Wedged between two seas, one Red and the other Dead, Jordan is a small country with three-quarters of its land occupied by the desert and long inhabited exclusively by Bedouins and nomads, a hinge between the Mediterranean world and the East, with a succession of many civilizations. The history of Jordan is fabulous: Nabataeans, Persians, Romans, Omeyads, Byzantines, Crusaders, and Muslims have left traces, and travelers interested in history and culture will definitely be getting more than they bargained for. Among its big cities: Amman, Zarqa, Irbid, Aqaba, Balqa, Madaba, Mafraq, Jerash, Ma’an, Tafilah, Ajlun and Karak. They have left some splendid vestiges, among the most important of the Middle East: the Roman city of Jerash, cross fortresses, the Umayyad castles of the desert, the Crusader’s Fortress at Karak and, of course, the wonderful Petra, a city dug in the rock by the Nabateans.
Jordan has everything a traveler dreams of discovering. Away from the tensions that agitate this part of the world, it is a land of peace in a region where conflicts are numerous, and a welcoming place for many refugees. A country you should not fall short to discover, at least once in your life. Jordan lastingly marks those who have the chance to visit… Attention: love at first sight! And most of all it’s a land of many colors: the Red Sea, Petra the Rose, Amman the White, without forgetting the orange, the yellow and the gold of the desert… En route, the Dead Sea will add salt to your delectable journey and the wadis (valleys) will offer breathtaking perspectives! Jordan also offers a beautiful route in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, from the port of Aqaba to the oasis of Azraq through the amazing Wadi Rum… and all the traditions of the Arab world: Hummus, Sheesha, Mosques and their call to prayer, and of course lots and lots of majestic camels…
The desert of Wadi Rum, an “open AIR cathedral”
Dubbed as the valley of the Moon, and described as an “open-air cathedral” by Lawrence of Arabia, who participated here in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1917, Wadi Rum is one of the most beautiful deserts I have seen in my life. Its landscapes of red sandstone cliffs and sand dunes, which have been made famous by the beautiful film Lawrence of Arabia, make it seem more like a Martian landscape rather than something of this world. Here, nature is the architect. The rocks have been patiently and painstakingly carved by water and wind over tens of thousands of years. The sand takes a thousand different hues, from gold to red. Some vegetation carpets in oases illuminate the landscape with small patches of green.
Amman, The City of Modernity and Legacy
Named Philadelphia by the Romans, it appears in the Bible under the name of Rabbat Ammon, it is also one of the oldest cities in the world to be continuously inhabited. With more than 3 million inhabitants in 2010, it is the largest city in Jordan, constituting the administrative and economic center of the country. This modern capital is a city with striking contrasts between modernity and ancient vestiges. The east of the city is famous for being very lively while the west is quieter and more elegant.
Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World
Petra is Jordan’s flagship landmark, the historic gem among the Seven Wonders of the World, the lost city found by Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. A vast city carved in stone by the Nabataeans, who inhabited the area more than 2000 years ago, Petra lives up to this legend. The entrance to the city is a narrow gorge of over a mile bordered by high cliffs carved by man and nature. A real grand entrance fit for this incredible city, at the end of which we come to Al-Khazneh, the treasury of Petra, a majestic tomb with the world famous façade which stands dramatically at the end of the creek. It is called the treasury, because according to legend, a pharaoh hid his wealth in the stone urn on the upper level. It takes at least two whole day to discover the site of Petra. The walk among the tombs nestled in the pink stone cliffs and scattered temples is exceptional! Don’t forget to save some energy to climb the 800 steps that lead to the spectacular Al-Deir monastery, as beautiful as the treasury itself.
The Dead Sea, an unusual aquatic experience
It’s the lowest place on earth… 400 meters below sea level, exactly 417 meters at its lowest point! The water of the Dead Sea is ten times saltier than regular seawater, and rich in magnesium chloride, sodium, potassium, iodine and bromide, which is why so many people visit the site, due to its many health benefits… You would float in it like a cork! It’s quite something to swim there! It’s even difficult to dive your shoulders and fully immerse yourself. You can literally swim while reading a book. Make sure the water does NOT get into your eyes. The water is so salty that it stings the skin, so it’s hard to stay in more than ten minutes.
Jerash, one of the best preserved Roman cities
50km north of Amman, Jerash is one of the best preserved Roman cities in the world. The city enjoyed its golden age between the 1st and 3rd century AD. We enter under the arch of Hadrian, and soon after we come across the racecourse, where the legendary chariot races and gladiator fights took place. Follow the beautifully restored theaters that host, each summer, the festival of Jerash, then the temple of Zeus, the forum with its oval square surrounded by columns… An incredible site and a real journey back in time.
The thrilling experience of Wadi Hidan
Thrill seekers should head to Wadi Hidan today, and they will find an outdoor lover’s paradise. We spent the day canyoning in this an impressive basalt valley that twists its way through volcanic mountains and the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, all the way down to the Dead Sea swimming through a dozen pools of refreshingly cool blue waters. Explore further to discover three waterfalls, one of which forms a natural water slide on which adventurers plunge into a fresh deep water pool below.
Karak’s Crusader Castle
Al-Karak is one of the most important tourist attractions in Jordan as well as one of the largest Crusader castles and fortresses in the region. It has a magnificent view and dominated all the roads leading to the Dead Sea. The castle was built in the 12th century and is today one of the favorite tourist destinations in the Kingdom of Jordan.
Diving in Aqaba
Aqaba is the perfect place for divers with its pretty underwater life sights. The sites are diverse, shallow, with very little current and visibility is often very good. The dives can be done from the edge of the shore. The coral reefs are full of life, and very colorful. The sites are much less frequented than in Egypt and because of this, the corals are very preserved. Aqaba has 23 dive sites, including 21 in the Marine Park. Moray eels, Puffer and toad fish hide in cracks and small caves. There are also beautiful black coral formations and elephant ear corals. This site is very popular with deep-sea divers.
Last but not least, let’s not forget to mention the wonderful Jordanians themselves; extremely hospitable people who offer all travelers a warm welcome. The Hashemite Kingdom receives each visitor as a distinguished guest. With a little luck, they will invite you to drink tea or coffee with cardamom, accompanied by dates and good wishes that truly capture the raw and pure magic of the East.