Authored by Josh Reynolds
I am admittedly an amateur in the world of international travel. While Europe is on my doorstep as a resident of the UK, my passport holds no more than 20 passport stamps; those which are there due to family holidays, or visiting friends who have made the leap and moved abroad. Visit Jordan
A visit to Jordan therefore seemed so off the cards me, an infrequent traveler, and one of the last places to have crossed my mind as a potential destination for tourism. Though a distant relative of my mother based in Amman, Jordan paved the opportunity for my trip. Travel to Amman, Jordan
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a modern city with numerous ancient ruins. Atop Jabal al-Qala’a hill, the historic Citadel includes the pillars of the Roman Temple of Hercules and the 8th-century Umayyad Palace complex, known for its grand dome. Built into a different downtown hillside, the Roman Theater is a 6,000-capacity, 2nd-century stone amphitheater offering occasional events.
Those willing to linger awhile before making for Petra, the Dead Sea or Wadi Rum will find it is one of the easiest cities in which to enjoy the Middle East experience.
What to Expect From a Trip to Amman, Jordan
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Having never ventured further than the USA or Tunisia, I was unsure what to expect from a visit to the Middle East, though I did assume the experience would open my eyes to travel in a way they had not before.
First Impressions On Landing in Amman
I arrived in Jordan at 11pm, and stepped off the plane into a heat wave. I was welcomed by a blistering 30 degrees. Where to go in Jordan
Temperatures in Jordan are expectantly high, though what is most unique about this place is how vastly the temperatures will change over a short distance of space. Jordan boasts a mountainous terrain, with much of the country’s land sitting below sea level. This subsequently means that one minute you may be enjoying relatively comfortable weather when suddenly the temperate could become scorching.
I wasn’t sure why in hindsight, though I was surprised to see a significant interest in western stores. The American fast food chains dominate the quick eat market, and English staples such as Marks & Spencers have even crossed the pond. What to expect from a trip to Jordan
Without much research, I had traveled in the hope of finding cheap western chain goods, though this was a bubble which was quickly burst when we discovered the strength of the Jordanian Dinar. Personal wealth is very much in line with the United Kingdom here, with parallel currency rates.
The only positive difference in costs were cigarettes, prices in the UK typically range now between £6 -£9. In Jordan the price in store typically ranges to the equivalent of £1.70 to £2.00 for a pack of Marlboro which is staggering considering the similarities on pricing with almost everything else.
The city’s architecture is dominated by the use of sandstone. The use of this natural stone often disguises the modern nature of Amman and the vast level of construction that has been developed recently. There is the sporadic sky scraper that bucks the trend, but unlike Britain where we have a real mix of materials from building to building, Jordan retains some consistency due to the natural resource. Traveler experiences traveling to Jordan.
A Gateway to Jordan
Our first trip from Amman after settling in was to the old roman city of Jaresh, about a 2 hour drive towards the Syrian border. The views along the drive to Jaresh were stunning due to the elevated position of the roads, though what we arrived to in the city of Jaresh itself was equally as exciting.
A collection of roman roads, market squares and amphitheatres that left little to the imagination in gaining some insight in how this city used to operate.
A surprising note is the obvious lack of tourists. Here we had a site that rivalled the original roman structures on Palatino hill practically to ourselves for the impressive sum of £1. The lack of tourists leads to a warm and welcoming reception from locals with a keen interest to know where you are from and thank you for visiting their country. Visit Amman, Jordan.
The Dead Sea
The lowest spot on the face of the earth, and a natural health spa, the next day we visited the Dead Sea. Unlike Jaresh, the Dead Sea has notoriety as a priceless national treasure, and is well known internationally a natural wonder of the world. Visitors from around the Mediterranean basin have made their way here for thousands of years, and international tourism has also become quite huge. Imagine my surprise when we arrived to find there would be no one else joining us! Daytrips from Amman, Jordan.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth in any land mass (417 meters below sea level, to be exact). The quantity of water that evaporates from it is greater than that which flows into it, such that this body of water has the highest concentration of salt in the world (340 grams per liter of water).
It is called the Dead Sea because its salinity prevents the existence of any life forms in the lake. That same salt, on the other hand, provides tremendous relief to the many ailing visitors who come here on a regular basis to benefit from its healing properties. All these and more make the Dead Sea so fascinating, so different and so interesting.
Floating in open warm water to one of the most beautiful of backdrops in the world was an experience I will no doubt remember for the rest of my life. After an initial dip we covered ourselves in the natural mud for the tourist photo opportunities, before washing ourselves back off in the sea.
Petra: The Main Event
A modern wonder of the world, knowing I would be traveling to Petra as part of my trip to Amman, I purposefully chose not to do much research on it. I wanted to experience it with a fresh set of eyes. But first was a 9 hour journey across the country to our campsite. Things to see in Jordan.
We hired a driver who took us on a detailed route via Mount Nebo. Nebo is a spiritual location with a strong attachment to the prophet Moses. The views offered here are breath taking and you can strongly agree with the tag line “the promised land”. What to do in Amman. What to do in Jordan.
The benefit of hiring a private driver was in our ability to take continued detours. They journey included stops at tourist locations and exciting shops along the way. Best destinations in Jordan.
Among the many brief stops to mosaic workshops and roman ruins, one point of note was Kerak castle. A settlement from the 12th century built by the crusaders, which again offered incredible views. The best point came when the calls of prayer bellowed out and our standing point meant the calls of 3 separate mosques crossed over into each other.
We eventually arrived at our camp for the night; The seven wonders Bedouin camp. Facilities are quite basic as expected in the dessert, but the hospitality more than made up for it. Food options were limited to chicken and rice or chicken and rice, but the greeting of dance, song, shisha, and tea made the evening a pleasant one. Where to go in the Middle East.
The most fascinating part of our visit to the Bedouin camp was hearing large gunshots throughout the evening. With my 15 year old sister travelling with us, we spent large portions of time persuading her about her wellbeing, and Jordan’s position in the middle east conflicts. We were informed in the morning that fireworks and crackers are used every evening. Jordanians love celebrating anything and everything! Best places to go in the Middle East.
Pro Tip: If you are trying to stick to a budget, make allowances for tips. The Jordanians make a habit of going beyond the level of service required, and go the extra mile with everything in hope of significant tips.
We left early in the morning as advised by our driver. To experience Petra properly you have to walk for at least 5 hours. The trek follows Bedouin migration paths and remote hunter’s routes through the wilds of Jordan. In 40 plus degree heat, you need a ton of iced water and an early start to take advantage of the shade before you are left in the elements, the walk back is close to hellish. How long does the walk take to get to Petra?
We hired a guide which is pretty much essential if you want to avoid missing any detail. Again he went above and beyond and commanded a high tip. Petra has a few key landmarks such as the treasury (world famously known as the façade to Indiana Jones). Other monuments include the monastery, which is situated at the top of a not for the faint hearted 900 step walk.
Our final trip in Jordan was a visit to Wadi Mujib. Part of an eco friendly tour, we traveled by bus where we walked against the current to a culminating waterfall. This trek came to be the best experience I had on my visit to Jordan. The natural obstacles, waterslides and plunge pools made for an exciting time in the most impressive and beautiful of settings. How to get to Wadi Mujib.
We trekked under waterfalls, the first proper one I’ve ever seen, jumped off rock forms into the river and were taken down stream on the way back by a fast current on the most natural of water slides. Visit Wadi Mujib.
If I was uncertain before this trip of what would unfold, it is safe to say that Jordan has not only exceeded expectations but opened my eyes past my previous limited experience of world travel, and given me a hunger to explore further than the landmarks often visited by others.
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Photo credits: Feature photo by cat_collector. Amman Citadel Pinterest Image by Ronald Woan. Jordan shops by by Tanveer Badal Photography. Jaresh by Josh Reynolds. The Dead Sea landscape by Jeremy Piehler. Bathing in the Dead Sea at Sunset by Erik Törner. Kerak Castle by Josh Reynolds. Kerak guide by Flickr user Maureen. Walk to Petra by Yaffa Phillips. Monastery by Dennis Jarvis. Treasury at night by Sylvain L.