From the desert to the sea: Jordan Jamboree
Staying afloat in the salty waters of the Dead Sea, exploring the rose-red, rock-hewn Nabataean City and strolling through the Roman ruins in Jerash are some of the exhilarating experiences in Jordan. Text & Photos by Susheela Nair
Think of Jordan and beautiful images come to mind… haunting wilderness of the red desert sands of Wadi Rum, the brilliant blues of the coral-filled Gulf of Aqaba, the splendid World Heritage Site of Petra and the lifeless Dead Sea. There’s jam-packed adventure, out-of-the-world experiences and stunning sights like canyons, castles, hot springs, mosaic maps and Roman ruins to explore in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a land of enthralling beauty and contrasts.
How to get there
Nearest airport: It is 35 km away south of Amman.
By Sea: A car ferry service operates from Nuweiba to Aqaba. Visas should be obtained in advance.
By Road: One can come to Jordan by road through Syria, Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Weather: In summer, the evenings can be cool, and in winter the weather can turn rather cold, especially in Amman and the east.
Best time to visit: April to May or September to October
Must see must do
Jerash: It is hailed as one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns outside Rome. It is a delight to wander through the paved colonnaded streets, spying soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. Don’t miss the small museum which merits a visit.
Stop by Madoba, an important Christian centre where the Friday call to prayer from the mosque coexists with Sunday church bells. It is the City of Mosaics, whose pride lies, well, in its historically significant Byzantine –era mosaics. The Orthodox Church of Saint George houses a sixth century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, often touted as the oldest surviving original depiction of the Holy Land.
Mt. Nebo is the mountain on which Moses saw the Promised Land and the final station in Moses’ flight from Egypt to the Holy Land. One can stand at the windswept promontory overlooking the Dead Sea, the Jordan River Valley, Jericho and the distant hills of Jerusalem and look at the land where Moses died.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan:
Bethany, an important archaeological site pinpoints a major event in the life of Jesus. John the Baptist lived here ages ago. A mud track flanked by shrubs leads to the actual site of Jesus’ baptism between Tell al Kharrar and John the Baptist Church. Jesus is said to have stayed here before heading off to spend 40 days in the nearby wilderness. He first prayed to God and gathered his first apostles and laid the foundations of the early Christian faith.
Head to The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, for therapeutic indulgence. Slather yourself in the dark brown Dead Sea mud, bake the mud into your skin in the sunlight, and then lounge in the mineral-rich salt waters. You’ll just bob about on the surface like a cork due to the high salinity but do not attempt swimming. The Egyptian mummies were embalmed with the Dead Sea mud, which is laden with minerals and nutrients. While you stay afloat, you can see afar the silhouette of Israel glistening in sunlit haze and sculpted rocks embellished with crusted salt on the shore creating some stunning colours.
Petra would have remained in obscurity if the Swiss explorer Johan Ludwig Burckhardt had not stumbled upon it in 1812. The erstwhile capital of the Nabataeons, it shot into prominence when the dramatic red sand stone temples and tombs formed the backdrop of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The piece de resistance is the façade of the Treasury. The hillside tombs along Petra’s one street, the treasury and the monastery are some of the prominent monuments of this World Heritage site which is now voted as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Hire a 4x4 vehicle, and drive into the largest and most magnificent of Jordan’s desert landscapes. Explore Wadi Rum’s sands and rocks, punctuated by towering jebels (hills) that have eroded into soft sandstone over a period of almost 50 million years. Marvel at the moon-like landscapes, monolithic rockscape, contemplate the ancient carved inscriptions and many other spectacular treasures, and sip tea with Bedouin locals.
Aqaba: Aqaba’s sandy beaches and coral reefs, a stark contrast to the rest of the terrain in Jordan, are its biggest allure. It is Jordan’s window to the sea. You can indulge in sailing, fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling and explore the underwater brilliance of the coral-rich gulf.
You can pick up traditional crafts like Nabataen-style pottery, beadwork jewellery, Bedouin jewellery, ceramics, sand bottles, handmade glass, Dead Sea products, hand-woven rugs and cushions, beautifully embroidered items and clothing, traditional pottery, glassware, Bedouin knives, coffee pots, narghilehs (water pipes), marquetry work, mosaic works, antiques and other artefacts.
Stop by Petra Kitchen restaurant in Petra and savour the pita bread, hummus, falafel, baba ganuj, musakhan and baklava. Don’t miss the legendary tea.
Camp in the Bedouin tents in Wadi Rum under a starry sky and enjoy the spectacular sunrises and sunsets.