What comes to your mind when you think of Jordan?
For me, it will always be the ancient wonders of Petra.
Its size, history, the richness of the details of its carvings, and the fact that it was carved out of a sandstone cliff, has earned it a high spot in my bucket list. I was very young when I saw it in Indiana Jones, but it definitely left a lasting impression.
Having scheduled my backpacking trip to South America this year, though, I was content on planning to visit Jordan sometime in 2018. Plenty of time enough to plan for it, I thought.
I was thrilled, then, when the Jordan Tourism Board invited me to take a History and Culture Tour of Jordan. I can’t believe I will get to visit Jordan now, not three years later! Indeed, how lucky can I get?
I’m writing this now in Amman, having landed a few hours ago at the Queen Alia International Airport (I love the name!) where I was greeted by a -1 deg C temperature. The JTB representative who met me and Fabio, an Italian photographer who will be on an Eco-Adventure Tour, told us to be prepared for the change in weather throughout the day.
Even Jordanians, he said, don’t know whether to dress up for warm or cold weather this early in spring, and just end up wearing clothes they can shed off in case it gets hot later in the day.
No matter how the weather turns out, I’m ready for it. (Or so I hope. I have one jacket, one cardigan, and one sweater. If worse comes to worst, I’ll be wearing all three at the same time, everyday!)
I will be staying a week in Jordan, seven days of seeing the country’s rich history and culture. Jordan is indeed more than just Petra.
Jerash and Aljoun: The Ruins of Ancient Cities
According to our itinerary, we will be visiting the ruins of Aljoun and Jerash, an easy day trip from Amman where we will be based for two days. These are not as well-known as Petra, but they’re just as worth a visit.
Aljoun’s number 1 tourist attraction is its castle, a fortress built in 1184 to defend Jordan against the Crusaders. It is huge, covering a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley.
Catholics would be interested to know that near Ajlun is the town of Anjara, where Jesus and his disciples, accompanied by Mother Mary, rested in a cave. Tall Mar Elias, also near Aljoun, was reportedly where Elijah the prophet ascended to Heaven.
Jerash, on the other hand, is an ancient city going back more than 6,500 years. It had been hidden in sand for several centuries, until it was excavated and restored just around 70 years ago.
Gerasa, as it was known by the Romans, is one of the best-preserved Roman towns in the world, with its colonnaded streets, Corinthium column, Hadrian’s Arch, a hippodrome (circus), hilltop temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis, an oval Forum surrounded by a colonnade, two theaters, baths, and an almost complete city walls.
Read my article: Finding Ancient Roman Ruins in Jerash.
Camel Riding in Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum, the largest desert in Jordan, is home to Bedouin tribes whose camps are said to be scattered all over the area.
While I’m looking forward to seeing a desert firsthand, with its varied landscape from narrow gorges, to towering cliffs and huge caverns, I’m more excited at the thought of being invited to tea with the desert people who are said to be friendly and hospitable to tourists.
Action-oriented travelers, though, would really love Wadi Rum. You can go hiking there and even rock climbing. There are 4×4 tours as well as hot air balloon riding, which definitely looks great at either sunrise or sunset.
Based on our itinerary though, we only get to ride a camel from the wadi (which means a dry valley, ravine, or channel) for an hour or two. Traveling by camel from Wadi Rum to Petra will take about a week, a luxury we don’t have. There’s really a lot of things to do in Jordan!
Petra, Jordan’s Rose-Red City
There’s nothing more romantic than poet John Burgon’s description of Petra:
It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.
It’s even more amazing when you know that Burgon had never seen Petra when he wrote this poem!
By all accounts, Petra is even more beautiful by candlelight. On certain days of the week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays), thousands of candles are set up along the trail from Wadi Musa up to the Treasury, where guests sit on rugs and contemplate the beauty around them.
The magical experience is made complete with soft music played by Bedouin musicians.
Floating in the Dead Sea
I’m glad that the Dead Sea is also included in our itinerary. No visitor to Jordan should ever miss visiting the lowest point on earth, which is known for its very high concentration of salt and minerals.
If you don’t know how to swim, you would love the Dead Sea. You can float without even trying, which is why a lot of pictures of the Dead Sea show people reading while floating. There’s nowhere else in the world that you can do this, no matter how good a swimmer you are!
Aside from its buoyancy, however, the Dead Sea is also known for its therapeutic qualities. It contains over 35 minerals that are good for the skin, including calcium, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, and iodine.
People have said that swimming in the Dead Sea relieved pains caused by rheumatism and headache, among others, while softening their skin. I can’t wait to try it out!
Aside from these, we are also going to check out the Citadel in Amman, the Jordan Museum, Mount Nebo in Madaba, the Dana Nature Reserve, and the Bethany and Beyond Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptized. The first five apostles met there, so it has a lot of significance for me as a Catholic.
I will be staying in Jordan for just one week, and given all the places we’re going, it looks like it isn’t enough. This trip will probably just be the first of many, as I try to appreciate not only Jordan’s historical and cultural significance, but most importantly, its natural beauty as well.
Which Jordan attraction would you like to visit most?
Read more about Jordan: Is Jordan Safe to Visit?