Amman, Jordan and San Antonio are now friendship cities.

The Friendship City agreement, signed Tuesday by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Mayor of Amman, Yousef Al Shawarbeh, sets the tone for more cooperation and partnership between the two cities, and honors the Arab influence on Spanish history in San Antonio.

“This influence can be noted in the high walls, in the outdoor courtyard and the fountain outside these doors, and in the architecture of our Spanish Missions, and our 25 kilometers of precious acacias, a word derived from the Arabic acacia,” Nirenberg said.

The mayor of Amman — which is the capital city of Jordan — was joined by a delegation from the country, including Amman's deputy city manager, executive director for transportation, a project manager and the manager of international relations and technical support.

Nirenberg said he and Al Shawarbeh previously met at the Mayor’s Migration Council, a mayor-led coalition to discuss migration and refugee policies.

Tuesday's event was held at the Spanish Governor’s Palace, one of San Antonio’s oldest historical buildings, which Nirenberg said showcases Arab influence on Spain in San Antonio.

Friendship city agreements are a “stepping stone” toward a formal sister city agreement. San Antonio currently has 12 sister city agreements, the most recent one — Baguio City — became San Antonio’s fourth friendship city in October 2022 before it signed a sister city agreement.

San Antonio has friendship city agreements with Suzhou, China, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, and Mexico City, Mexico.

Amman is known as the largest modern-yet-ancient city, Nirenberg said, adding it can trace its first settlements to the eighth century B.C.

“We have a long history of Native American settlements along the San Antonio River. These indigenous people together with Spanish, who arrived over 300 years ago, sparked a confluence of cultures that continue to meld with new arrivals into our vibrant community of today,” Nirenberg said.

Al Shawarbeh said the agreement will dedicate common interests, strengthen economic and cultural relations, and promote experiences between both cities. He told a small room of 30 people that Amman looks forward to developing mutual cooperation in exchanging information and experiences, and best practices in sports, public transportation and water conservation measures.

“We will work together to encourage the active participation of the citizens of both cities in the implementation of this agreement, through civil organizations and institutions active in Amman and San Antonio, in order to ensure that it bears fruit,” Al Shawarbeh said.

The crowd of people listening included groups like Culturingua, the city’s World Heritage Office and the Arab Advisory Council.

Mayor of Amman, Yousef Al Shawarbeh speaks during the Friendship City agreement signing ceremony Tuesday.
Mayor of Amman Yousef Al Shawarbeh speaks during the Friendship City agreement signing ceremony Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / ISF FORUM

Culturingua CEO Nadia Mavrakis said her nonprofit wants to expand a program it's been coordinating with the Advanced Learning Academy at Fox Tech to connect with students in Libya to add in virtual meetings with high school students in Amman.

Nader Mehdawi, who leads the Arab Advisory Council said the moment had been more than two years in the works.

“We have a growing Arab community in San Antonio, so it was a natural next step for San Antonio,” he said. “San Antonio has a number of friendship and sister cities with other countries, but none of them are with Arab countries.”

After the agreement was signed, Nirenberg gifted Al Shawarbeh the Alcalde, a ceremonial certificate from the city, known as the highest honor a visitor can receive. The delegation also received a flag of San Antonio, a model of City Hall and a photo book of San Antonio.

Al Shawarbeh gifted San Antonio a Greater Amman Municipality Medal, a model of Ten Arches Bridge, a flag and photo book of Amman, and the flag of Jordan.

Raquel Torres is the ISF FORUM's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...