Jordan auto museum exhibits royal collection
Amman - Jordan’s Royal Automobile Museum (RAM) is a treasure trove to auto aficionados but the untold story is that it is a legacy of a cherished monarch with a passion for classic and racing cars.
Established in 2003, RAM was the idea of Jordanian King Abdullah II, who wanted to honour the memory of his father, King Hussein, who died of cancer in 1999.
Abdullah assembled vehicles and motorcycles owned by his father and put them on display at RAM. The exhibit includes army tanks and other military vehicles, some of which were used in Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967.
The civilian collection includes a 1952 Lincoln Capri, a rare 1955 Mercedes 300SL gull-wing sports car, a 1989 Ferrari F40, a 1990 Cobra V8 and a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT V10, which has a top speed of 330 kilometres per hour.
Currently, the museum displays 70 cars and 50 motorcycles.
“We always try to mix history with modern-day life, which gives fans a feeling of enthusiasm, especially when we display a new car or a war machine and explain the history behind them,” said Raja Gargour, director of the Royal Heritage Directorate, which runs RAM.
The simple story behind the museum is that it is a gift from one king to another, he said.
“King Abdullah II wished the museum to be built to pay tribute to his late father King Hussein’s eventful life and commemorate his interest in cars,” Gargour said.
“Additionally, the museum gives a comprehensive literature on the history of the kingdom and the Hashemites,” Gargour added, referring to Abdullah’s ruling royal family, which claims ancestry to the Prophet Mohammad.
RAM totalled more than 1 million visitors in its first eight years, according to Gargour. “Now, we’re aiming for 2 million as more people are benefiting from the stories behind its history and at the same time enjoy the wonderful world of exotic cars,” he noted.
The Royal Heritage Directorate is responsible for maintaining and strengthening the Jordanian heritage. Besides RAM, it is in charge of four other museums and state organisations.
The 5,210-square-metre RAM has an entrance hall for reception and orientation, a library, an auditorium and four exhibition halls, where history classes are given to 50,000 Jordanian schoolchildren.
“Everyone enjoys the multimedia and the colourful displays of photos, cars and motorcycles,” Gargour said. “Some people, including myself, become emotional when we pass by the car in which the late king had his final return to the kingdom,”
That was a reference to the public outpouring displayed when Hussein returned after cancer treatments abroad to live his last few days in Jordan.
Hussein was admired by many for his modesty, charisma and daring approach.
According to Gargour, the museum is a unique concept that has become a page of Jordan’s history.
“It’s really unique in its message and collection. People first were lured to the museum for the collection of fast cars but then they became affectionate to their history and the king who drove these cars,” he said.
“This is the power of this museum.”
The museum entry fee is 1 Jordanian dinar ($1.40) for Jordanians and foreigners living in the country and 3 dinars ($4.20) for non-residents. It is open 10am-7pm every day except Tuesdays and three annual holidays.
One of the special aspects of the museum is its depiction of an old Amman street complete with pavement, shops and signs. Gargour said the street was reconstructed from “memory shared by several Jordanians”. He said the street is one of the museum’s highlights, which “people visit to take photos and remember the good old days”.
The museum, which sits on a hill in Amman’s south-west and employs 50 staff members, appeals to people of different age groups and interest.
“We have been to the museum several times,” said visitor Khaled Abu Rida, 42, a Jordanian.
“At first, we checked the cars, especially the modern, fast supercars but then we wanted to relate more these cars to the history behind them and this what made our visits more worthwhile,” Abu Rida said.
“It was so great to see the cars that our late king drove, like the Mercedes 190 and the Mercedes 300SL gullwing sports car, which he drove at several car racing events,” he added.