Al Zarqa, Jordan’s industrial capital, is the country’s third most populous city. Located some 20 kilometres east of the capital Amman, it occupies approximately 60 square kilometres and lies 619 metres above sea level.
The current-day site was first settled in the fourth millennium BC. In 1926 the British Army established camps for the East Jordan Border Force in the city, and three years later the government constituted Al Zarqa’s first municipal council. The city is noted for being roughly equidistant from each of the Kingdom’s major cities, as well as being connected to a cross-border transport network that links it to neighbouring countries. It was also on the route of the former Hejaz Railway Line, founded in 1900, that ran from Damascus down to the Saudi Arabian city of Medina.
The city takes its name from the Zarqa River, the third largest waterway in the Southern Levant after the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers. The word Zarqa originates with the region’s ancient Akkadian inhabitants and means “Region of Waters”, and has been preserved practically unchanged through the millennia.
The region’s fertile river valley encouraged human settlement at a very early date. The earliest mention of the area comes in the records of Pharaoh Akhenaton, when rulers from Al Zarqa requested his help to deal with disturbances but he had to turn them down due to internal conflict in Egypt.
An Italian archaeological team uncovered a Bronze Age city in the Maasoum neighbourhood of present-day Al Zarqa dating back more than five thousand years. Houses, tools, pottery, bronze adzes and jugs were dug up from the two-square-kilometre site.
According to the 1999 census, the governorate of Al Zarqa contains some 19,000 economic institutions, approximately 13.4 per cent of Jordan’s total, consisting of 11,064 commercial enterprises, 4,897 service industry enterprises, 2,632 industrial and mining enterprises as well as transport, communications and agricultural businesses.
None of Al Zarqa’s many football clubs have yet reached the dizzy heights of the Jordan Pro League though they are working hard to rise up the ladder. Until 1999 the city had one small stadium, when the Prince Mohammed Sports City was constructed. The sports city is only 33 kilometres from Amman, a journey between 35 and 45 minutes by car.
The Prince Mohammed Sports City consists of several indoor courts and pitches, swimming pools and an artificial turf football pitch. The Prince Mohammed Stadium is modelled on the King Abdullah II Stadium in Amman and is scheduled to have the grass surface replaced and numbered seats with a capacity of 12,000 spectators installed.