nabi Ayyub, An-Nabi Yusha' bin Noon, and 'Ayn al-Jadur ("Spring of Jadur"), respectively, in English also as Prophet ... Shrine.


International relations

Gallery
File:Salt, Jordan.jpg|The hills around Salt in spring


Notes

Citations

Bibliography

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