Filled with Ottoman-era houses, AlSalt is known as one of the most historic towns in Jordan. While the area has been settled since the Iron Age, it enjoyed its greatest period of prosperity during the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Many of the families that influenced the creation of the modern state of Jordan come from AlSalt. As a consequence of not becoming the capital of the Emirate of Transjordan, AlSalt has been able to maintain its unique architectural legacy and small town charm.
The name AlSalt comes from either the Latin word "saltus" meaning forest, or from the word "sultana", as the area has been known for the quality of its grapes for centuries. There are Roman tombs on the outskirts of the city, and it was known as Saltus Hieraticon during Byzantine times. In 1220 AD, the stronghold of the Mamluk Sultan Al-Malik Al-Mu'az was built on the crest of one of the steep hills in the town. Destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1260, it was rebuilt by the Mamluks the following year.
Despite all of this upheaval, AlSalt has always been the division between the desert and the more agricultural valley region. Mentions of AlSalt, and its commercial importance, show up in writings from the Arab traveler Abu Al-Fida in the 13th century. 400 years later, the Swiss explorer Burckhardt noted that there were 400 Muslim and 80 Christian families living peacefully together in AlSalt. In 1806, AlSalt was said to be exempt from all taxes, and was an enormous trade center, even featuring cotton from Manchester, England, in its shops.
In the mid 19th century, AlSalt became an important administrative capital for the Ottomans and people migrated from Jerusalem, Nablus, Nazareth to live and prosper there. They celebrated their fortunes by building exquisite homes, some with domed and frescoed ceilings.
For the visitor, AlSalt is an opportunity to see the lovely facades of an Arab town during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Walking around AlSalt is a treat. From the Cultural Center to the Latin Monastery, from the houses to the shops, it is like taking a trip in a time machine. AlSalt's grace provides the visitor an enjoyable afternoon.