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Did You Know … ?
- Jordan’s Queen Noor was American born; she was married to the late King Hussein.
- John the Baptist began and ended his ministry in Jordan; he’s the patron saint for Jordan’s Roman Catholics.
- Much of the 1962 movie, “Lawrence of Arabia,” was filmed in Wadi Rum.
- Christ’s baptismal site is identified with the east bank of the Jordan River.
- The air at the Dead Sea is about 8% richer in oxygen than air at sea level.
From Moses to Lawrence of Arabia
Jordan is a Middle Eastern Islamic country friendly with the West, but it sits in a tense neighborhood, with Israel, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia on its borders. There are around 2.7 million refugees in the country, mostly Palestinian and Syrian plus a few Iraqis.
The country’s location at a geographical crossroads brought refugees in recent decades, but it also means Jordan’s history is peppered with a mind-boggling assortment of memorable events and personalities.
Numerous sites are associated with Biblical place names, including Edom and Moab, which were regions and peoples encountered by Moses and the “wandering Jews” as they sought their promised land. Mount Nebo, in ancient Moab, is believed to be where Moses had his only view of Israel. At another point on the River Jordan’s east bank is the spot where Christ is believed to have been baptized. These and more Holy Land sites are naturals for the tourist map.
In addition, Jordan was part of the Roman Empire. Much later, it saw key face-offs between Christian crusaders and the resistance led by Saladin. In a kind of parallel, it also was at the center of the 20th century fight to expel the Ottoman Turks from Arab lands, the struggle that made Lawrence of Arabia famous.
For tourists, relevant historical sites include Jerash, a well-preserved Roman city; Petra, a wealthy Arab settlement in Edom later absorbed by the Romans; the Kerak and Shobak crusader castles, and Wadi Rum, the beautiful desert outpost that was T.E. Lawrence’s base.
Jordan is more than its history though. It is a modern nation with quality hotels, resorts and spas. Resort lovers come to the Dead Sea or to Aqaba on the Red Sea. Jordan protects threatened wildlife in several reserves, which, even in this desert kingdom, include wetlands. Protections extend to the coral reefs off Aqaba that visiting divers love to explore.
In addition, the Bedouin culture remains distinct, offering unique experiences — and souvenirs — for tourists.
Finally, given the neighborhood, terrorism has not left Jordan untouched. Nevertheless, Jordanians are welcoming, and events have shown tourists can travel safely through the country.
Things to do for Venturers
- Run in the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon, which occurs every April covering a route from Amman to the Dead Sea. The event encompasses five races: the Ultra Marathon, the Marathon, the Half Marathon, the Fun Run and the Junior Marathon.
- Join a camel caravan to retrace Lawrence of Arabia’s journeys, camping out along the way.
- Join a group for travel in four-wheel-drive vehicles to follow the path of the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s travels through the country, visiting Roman fortresses and Biblical cities en route.
- Climb mountains in Wadi Rum. In the course of the adventure, you may find inscriptions that go back as much as 5,000 years.
- Guide your Arabian steed on a multiday trek through the eastern desert reenacting the 7th century Arabian pony express mail delivery. Stop to rest at old Islamic desert castles and caravanserais.
- Hike in the Dana Nature Reserve; overnight at the Rummana campsite (the only permitted campsite within the reserve).
Things to do for Centrics
- Watch one of the regular performances of the Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE) at the hippodrome of Jerash. You will learn something of what Roman legionaries and gladiators did and how they lived and died.
- Take a guided tour by Jeep at Wadi Rum, the valley well known in the West because Laurence of Arabia was based here. Overnight at an on-site Bedouin-style tourist camp.
- Ride the Hejaz Railway, the train that was sabotaged repeatedly by Arab troops (led by Emir Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia) in the fight to oust the Ottoman Turks.
- Visit the Shawmari Wildlife Reserve, a breeding center for some of the Middle East’s most endangered wildlife. See Arabian oryx, desert gazelles, onagers and ostriches.
- At Aqaba, scuba dive in the Red Sea. Or snorkel, or go sailing.
- At Mount Nebo, stand where Moses is said to have first seen the Promised Land. The Moses Memorial Church here — now a pilgrimage site — stands on the site of previous, older churches. Many impressive examples of ancient mosaics are preserved here. On a clear day, you can see the rooftops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Things to do for Authentics
- Book a room at a Dead Sea resort and pamper yourself with spa treatments; entertain yourself floating in the salty sea.
- Enter Petra in a horse-drawn carriage (you will disembark and walk once inside Petra itself). Also, see this historic site at night by the light of 1,800 candles.
- Find a spice market and buy samples of saffron or other spices.
- In Madaba, called the city of mosaics, see the sixth century Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land, found on the floor in the still-active Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.
- See the Archaeological Museum, as well as the Museum of Jordanian Heritage, in Irbid, Jordan’s second-largest city.
- Buy a unique souvenir, a bottle filled with brightly colored sands that create unique patterns or pictures.
For more information, consult the Jordan Tourism Board at http://na2.visitjordan.com and, then, to locate a Jordan Destination Specialist, go to the menu under Plan Your Trip and click on Travel Agents.