I have been travelling all of my life and the next place on my list was Morocco. However by chance the trip I was set to go on became unavailable – but something else appeared that had been my number one destination since I can remember; The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Due to all of the “issues” in the Middle-East, particularly ISIL and the unstable tensions of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict I was hesitant. But with some research and determination, I decided to book the trip of a lifetime.
My bags packed, the time had come to start my journey to Jordan. Flying from London and taking a connecting flight from Frankfurt to Amman, I arrived in the early hours of the morning. So decided to get some sleep before taking on the oldest inhabited city in the world; Amman. Originally built on top of 7 hills, the city now spans over 19, so if you plan on taking the city on by foot (as I did) wear some comfortable shoes! On that note, side walks aren’t really existent in a lot of the city, so prepare to take taxis and make sure the meter is always running.
Make sure you spend a couple of days exploring the city and discovering what the ancients left behind. Including the Roman theatre, this has been standing for almost 2000 years and is a remnant of the mighty Roman Empire. A top one of the original 7 hills you will also find the Amman Citadel, which you will see first hand where old meets new. The Hand of Hercules, the last remaining fragment to what would have been a 40ft tall statue to the legendary half-God lays untouched after withstanding countless earthquakes (Maybe his strength was all in the hands?). The temple itself is also an impressive testament left behind by the Byzantium’s, a place where the people could celebrate the epic tales of Hercules. I advise you not take a tour as they can be quite costly and you can read everything there is to know inside of the museum free of charge.
If you’re into Falafel, make sure to try Hashem [Al-Amir Mohammed St Downtown, Amman 11110, Jordan] not only is is extremely cheap, but it’s also a favourite spot of the Jordanian royal family, albeit a bit hectic at times, this is a must visit!
However if you’re into something a bit more organised take a trip to “al-Rainbow Street ” unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try the famous Sufra restaurant [Sufra Restaurant, Al Rainbow St 26, Amman 11181, Jordan], but gives me one more reason to head back. Also while in the area be sure to take a trip to “Souk Jara” market, where you can find all the souvenirs you need, as well as some traditional Arabic performances and of course; tea.
If you need a break from the busy streets of Amman and have a few days spare, historical Jerash is just 30 miles north and is home to some of the worlds most well preserved ancient roman ruins – in fact second to that of Rome.
Despite large earthquakes which have hit this region, everywhere you look you will see ancient ruins from theatres, baths and hippodromes to impressive temples built for worshipping the Greco-Roman Gods; Zeus and Artemis. As you walk down the roman streets prepare to feel like time has warped around you!
Not only was Jerash visited by the emperors and philosophers of past, but to this day stars of the Arabic world come here for performances at the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts, which takes place within one of the ancient theatres. You may also be lucky enough to witness the playing of the bagpipe, it looks as though Jordanians took a liking to the Scottish instrument.
If you need a traditional Arabian head scarf (keffiyeh) now is the time to buy one, not only are they high quality and authentic here, but with the lack of shade and so much to see you’ll definitely want to avoid the sun. Each Arabic country uses different colours and/or styles, so make sure to go for the red and white if you want to blend in with the local people.
Located just 3 hours drive south of Amman. and named one of the new Wonders of the World as well as being a UNESCO world heritage site, the rose city of Petra is not a spectacle you’ll want to miss.
Prepare to be amazed as you walk through its rose coloured sandstone walls, you’ll witness the history of Middle Eastern civilisation. Built by the Nabateans with temples, houses, alters, tombs and intricate water ways – this was an advanced fully functioning city and was home to thousands and until just 30 years ago was still inhabited by the Bedouin nomadic tribes.
As Petra was once a busy trading route, it became a known location to the ancient world. The Roman and Byzantine empires took control of Petra throughout history and this caused the infusion of different religions and architecture which makes Petra so special.
If you want to see everything you’ll need to spend the day here (entrance fee: 50JD – be sure to check as this changes often), get there early enough and you’ll be able to capture some great photos without the crowds.
Bring some boots! On average to get from the treasury to the monastery and then up to the sacrificial alter it’s a 15 mile (23km) hike on various terrains, I left the cliff jumping to the Bedouins however! Tip: Ask a local bedouin to guide you and remember to tip.
The Dead Sea
Ever wondered how flying through space would feel? A dive in the waters of the Dead Sea will bring you as close as possible. With salt levels almost 10 times that of the sea, the salt lake is devoid of any life. That is apart from those seeking the therapeutic properties of the water.
Said to cure skin conditions, relieve stress and release toxins, it seems the Dead Sea is Earths natural healer. Whilst there, like me make sure to lather up in mud – not something you’ll be doing often so enjoy this moment! it’s only 3JD a fraction of the price when compared to store bought products and will have you feeling refreshed and ready for your next venture.
Tip: Buy your Dead Sea products in Amman – stick to chemists and local stores as they stock all products for cheaper prices.
Feeling refreshed and with soft skin it was then time for me to visit Aqaba and the Red Sea.
The Red Sea
At it’s southern most tip Aqaba is a vibrant coastal town with great restaurants and rooftop shisha lounges, the smell of BBQs fill the air as you walk its streets. I’m not one for a beach holiday – however you can’t help but to lounge in the sun and relax here.
If you’re into diving, this is the place to be! We hired out a boat for the day and took a dive before dinner into the flourishing waters. Said to be comparable to the reefs of the Caribbean, this is a divers dream. Hundreds of brightly coloured fish and other sea life swarm around you as you navigate the coral ways and if you’re into diving deep you’ll discover one of the many wrecks which are slowly becoming consumed by the sea.
After diving, visit the Hussein Bin Ali Mosque for some equally impressive architecture and take a walk through it’s symmetrical gardens. Named after the Sharif of Mecca and leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman rule in 1916, this is an important monument for the Arabian people.
Lastly, but far from least you’ll want to take a tour on one of Jordan’s biggest Hollywood sets! Wadi Rum – The Valley of the Moon. Here you can take a camel ride and act out a scene from Lawrence of Arabia or become an alien on the red planet itself (Prometheus). I myself have a particular fondness for the desert and with breathtaking views, this was a dream!
“I was in awe of that place, it was really, really special. One of the most spectacular and beautiful places I have ever seen, and like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else on Earth.” – Matt Damon
As home to the Zalabia tribe of Bedouin nomads, they have allowed this valley to become one of the top tourist attractions in Jordan. If you get the chance, take the opportunity to go on a desert jeep adventure. Feel the wind hit your face as you go up and down dunes and slopes and cool off from the intense desert sun. There’s a lot to see in this valley, so make sure to take regular stops and don’t miss out on the prehistoric glyphs, pink sands or beautiful arches and shapes formed in the rock itself.
By the end of the day you’ll be ready to relax. I had the opportunity to live as a Bedouin, which started with a traditional meal cooked beneath the sand. By cooking underground the heat is trapped which slowly bakes the food until tender, this ancient way of cooking has been kept alive when nomads had nothing but nature – and the outcome is delicious!
Afterwards I sat by the fire and watched the night sky, with no light pollution to block the view I felt as if I was looking through a telescope into outer space. If you’re lucky enough you’ll witness shooting stars from all directions, so have your wishes ready! It was a great way to end such an amazing day.
Tip: You can take a day trip here from either Petra or Aqaba; this isn’t something you’ll want to miss!
I hope this post has inspired you to visit the wonderful country that is Jordan and has settled and fears you may have had due to its location. There are activities for all here, whether it is to experience the exotic smells and flavours of its cuisine, take a dive and be adventurous or to take a walk through time to discover the past.
I’d also like to thank G Adventures and their CEO Zuhair for this trip of a lifetime! If you’d like to find out more on this tour visit: https://www.gadventures.com/trips/highlights-of-jordan/362/
- Official language: Arabic
- Capital: Amman
- Religion: Sunni Islam
- Population: 8,000,000+
- Currency: Jordanian Dinar