|Country Information & Lifestyle|
God, the Homeland, the King
Jordan is in Southwest Asia spanning the southern part of the Syrian Desert down to the gulf of Aqaba. It shares border with Syria to the north, Iraq to the north-east, the West Bank and Israel to the west and Saudi Arabia to the east and south. It shares control of the Dead Sea with Israel and the coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Much of Jordan is covered by desert, particularly the Arabian Desert, however the north-western area, with the Jordan River, is regarded as part of the Fertile Crescent. Jordan is surprisingly diverse in its geography and its culture, both of which have been shaped over thousands of years.
Rolling hills covered in thick forests, table-flat expanses of shimmering desert, Arcadian groves of olives, pomegranate and apricot trees, stark, saw-toothed mountains, mystical, narrow canyons of pink, red and cream rock. All of this and more is Jordan.
Jordan enjoys a long summer period and when the Sirocco,(a hot, dry southerly wind blows), the temperatures can go above 40c and at times these winds can be very strong and can cause sandstorms. However always be aware of cold nights Wadi Rum's sands plummet to 4c in winter, whilst the beaches of Aqaba and the salty Dead Sea touch 40c in July.
Winters are generally short and cool and Amman can be especially cold and snow is not uncommon. Winters in the Eastern Desert however, can be bitterly cold and dry. The central spine of hills can receive snowfall during winter months.
Although Jordan's total coastline is only 27 kilometres long, seven kilometres have been given over to a Marine Park. Within this short stretch there are 21 dive sites and five beaches. Coral reefs dominate the Park, usually with a sandy lagoon between the reef and the shore, while the reef tends to shelve steeply to seaward. It is the only access Jordanians have to the sea for shipping, fishing and leisure.
The King's Highway is an ancient artery that starts in Amman and passes through the heart of Jordan. It is possibly one of the most scenic drives anywhere in the world. For over 330 kms it winds its way through gently rolling agricultural land, past sleepy rural villages, skirts the edge of the Eastern Desert, twists its way up steep rugged mountains, plunges 600 meters into Jordan's Grand Canyon, Wadi Mujib, and ends at Aqaba on the shores of the Red Sea.
On route are rural communities where tourists rarely if ever stop. Take the time to pull over at a local shop to buy baklava or for a coffee at a roadside stall and you will be sure of a hospitable if inquisitive reception.
The Ajloun Forest Reserve in northern Jordan is home to wild boar, wolf and roe deer. Azraq is the name for a huge oasis, deep in the heart of Jordan's Eastern Desert, an essential sanctuary for over a 150 species of migratory birds, as well as buffalo, 18 other types of mammal, 16 reptile species and the critically endangered Azraq killifish.
The Mujib Reserve is 212 sq miles of starkly rugged mountainous land, veined in with the deep water-cut canyons of several permanent rivers. The reserve has been used successfully as a breeding centre for the endangered Nubian Ibex and is a natural breeding ground for nine species of birds of prey.
Amman, the capital, lies at the foot of Jebel el Qalaa citadel hill. Exquisitely restored, the 2nd century Roman theatre leaning on the flanks of the hill could hold up to 6,000 spectators. Here you are in the ancient forum, a vast public area flanked by galleries from where you can still see the semicircle of the Odeon.
The area of souks surrounds the King Hussein mosque; here you can buy spices and gold. The vast podium of the Temple of Hercules was the most important monument of the acropolis.
Petra - The Red-Rose City, half as old as time, needs no introduction. Petra is mystical, beguiling and romantic. Enter Petra by walking through the narrow canyon of the Siq. Its towering water-cut, pink rock walls cutting off all but a sliver of sky, enclosing you in its silence and beauty, enchanting and leading you towards that one fateful step where the incomparable majesty of the Treasury reveals itself after just one extra step.
Seen at night the Siq and the Treasury lit by the flickering flames of more than 2000 candles when their warm lights seems to make the rose rock glow from within.
When you leave take the lower gate and the road then climbs a hill to the village of Umm Sayhoon where the Bedouin community lives. For generations, many Bedouin families lived in the caves of Petra, but in the early '80s they were moved to the houses built by the government at Umm Sayhoon.
Jarash, 48 miles north of Amman, is the one of the best-preserved provincial Roman cities in the world. There are hilltop temples, baths, a hippodrome, fountains and a large oval forum fringed by a colonnade. Surrounding the entire city are walls punctuated by arched gates and guarded by towers. In its heyday the hippodrome could accommodate around 15,000 spectators. Today, visitors can still use the arena to watch re-enactments of Roman military manoeuvres, gladiatorial combat and chariot racing.
UUmm el-Jimal lies 32 miles north east of Jaresh and used to be frequented by the caravans. Sitting on a small plateau above the Jordan Valley, the small rural village of Pella seems like a sleepy backwater.
Karak's towering position, perched on a hill-top almost 1000 metres above sea level, surrounded on three sides by valleys and with commanding views over the Dead Sea makes it a perfect spot for a castle. Wandering the ruins of Karak Castle is a powerful experience. Somehow the place still retains an air of menace, possibly due to the many underground passages with side rooms and chambers to be explored.
Umm Qais in the valley of the Jordan River has kept vestiges of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras. It offers an incredible panorama of Lake Tiberias and the steep-sided Yarmouk valley dominated by the Golan Heights.
East from Amman, all the way out to the Iraqi and Saudi Arabian borders, stretches a desert plain. Spread throughout this vast expanse of sand and basalt rocks are several desert castles. The best preserved is Qsar Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Qasr al-Azraq, a 13th century basalt fort has a military history. More recently, Lawrence of Arabia used it as a headquarters during the Arab Revolt. Other sites of note are Qasr Tuba, Qasr Mushatta and Qasr Hallabat.
You should not leave Jordan without spending some time in the extraordinary desert moonscape of Wadi Rum, haunt of Lawrence of Arabia and starting point for camel treks into the red sands. The Bedouin call Wadi Rum "The Valley of the Moon" and the entrance is via a park gate and a road that leads to the Bedouin village of Wadi Rum, the last outpost of modernity before the untamed wilderness, the sheer scale of which is both daunting and captivating.
To the Bedouin this is still home and in many ways their lifestyle has not changed. Of course, tourism is now an essential part of the local economy, yet they still pitch their goat-hair tents far out in the desert for their herds of sheep, goats and camels to for forage for food.
Lie on your back in the timeless desert, look up at a night sky and sleep under a billion stars. It is an unforgettable experience as you fill your eyes with this magical celestial light. During the full moon you can go walking during the night like you are in a street with stars so bewitching and the vast emptiness shrinks down to the size of your campsite and the flicker of the fire.
Of course, as with every other country, you must try the local cuisine. Jordanian cuisine, Lebanese-inspired, mixes eastern and Mediterranean flavors. Starters often consist of the standard mezze (assorted cold dishes eaten with hot flat bread), beureks (cheese, parsley or meat pasties), koftehs (cracked wheat, minced meat and parsley fried balls) or falafels (fried chickpea puree croquettes). Then you have mutton (shish kebabs), chicken or beef kebabs.
If you want a quick bite, have an eastern sandwich, the famous shawarma (bread stuffed with spit-roasted mutton or chicken with tomatoes, onions and sauce). You can also have mensaf, a traditional Bedouin dish, a spiced mutton stew, with curdled ewe's milk, almonds and pine nut, served with rice and yogurt sauce.
For desserts, you have essentially eastern pastries like the delicious baklava with honey and pistachio. Tea is very sweet and Bedouins mix it with sage or thyme. Finally, do not miss the traditional Turkish coffee or Arab coffee, and cardamom-flavoured brewed coffee, a little bitter but an easily acquired taste.
Jordan - Incredibly inspiring, full of history, welcoming people and delicious food! With jewels such as Petra by Night, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum you will be captivated by this beautiful country and surely will want to stay awhile.