The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a land of enchanting beauty and contrasts. From the dynamic Jordan Valley, the farway desert canyons, the haunting wilds of Wadi Rum to the serene waters of the Red Sea–Jordan with its rich culture and heritage is one of the most rewarding destinations in the Middle East
Although much has been written about Petra, nothing quite prepares you for this magnificent ancient city of the Nabataeans or nomadic Arabs. Set on the eastern slope of the Arabah Valley, Petra is believed to have been settled in almost 11,000 years ago. Cut out of a sheer rock face, the city can be accessed through a narrow gorge which directly leads into one of the most elaborate temple structures called Al Khazneh or the Treasury. The Nabataeans, accustomed to surviving in barren landscapes, were skilled water harvesters and the water conduit system of Petra is a marvel in itself. With hundreds to beautifully carved temples and tombs, you could spend at least four or five days exploring Petra alone.
Like most capitals, Amman is a city of contrasts where the old and new merge into a unique blend. Located between the rich Jordan Valley and the desert, it is the most populous area of the kingdom and also one of the most westernized cities of the entire Arab world. Although West Amman has all the city’s upmarket restaurants, hotels and cafes, you cannot miss the Downtown area which is the real heart of Amman. It will remind you of a typical Middle-eastern city with noisy traffic and Arabian music blaring in the background. A couple of Roman ruins survive to this day including the Roman Theatre. Apart from these areas there is the Citadel Hill which has been the focus of human settlement since the Paleolithic age. Unfortunately, when the Romans occupied it they removed all the older structures. However some structures still remain like the magnificent Umayyad Palace and the Roman Temple of Hercules.
You could call the Dead Sea the world’s first and most popular health resort–a favourite among the kings and queens of yore. It is more than 3 million years old, snuggled between Jordan to its east and Israel and Palestine to its west. It is actually a hypersaline lake which also happens to be earth’s lowest elevation on land at 1,388 ft below sea level. And in case you didn’t know, hundreds of well preserved Biblical and non-biblical manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were also found in caves on the north-west shores of the Dead Sea. Their discovery helped reshape the history of religion in the world as we know it.
The splendid desert landscape of Wadi Rum is most definitely one of the highlights of Jordan. Weathered over thousands of years in to swollen domes, the Wadi itself is one among the series of parallel faults forming spectacular valleys in the deserts south of the Shara Mountains. In spite of being located in the arid desert, it is populated by the nomadic Bedouins. The sunsets here are extraordinary and the clear desert air allows you to see the sky studded by millions of stars–an experience of a lifetime to say the least.
Located on the country’s southernmost tip, Aqaba, the beach resort town of Jordan is like a doorway to the extraordinary underwater world of the Red Sea. Some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world are located on the pristine coral reefs that lie on the coast just south of the town–making for a lovely contrast against the nearby desert attractions of Petra and Wadi Rum.