Jordan auto museum exhibits royal collection

Friday 06/11/2015
The 1956 Cadillac.

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.