If there’s one place you need to add to your travel bucketlist (if you haven’t already done so), it’s Jordan. The country’s tourism industry has suffered over the years as it’s surrounded by troubled Syria, Palestine and Iraq. However, it’s one of the Middle-East’s safe havens and well worth a visit.
Jordan boast sites that go back to the Greek, Roman and Ottoman Empires, as well as being a stronghold for the Crusades and a place of religious pilgrimage. And I haven’t even mentioned the majestic Petra yet!
Often overlooked as the box city of Jordan. It’s functional architecture leaves a lot to be desired, however with a plethora of Roman ruins dotted around the city and great links to other must-see sites, Amman shouldn’t be missed.
You’ll love its buzzing, vibrant souks and chaotic thoroughfares. Check out the Byzantine church in the citadel, the fragment of a stone hand laying in the ruins of the Temple of Hercules and the amphitheatre. And the call to prayer echoing out of one of the many mosques and through a valley made up of seven mountains is truly spiritual.
This little town loves mosaics. It’s built around a Byzantine mosaic map of the holy sites, one of the oldest pilgrim documents, found in St George’s Church.
Not far from Medaba is Mount Nabo, where Moses is said to have seen the promiseland. Well, I don’t know about that but you see miles and miles of barren terrain and The Dead Sea. Millions has also been ploughed into building a brand new Catholic church on the ruins of a Byzantine one, making a visit here essential.
And then there’s Jesus’ baptism site. It’s on no-mans-land between the Jordan/Israel border, so visitors are restricted and must go through the dedicated visitors centre to get a special bus. The whole trip costs around 12 JDs. Although the site is surrounded by churches from many nations, none of them are in service due it being a bufferzone, apart from the Greek Orthodox church which guards the baptist site and the path to the Jordan River.
This unassuming modern town hides a patchwork of fantastically intricate and awe-inspiring Roman ruins. An ancient trade route houses well preserved colonnades, hippodromes, temples and mosaics. As well as being home to a plethora of churches. As Palmyra is out of bounds and a shadow of its former self – Jerash is more than a substitute. It’s a must for any classicist.
4. King’s Highway
There are two main roads in Jordan that lead from Amman to Petra. The shorter route is the Desert Highway (does exactly what it says) and the beautiful King’s Highway. The latter offers a lot more to see, so factor in a couple of days just to travel the ancient sites and beautiful landscapes Jordan has to offer.
From the site of Salome’s dance and a crusader castle’s with a sketchy past to nature reserves and waterfalls, it stretches from the a dolmens valley to Laurence of Arabia’s Wadi Rum.
6. The Dead Sea
Most of beaches around the Dead Sea are not looked after. If you pay 20 JDs, you get access to a clean beach with all the facilities. It’s worth it just for the experience and it’s the closest you’ll get to a beach holiday.
You can’t have a list about Jordan without mentioning the jewel in its crown. Petra is unlike any other ancient site. Predominately a necropolis, it’s cut into the red stone of what can only be described as a canyon. It throws up little delights the further you get into it, much more than the well publicised Treasury.
To see the whole compound would take about four days, however you can see all the key sites in one. An overnight night stay in nearby Wadi Musa is recommended so you can discover its hidden secrets, hang out with Jack Sparrow-esque Bedouins and see The Treasury by candlelight during a night walk.
8. The people
It being strict Muslim country seems to put a lot of people off, especially liberal Europeans. However, the people of Jordan have to be among the most tolerant, honest, non-judgemental, welcoming, helpful, warm and friendly people I’ve ever met.
You’ll definitely get a taste of that Mediterranean hospitality, just a hop, skip and jump away from it. Also, women travellers need not fear – you may get a few stares, but it’s safe and as long as you don’t walk around in hotpants and crop tops, it’s fine.