After my leaving Dahab, my final stop in Egypt, I had the joy of spending a week in Jordan.
Despite the short stay in Jordan, I was pleasantly surprised by the range of activities and sights I had the opportunity to experience. Turns out the west side of Jordan is only 500 km from top to bottom and the transportation time between major cities and must-sees were at most only a few hours.
During this week in Jordan, I did everything from walk on ancient Roman ruins, take a safari through peach-coloured deserts, touch world wonders (Petra and the Dead Sea), walk through rose-colored canyons, ride a camel into the desert sunset, and even stand on the mountain that Moses stood on when he saw the “promised” land.
Here are the top highlights from my trip to Jordan.
What to see in Jordan
1. Downtown Amman – 2nd century Roman theatre
In the centre of Amman is a well-preserved Roman theatre built right into the rock hillside. Being able to step into an ancient ruin during your stroll through a modern city was quite special. The top of the theatre had a great view of Quraysh Street and of the buildings and houses on the opposite hill. Entry fee: 1 JD ($1.50).
2. Downtown Amman – Citadel Hill
Up the hill, and walking distance from the Roman theatre, is the Citadel of Amman. It sits on Amman’s highest hill (800m above sea level) and the area is supposedly “the world’s oldest continuously inhabited place” with traces of human life found from 7,000 years ago. On the climb to the Citadel, there was a clear view of a huge Jordan flag on what was the world’s tallest flagpole from 2003-2004 (126m). At the edge of the Citadel are the remains of the Temple of Hercules from the 2nd century. Admission fee: 2 JD ($3.00).
3. Dead Sea – “lowest elevation on Earth’s surface”
The Dead Sea is 425m below sea level and 8 time saltier than the ocean. I was so buoyant that when I tried to swim on my stomach, I couldn’t submerge my legs enough to be able to kick (actually, there are warning signs saying *not* to swim on your stomach, so you don’t get water in your mouth or eyes). This unusually buoyant sensation is definitely worth a spot on your bucket list.
4. Petra – the Treasury, as seen in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
The walk from the Visitor Centre entrance to the Treasury, which passes by massive tombs and temples carved from the mountain rocks and goes a winding path through a canyon (the “Siq”), was an experience in itself.
The Treasury is a monument carved from the rockface from the 1st century. There are legends, according to the local Bedouin people, that the building was once a safe keeping place for treasures; but my guide told me it’s only a tomb. See Petra on Wikitravel for travel tips.
5. Wadi Rum - base of operations during the Arab Revolt in 1917/18
Wadi Rum is a protected area full of sandstone and granite mountains. Specific spots in the valley have been named after British Offier T.E. Lawrence, like the “7 Pillars of Wisdom” and the “Lawrence Spring” from his assistance during the Arab Revolt against Turkish rule. The valley sand is a peach colour but when it rains (like it did the day before I was there), sand runs off from the taller white mountains and leaves a pattern of white sand at the front of drain valleys/canyon entrances.
6. Desert – at sunset, on a camel
Being in the desert at sunset was peaceful, quiet and you can see the shadows of the safari and camel tracks in the sand. There weren’t any tourists, and aside from my Bedouin guide singing in Arabic and quiet camel footsteps, there were no other sounds. By the way, camel rides are a bumpy, especially if the camel is jogging. I held on to the saddle with my left hand, to my camera with my right hand, aimed the camera and hoped for the best :)
7. Mount Nebo – where Moses saw the “promised land”
According to the Bible, Mount Nebo is where God showed Moses the “promised land”: “Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho” (Deuteronomy 34:1). On a clear day, Jericho and Jerusalem (Israel) are supposed to be visible from where I was standing. Mt Nebo is a designated Christian pilgrimage site and both Pope Jean Paul II and Pope Benedict have visited during their pilgrimages. Entry cost: 1JD, $1.50.
Even as a non-religious person, the idea of standing on grounds with such historical significance was incredible.
8. Bethany – where Jesus was baptized, Jordan River
The guide told us the water from the Jordan River running through this Baptism site had dried up recently. Note that you have to be accompanied by a guide from the visitor centre (included with admission, 12 JD $18) to see this site because the area is considered a military zone. The border between Jordan and Israel-occupied Palestine, the Jordan River, is only a few metres wide in some spots. See the official Bethany beyond the Jordan site on how the Baptism location was identified by archeologists.
Overall impressions of Jordan
Considering the variety of experiences I had during the short span of one week, I was travelling at a quite a relaxed pace. The highways and roads were well-kept, towns were orderly, most locals spoke at least some English and my entire journey in Jordan was quite smooth.
>> Does Jordan sound like somewhere you’d like to visit? If you’ve been to Jordan, is there anything you’d add to this Jordan must-see list?
I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board during a portion of my visit in Jordan. As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.
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External articles you may like
- Overview of Jordan on WikiTravel
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (movie)
- Jordan surprises a food snob
- Jordan visa entry requirements (on arrival, about $30)