Located in the city of Salt near Amman, the capital of Jordan, an Ottoman period building called Iskandarani continues to preserve its architecture and history by withstanding the test of time.
Salt is considered the fourth largest city in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The city’s name is also known as “Saltus”, referring to the Greek commander who captured the city and built a temple during the time of Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great.
Iskandarani is accepted as one of the symbols of the Ottoman period in the city. The historic building, which dates back 180 years, was renovated by its heirs of Turkish origin in keeping with its original form and now serves as a modern cafe for local and foreign tourists.
Cafe owner Muhammed Bakir, 38, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the place was first used as a horse shelter and then turned into a confectionery workshop in 1960. According to Bakir, the confectionery workshop maintained its activities until 1982.
Noting that Iskandarani was abandoned until 2016, he explained: “Later, my uncle and I, originally from Iskenderun district in southeastern Turkey, Hatay, decided to turn the building into coffee in its current form. We named him Iskandarani, which means someone from Iskenderun.”
Stating that the place is characterized by the structure known as the arch system or the Ottoman knot pattern, Bakir said the legacy of the building from their ancestors and the revival of Ottoman history here connects them to the place and motivated them.
Noting that half of the building is at the bottom of the street and that there is a cave where they accept visitors inside the structure, the owner noted that the atmosphere of the place, its menu and the emissions of Turkish music set it apart from other places.
“The venue is so close to the Salt Turkish War Memorial. Every Turk who goes there passes by the cafe and drinks their tea here,” he said. The war memorial honors the approximately 300 Turkish soldiers belonging to the army’s 4th Division, the 48th Division and the 143rd, 145th and 191st Infantry Regiments, who were martyred while heroically defending the region against the British between March 24 and 26, 1918.
Expressing that foreigners from different cities in Jordan come to their cafe as well as local visitors, Bakir continued that they aim to expand the venue in the near future due to high customer interest.
Nur Melkavi, one of Iskandarani Cafe’s customers, said the venue is a beautiful and tidy place; it has a historic feeling, and everything about it is cute and special.
Fifteen-year-old Yasmin Arafat, who visited the place with a tour group, said: “Here everything is historical. This place takes us back to the old days, as our parents told us.
British tourist Natasha Col, 38, said she had visited Jordan for the first time and the historic building in Salt made them feel the Ottoman atmosphere.
Jordanian Mahmud Amir, who drank Turkish coffee tea, described the place as the “soul” of the city of Salt, adding: “There are certain landmarks that you must see when you come to town. . This cafe is one of their own.”
During World War I, a handful of soldiers tasked with protecting the city of Salt and the Jordan Valley, which is a gateway to the Palestine-Jordan road, did not give way to the enemy army – not for a moment thought of retreating – and fought until they were martyred.
The bodies of these heroes who died for their country were found in a small cave in 1973, years after the war. At the memorial, which began to be built in November 1989 in memory of heroic soldiers, visitors are greeted by a monument inscribed with the names of heroic soldiers who were martyred here about a century ago.
The monument lists the names of 172 martyrs, 168 of whom were born in Turkey and four of whom were born in Amman, who have been identified so far. Inside the cave, there is a representative tomb built for the memory of the martyrs, and the Quran is recited nonstop 24 hours a day.
Next to the cemetery, there is also a museum, which was opened in 2009. Here, photographs depicting the heroism of the Ottoman troops in the region, as well as the uniforms worn by the soldiers of the time and the equipment they used, are on display.
The city of Salt was designated a “City of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality” by UNESCO and inscribed on the World Heritage List on June 27, 2021.
Distinguished by its cultural and religious diversity, the city is home to many historical, archaeological and heritage sites, in particular the Ottoman Palace House, which was built on the occasion of the accession to the throne of Sultan Abdülhamid.