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Jordan - Land of Wonders

Oct 22, 2013

When you’ve wanted to visit somewhere since you were a child it’s difficult to believe that it could live up to that level of expectation, but Jordan most certainly does. In fact it just kept on impressing more each day.

Deadsea

Pictured Dead Sea looking over towards Israel with Jerusalem and Jericho in the distance.

 

At just over 5 hour flying time from the UK - you are there before you know it. And due to an excellent road infrastructure you can comfortably see all the main sites you want to visit in a week or long weekend if you are short on time. 

The rich history of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as it is known today stretches back thousands of years. 

From Amman - it's around an hour's drive from the airport to the Dead Sea. Descending into the Dead Sea region, the lowest land point on Earth you catch a glimpse of this famed ribbon of water. Along it's edge stretches a small but discerning strip of luxury international hotels.

Actually visiting the Dead Sea is indeed a unique experience. You can see the density of the water is thicker but that doesn't prepare you for the experience of immersing yourself. Lie back and enjoy it! Some read a paper, others daub themselves in the mineral rich mud and bake in the sun before showering off to uncover the smooth after effects. I can recommend it. I don't quite feel 20 years younger but I did notice a difference.

What I really liked about the Dead Sea region is that it is equally popular with affluent local couples and families visiting for the weekend and business people attending conferences. This varied mix of guests, I think makes for a richer experience as the hotels don't just feel like tourist hotels. All the hotels I visited had exceptional pool areas, restaurant and bar facilities and catered to differing levels of fitness and agility but what was special about the Dead Sea was that spas had indoor dead sea pools so that less mobile guests could also enjoy it's mineral benefits and unique floating experience. 

 

Following the Kings Highway, the main arterial route through the country, you really get a real sense of the people that have travelled this ancient route before you.  It's oft quoted that the journey is the highlight of visiting an attraction and it's certainly true here. The scenery frequently changes from craggy arid mountain areas with olive groves in the North to lush farmland plateaus, dammed reservoirs, valleys, ravines and red desert lands in the South.  

Whether you are religous, or not, actually seeing places that are mentioned in the Bible can be very meaningful. Standing on Mount Nebo, where Moses is buried and looked out over the Promised Land to Israel, is one of the first of many Biblical stops you can make across Jordan. The mosaics here and at nearby Madaba are incredible in their intricate skill and vividness.

The museum and mosaic exhibition near Mount Nebo is probably one of the most interesting I have been to in many years. It's also where  you can make your bid to be in the Guiness book of Records by adding your piece in the largest mosaic portrait in the world. 

What you can't help noticing is the marks that different civilisations have left upon Jordan. With land borders with Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel this means that people have travelled and settled here for generations. In the deserts of Wadi Rum etched in the stone you see camels and other depictions of local facilities and amenities of that time left for travellers by other travellers as tips along these routes. And at Kerak there are the remains of a 12th century crusader castle. There's enough still left of it's ruins for you to get some feel for it's dominating and important position in this region.

Monastery1.jpg

The Monastery at Petra

Petra - Unesco World Heritage site and one of the new Wonders of the World

Is undoubtably the higlight of many people's visit to Jordan. Even now when you discover it for yourself, it is still so well hidden that walking through the siq to it it's only at the last minute you glimpse the deep orange of the Treasury in all it's finery.

Surrounded by mountains, the town of Petra guards the entrance to the Siq, a walk of some 30 mins or less if you go by horse and carriage through a winding stone valley carved out by nature and the Nabateans. 

Suddenly the Treasury appears before you. To see it is surreal. In fact when I first saw it on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I thought it must be some elaborate Hollywood film set. It was only years after I actually found out it existed and decided I had to go and see it for myself. But even looking at it for 10 minutes doesn't prepare you for the feats of design carried out by the Nabateans in carving their elaborate tombs. In parts, the carving of the stone looks like it had only been carried out recently instead of hundreds of years ago. Excavations are being carried out on the site continually to discover more about the site's secrets, but I was amazed to find out that in front of the steps of the Treasury it's thought the facade could go down as far as another 8 ft. 

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A pillar on the Treasury

We spent a completely absorbing 8 hours exploring Petra. Leading from the Treasury, the deep valley opens out to further smaller cave dwellings, tombs and a myriad of steps. There are excellent facilities at the site so you can keep refreshed and you certainly need to be to visit the Monastery, a climb of some 950 steps to view it in it's lofty position looking over the Petra valley.

The modern day town of Petra has the feel of a relaxed but bustling metropolis. You see residents going about their business in the shops and horses tethered in stables but equally there are numerous restaurants, gift shops and hotels to cater for visiting tourists.

People come to see Petra on day trips from cruises or like us, as part of a tour. It didn't feel at all crowded. In which respect we were lucky but due to recent development with it's surrounding neighbours Jordan and it's many amazing sights have recently experienced a lull in visitor numbers. 

Prior to visiting Jordan, I was asked if I felt safe visiting and wasn't I worried it was so close to Syria. My answer was Yes I felt safe and no I wasn't worried, as if you go with the advice of the Foreign office, you'll find one of the warmest welcomes and one of the safest countries I have ever experienced. People were openly coming up and welcoming us. The key tourist sites like several other Middle Eastern countries I have visited has tourist police at them and a tourist policeman travels with your tour as standard. I'm told this has been the case for many years and all the hotels offer the highest standards of security with scanners and check points so I never felt more at ease, even when we travelled to within 30 miles of the border of Syria through the lush market gardens and mountains to visit Jerash. So I would highly recommend it for single travellers, groups, families and couples.

 

 wadi_rum1.jpg

 

Wadi Rum evokes the David Lean film Lawrence of Arabia as soon as you start journeying into this deep red desert land. Wonderfully peaceful with clear starlit skies, you can get be close to nature in no time at all. Your tent may be luxurious with ensuite facilities but that doesnt stop you sitting out around a Bedouin campfire drinking tea and eating lamb cooking underground in the warm earth. A truly unforgettable experience enhanced by the jeep safari at sunset.

In the South of Jordan many people choose to extend their stay in Aqaba. Our trip returned to Amman, vibrant and cosmopolitan, with women traffic police efficiently directing the traffic to exclusive furniture shops, this is a thriving city. The citadel overlooks the old town. It's museum houses many interesting artifacts found in and around it from intact chain mail to pottery and jewellery. The Dead Sea Scrolls, once housed here, are going to be on view in the new Amman Museum, once it's opened. The ruins of Jerash are easily reached from Amman. It is only 30 minutes from Amman and it's amphitheatre and streets are well worth seeing.

 

So to sum up Jordan is very difficult. It has so much to offer to all ages. It's history is staggering and you can enjoy a very varied experience  and reasonably priced holiday all year round. 

Detailed below is a copy of the brochure for single travellers and a selection of other itineraries, extensions and hotel guides. With regular flights from the UK we can offer escorted packages or tailormake your trip. Several of our staff have visited Jordan and we'd be happy to help arrange your next trip.

Travelling tips and advice 

Single Traveller brochure featuring Jordan 

Jordan itineraries, hotels and extensions

 



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