A well-travelled bridge between sea and desert, east and west, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a land of mesmerizing beauty and contrasts, from the Jordan Valley, fertile, ever changing, to the remote desert canyons, immense and still. Visitors can explore splendid desert castles, gaze in awe at the haunting wilderness of Wadi Rum, or bathe in the restful waters of the Red Sea.
For adventure lovers, there’s horse riding, 4x4 safaris, rock climbing and hiking. For taking it easy, nothing on earth compares to the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, with their many spa facilities.
Modern Jordan was founded by King Abdullah I after World War I. It was ruled by his grandson, the late King Hussein, for 46 years until his death in 1999, when his son, King Abdullah II, assumed the throne. Jordan has grown into a modern nation that has enjoyed a remarkable measure of peace, stability and economic growth in recent decades.
Airport : Queen Alia International Airport - Conveniently located within 50 minutes of Amman’s downtown, Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) is considered to be the main airport in Jordan and is serviced by many global airline carriers.
Country Code: 962
Credit Cards: Major credit cards are usable in tourist areas. Some ATMs may not accept withdrawls.
Currency: Jordanian dinar (JOD)
Departure Tax: Departure tax is included in your international air fare.
Drives on the: Right
Electricity: 220 - 240 V (Russian and Great Britian configurations)
Ethnic Groups: 98% Arab, 1% Circassian (Adyghe), 1% Armenian
Location: Jordan is located in the Middle East, bordering Israel to the West and Saudi Arabia to the East.
Official Language(s): Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken in the cities. French, German, Italian and Spanish are also spoken.
Religion : Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi'a Muslim and Druze populations).
Time Zone: GMT + 2
Tipping: Not required, but appreciated. Some tourists spots may add 10% to the bill.
Jordan is a year-round destination – but despite its small size, you’ll find wide variations in climate, often reliant on the topography: Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum all lie well over 800m above sea level, Dana and Ajloun are even higher (up to 1500m), whereas the Dead Sea lies 400m below sea level. The same January day could have you throwing snowballs in Ajloun or topping up your tan on the Red Sea beaches.
The best time to visit Jordan is spring (March–May), when temperatures are toasty but not scorching, wildflowers are out everywhere (even the desert is carpeted), and the hills and valleys running down the centre of the country are lush and gorgeously colourful.
The Amman citadel is perched on top of one of the seven hills that make up the city and is considered to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited places. It has had a long history of occupation by many great civilizations dating back to the Neolithic period (around 8000 BC). The buildings which are viewable now on a Jordan vacation are from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. These include the ruins of the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church and the Umayyad Palace, a complex of royal and residential buildings and the best-preserved in the Citadel. Archaeologists have been working at the site since the 1920’s but a large part of the Citadel is still unexcavated. The view from the citadel of Amman is spectacular.
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. It was established possibly as early as the 4th Century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom (the Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs) with a population of around 20,000 inhabitants. It is the number one attraction on trips to Jordan and remained unknown to Europeans until it was rediscovered in 1812. It is carved into the rose-coloured rock face and is a vast complex initially reached via the Siq, a narrow gorge, 1 kilometre/half a mile long flanked by high cliffs. At the end of this gorge, you arrive at the Treasury carved out of the rock face in the first Century AD. Its purpose was containing the tomb of an important Nabataean king. After this, you enter a valley where you will find a great expanse of land containing hundreds of rock-cut tombs. Roughly 500 still exist. Highlights include a Roman-style theatre, obelisks, temples, colonnaded streets and the Ad-Deir Monastery which is situated on top of a rock face and reached by climbing 800 steps. Also located here are the Petra Archaeological Museum and the Petra Nabataean Museum.
Wadi Rum, also known as The Valley of the Moon, is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan and is quite isolated and mainly inhospitable to human life. It offers one of the easiest glimpses of the desert in the region. It is possible to stay over at one of the desert camps on a Jordan vacation to really savour Wadi Rum. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads keeping the area unspoilt. There are a large number of soaring cliffs which add to the attraction. Jebel Rum is the second highest peak in Jordan rising directly above the Wadi Rum valley. Four Wheel Drive vehicles and Jeeps are mainly used to tour the valley although it can be done on a camel ride.
Jordan shares the Dead Sea with Israel, the lowest point in the world. The water in the Dead Sea is extremely salty and has been estimated to be the second saltiest major body of water in the world. Due to this, you can float with ease in the sea where it is nearly impossible to sink. The mud along the shore of the Dead Sea contains many minerals and is believed to have medicinal and therapeutic qualities. There are a number of resort hotels which line the shore of the sea. You can enjoy a spa treatment, watch the sunset across the sea and look over to the West Bank to view lights of Jerusalem in the distance.
Not far from the Dead Sea is the town of Madaba, known as the 'City of Mosaics' and famous for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map at the Saint George Church, a 6th Century mosaic depiction of Jerusalem and parts of the Holy Land.
Mount Nebo is a 10-minute drive from Madaba. The site has some wonderful views of the Dead Sea and Jericho in Israel and on a really clear day, Jerusalem. This is the spot where the Bible states that Moses went to see the "promised land." The excavated remains of a church and a monument, discovered in 1933, commemorating the biblical story of Moses stand on top of the mountain. The church was first constructed in the second half of the 4th Century to commemorate the place of Moses' death.
The ancient city of Jerash is one of the most popular attractions on trips to Jordan after Petra. It is considered one of the largest and best-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside of Italy and its history dates back more than 6,500 years. It consists of outstanding colonnaded streets, public squares, theatres, fountains and hilltop temples. Jerash was a thriving city during the 4th Century BC under the rule of Alexander the Great. During its prime, Jerash had roughly a population of around 20,000. It was later invaded by the Persians and then the Muslims and suffered an earthquake causing sufficient damage for it to be abandoned, hidden for centuries, as it was buried under the sand. It was rediscovered in 1806 and has been excavated since 1925.
Kerak is a fortified, ancient Crusader castle located 900 metres/2830 feet above sea level with a view of the Dead Sea and lies inside the walls of the old city. The castle dates back to the 12th Century and took the Crusaders 20 years to build. A good way to see the castle is through its Sound and Light performance when it is lit by 50 post lights accompanied by a short documentary movie about the history of Kerak. There is an Archaeological Museum (Castle Museum in the lower court of the castle which covers the local history and archaeology of Kerak Castle, the region and the city. There is an exhibition of excavated artifacts.
Ajloun Castle is a 12th Century Muslim castle situated in north-west Jordan located on a hilltop. The castle stands on the ruins of a monastery, traces of which were discovered during archaeological excavations. It was an important link in the defensive chain against the Crusaders who were unsuccessful in capturing it. The castle was largely destroyed by Mongol invaders in 1260, only to be almost immediately rebuilt by the Mamluks. Earthquakes in 1837 and 1927 badly damaged the castle, though slow and steady restoration is continuing. Its location dominates a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley. It is guarded symbolically by ten soldiers who are placed at different gates.
Aqaba is a resort on the north-east tip of the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba, handy for visits to Petra and Wadi Rum. It is an excellent place for scuba diving and snorkeling on trips to Jordan with mild temperatures in the winter but hot in the summer. Run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, the Aqaba Bird Observatory is an artificially created wetland that is host to a variety of species that use the area as a stopping-off point on bird migrations between Africa, Europe and Asia. Birders will get particular pleasure from the concentration of white-eyed gulls as the Gulf of Aqaba has the largest population in the world.
Jordan holidays include a variety of festivals throughout the year, some religious like Muharram, which celebrates the start of the Islamic New Year, but most are an affair of culture. The Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival and the Jerash Festival are all held to remember the different peopleand traditions which make up this interesting and varied country.
Muharram is a cause for great celebration across many towns in Jordan as it marks of the beginning of the Islamic New Year in January. This happens on a different day each year according to the cycles of the moon.
Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival
The northern town of Aqaba hosts a relatively large festival in February which celebrates the unique culture of the Bedouin people. Taking the form mainly of a crafts fair, the Bedouins and other minority groups bring their handicrafts to the seaside town for sale, showcasing their unique talents and keeping these traditions alive.
This festival, which also takes place in February, is native to the city of Azraq and its sole purpose is to present the town’s wonderful art, culture and crafts. A complete celebration with music, dancing and food in the town’s streets, it is one of the smaller festivals in Jordan, but by no means insignificant.
Amman International Theatre Festival
Hosted by an independent theatre company in March every year, the Amman International Theatre Festival brings together some of the rawest and freshest talent from around Jordan. Taking on somewhat of a competitive format, each performer has the chance to showcase their skills in English or Arabic.
Held every in July in the historical city of Jerash, this festival is one of the largest cultural celebrations in Jordan. Thousands descend to participate in special art and performances. Visitors will find music, dance, literature, food, handicrafts and general merriment among the festival goers. There are also artist’s workshops and seminars which are open for everyone to attend.
Taking place in October, the Jordan Rally is a motorcar race which brings together those with the need for speed from every corner of the globe. For a few thrilling days, the festival turns Jordan’s golden dunes into a race track and a large international crowd can be seen getting their adrenaline fill.
Cuisine in Jordan varies, although most restaurants have a mixed menu including both Arabic and European dishes. Authentic Jordanian cuisine can range from grilling (shish kebabs, shish taouks) to stuffing vegetables, to cooking meat and poultry. Jordanian cuisine is similar to many others in the Middle East, however, it is the inclusion of freshly made local yoghurt and cheese that adds a unique element. Also, Jordan is one of the largest producers of olives in the world and as such, olive oil is the main cooking oil used throughout the country.
Popular dishes include:
Mansaf: This is the national dish of Jordan. It includes lamb that has been seasoned with herbs and then cooked in yoghurt and served over a bed of rice.
Meze: These are small starters that include foods like hummus (chick peas boiled then blended with tahini paste, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice), falafel (balls of fried chickpea flour and spices) and foul maddamis (crushed fava beans served with a variety of toppings like olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and chili peppers). These are only a sampling of the many choices available when eating meze.
Mahshi Waraq 'inab: This dish involves vine leaves stuffed with rice, minced meat and spices.
Musakhan: Chicken is cooked in olive oil and onion sauce and is then roasted on Arab bread.
Baklava: A popular dessert, Baklava is a pastry filled with nuts and honey.
Kanafa: This is a pastry filled with nuts or goats cheese.
Ataif: This dish is traditionally eaten during Ramadan and consists of small fried pancakes filled with nuts or cheese.
Mohallabiya: This is a milk-based pudding perfumed with rose water or orange.
Drinking Arabic coffee is a ritual in Jordan. Coffee tends to be very strong and is served in small cups (with plenty of coffee grounds at the bottom). Local beer, wine and other types of alcohol are served in most restaurants and bars, except during the fasting month of Ramadan (non-Arabic nationals can drink alcohol only in hotels during Ramadan). Araq is local liquor similar to Greek Ouzo, usually mixed with water and ice. It is advisable to drink bottled water, which is cheap and widely available, although better hotels have their own water filtering systems.
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