For most people, when they think of Jordan the magical ancient Nabataean city of Petra comes to mind, and Petra is definitely one of the most speculator destinations in the Middle East, Jordan has much more to offer.
From ruined Roman cities, Crusader castles, desert citadels and powerful biblical sites: the brook where Jesus was baptised, the fortress where Herod beheaded John the Baptist, and the mountain top where Moses cast eyes on the Promised Land – there’s no dearth of places to visit when in the country.
And it’s not all just history, Jordan also offers some of the wildest adventures in the region, as well as an incredibly varied backdrop ranging from the red desert sands of Wadi Rum to the brilliant blues of the coral-filled Gulf of Aqaba; from rich palm-filled wadis to the lifeless Dead Sea.
JORDAN: MUST SEE AND DO
Literally carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was ‘lost’ to the Western world for hundreds of years.
Located amid rugged desert canyons and mountains in what is now the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Petra was once a thriving trading centre and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 BC and AD 106.
The city sat empty and in near ruin for centuries. Only in the early 1800s did a European traveler disguise himself in Bedouin costume and infiltrate the mysterious locale.
In 1985, the Petra Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2007 it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Several scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusadewere filmed in Petra. The movie’s fictional Canyon of the Crescent Moon was modelled on the eastern entrance to Petra, a 250-foot-high (76-meter-high) sandstone slot canyon known as the Siq that leads directly to Al Khazneh (the Treasury)—perhaps the most stunning of Petra’s dozens of breathtaking features.
A giant urn carved above the entrance to the Treasury bears the marks of hundreds of gunshots. Bedouin tribesmen living in and among the ancient ruins say the damage was caused when local men would open fire with rifles, seeking the loot thought to be inside the urn (actually made of solid stone).
There are dozens of tombs and other carved or constructed structures and sites within Petra. Visitors today can see varying blends of Nabataean and Greco-Roman architectural styles in the city’s tombs, many of which were looted by thieves and their treasures thus lost.
Today, local Bedouins selling tourist souvenirs hawk their wares not far from the place where Arabs believe Moses struck a rock with his staff, causing water to burst forth.
The ruins at Jerash are one of Jordan’s major attractions and still have the power to evoke the ghosts of Rome. It’s one of the best examples in the Middle East of a Roman provincial city, and is remarkably well preserved.
In its heyday, Jerash (known in Roman times as Gerasa) had a population of 15, 000 to 20, 000 inhabitants and, although it wasn’t on any major trade route, its citizens prospered from the good agricultural land that surrounded it. The ancient walled city that survives today was the administrative, commercial, civic and religious centre of Jerash. The bulk of the inhabitants lived on the eastern side of Wadi Jerash (now the modern town of Jerash) and the two centres were linked by causeways and processional paths.
One of the best-preserved desert buildings of the Umayyads, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Qusayr Amra is the highlight of any trip out into the Eastern Desert. Part of a much greater complex that served as a caravanserai, bathhouse and hunting lodge, the qusayr (little castle) is famous for its hedonistic (and somewhat risqué) 8th-century frescoes of wine, women and wild good times.
The entrance to Karak Castle is at the southern end of Al Qala’a St, and throughout the castle, informative display boards give detailed descriptions of the history and function of each structure. Bring a torch (flashlight) to explore the darker regions, and watch your head on low doorways. Reconstruction and excavation work within the castle is ongoing.
The main entrance, Ottoman’s Gate , is reached via a bridge over the dry moat. The Crusader’s Gate (old entrance) is not open to the public.
Wadi Rum is a protected area covering 720 square kilometers of dramatic desert wilderness in the south of Jordan. Huge mountains of sandstone and granite emerge, sheer-sided, from wide sandy valleys to reach heights of 1700 meters and more. Narrow canyons and fissures cut deep into the mountains and many conceal ancient rock drawings etched by the peoples of the desert over millennia. Bedouin tribes still live among the mountains of Rum and their large goat-hair tents are a special feature of the landscape.
There are many ways to enjoy the attractions of Rum, including jeep, camel and hiking tours and you can stay overnight in a Bedouin tent and gaze at the amazing panoply of stars.
To safeguard its unique desert landscape, Wadi Rum was declared a protected area in1998 and an intensive conservation programme is now underway.
Without a doubt the world’s most amazing place, the Jordan Rift Valley is a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 400m (1,312 ft.) below sea level. The lowest point on the face of the earth, this vast stretch of water receives a number of incoming rivers, including the River Jordan. Once the waters reach the Dead Sea they are land-locked and have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind a dense, rich, cocktail of salts and minerals that supply industry, agriculture and medicine with some of its finest products.
The Dead Sea is flanked by mountains to the east and the rolling hills of Jerusalem to the west, giving it an almost other-worldly beauty. Although sparsely populated and serenely quiet now, the area is believed to have been home to five Biblical cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zebouin and Zoar (Bela).
The leading attraction at the Dead Sea is the warm, soothing, super salty water itself – some ten times saltier than sea water, and rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine and several others. The unusually warm, incredibly buoyant and mineral-rich waters have attracted visitors since ancient times, including King Herod the Great and the beautiful Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra. All of whom have luxuriated in the Dead Sea’s rich, black, stimulating mud and floated effortlessly on their backs while soaking up the water’s healthy minerals along with the gently diffused rays of the Jordanian sun.
NEED TO KNOW
Getting there: Qatar Airways – Return direct at QAR3,470.00 approx. 2:45 hours
Distance between Qatar to Jordan: 1578.81 km
1 QAR = 0.194780 JOD (Jordanian dinar)
Jordan Embassy in Qatar: 4483 2202/3/4 | jordanembassy.com.qa
Visas: Citizens from Bahrain, Egypt, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Vatican and Yemen do not require a visa for entry.
All other nationalities need a visa, most nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival. The cost of single entry visa for all nationalities is JD20 (around $30) for all nationalities and for multiple entries it is JD60 (around $85).Groups of five persons or more arriving through a designated Jordanian tour operator are exempted from all visa charges.Departure taxes for non Jordanians are 5JD , around $7, from any border.
Author: Sarah Mascarenhas
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