Jordan is in the middle of a region of great historical wealth. A crossroad of paths and civilisations and the scene of great rivalries. Between ancient empires such as Assyria and Babylon, Macedonia and Persia or Rome and Byzantium. The route of the ancient caravans of camels loaded with incense; caravans descending from Damascus to the Red Sea, passing through the highlands of Moab and Edom. Crossed by Nabatean merchants, Egyptians, Roman legionaries and, later, by Muslim armies and fervent crusaders.
A route of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Christians to Jerusalem. It is full of sites of great archaeological and spiritual importance. In Bethany, John baptised Jesus and near the Dead Sea. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah unleashed the wrath of God. From here Moses saw the Promised Land. All these peoples left their mark on these lands. In the form of cities carved in the rock, Roman amphitheatres, crusader castles, Christian mosaics, mosques… which have fascinated travellers in search of the ancient world and the origins of faith.
We were present with a unique Jordan. We will visit its artistic heritage, its landscapes… and we will stay with its people, with this hospitable Bedouin spirit. That today provides for a country of enormous solidarity, receiving the thousands of refugees fleeing from different conflicts around them. Showing its spirit of tolerance… a religious tolerance perceived on Fridays. When Muslim imams call for prayer before dawn. And the bells invite Orthodox Christians to rise with the first ray of light. Where we were presented with a Jordan lesser known to the traveller’s eyes.
The first few days into my trip to Jordan I had the privilege of attending the Europamundo Aqaba Convention for 2019.
Below is my amazing experience that I wish to share with you all and hopefully inspire you to visit this interesting attraction.
Monday, 04 November: Aqaba – Petra (126 Km)
After breakfast. We left Aqaba, a port city on the shore of the Red Sea. Following the caravan route, we crossed arid and desert lands to the mythical PETRA, one of the most famous archaeological jewels of the Middle East and a Unesco World Heritage Site. First, we made a stop in the town of Wadi Musa to see the Moses Spring, where tradition has it that the prophet struck the rock with his rod and water began to spring forth to quench the Israelites’ thirst. The spring is located in a simple modern building.
We thereafter continued to the Petra Museum, a good introduction to the history of the ancient Nabatean city, which helped us understand the visit the city of Petra. Forgotten for centuries, known only to the Bedouins who made it their homes until the early nineteenth century, the city retains much of its mystery thanks to its remoteness. We crossed the Siq Gorge, formed by narrow sandstone walls of different tones until we reach the most impressive monument known as the “Treasure” or al – Khaznah. We continued through the Theatre, the street of Columns and the Royal Tombs. The tour included lunch, after that, we visit the beautiful sites we took a transfer back to the hotel where we were presented with dinner.
Tuesday, 5 November: Petra – Shobak – Lot Cave – Dead Sea (200 Km)
After breakfast, we departed to the central highlands of Jordan. We climbed the King’s Highway, a historical route along which goods, pilgrims and armies circulated throughout the Middle East. This route houses places of biblical importance and well-preserved castles. Thereafter we made a stop to photograph the SHOBAK FORTRESS, built in the early twelfth century by the Crusaders and which stands imposingly on a hill. We continued to As-Safi, at the southern end of the Dead Sea, where we visited LOT’S CAVE. It is assumed that Lot lived here with his daughters after his wife had been turned into a salt statue after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In its surroundings, it is also possible to visit a small Byzantine church where some mosaics are preserved.
We began to climb the road that borders the Dead Sea amidst beautiful scenery. Along the way, we saw springs in strong contrast with the area’s desert landscape. We climbed up to the PANORAMIC COMPLEX OF THE DEAD SEA, whose viewpoint gave us a dreamlike panoramic view of the place. And indulged in some very delicious Lunch.
Fun Fact: The DEAD SEA is the lowest point on Earth, more than 400 metres below sea level. Its main attraction is its warm and salty waters that contain ten times more salt than the rest of the world’s seas and are rich in mineral salts which, since ancient times, have attracted from King Herod to the beautiful Egyptian queen Cleopatra.
Will you want the experience of floating in its waters? I highly recommend that you do as it is an experience of a lifetime!
Wednesday, 6 November: Dead Sea – Bethany -Ajloun – Jerash – Amman (173 Km)
After Breakfast, we departed to BETHANY, on the banks of the River Jordan, recently declared a Unesco World Heritage Site; this is the place where archaeologists say John the Baptist baptised Jesus. The area reveals Roman and Byzantine remains, as well as the remains of five Paleochristian churches and chapels. We went on through vineyards and forests in the fertile Jordan Valley until we came to the city of AJLOUN, overlooked by its majestic castle. We then visited the AJLOUN FORTRESS, a strategic twelfth-century defensive point from the time of the Crusades. After the visit to the castle, we descended to the city centre, where one of the oldest mosques in Jordan stands. Nearby there is a complex belonging to the Orthodox Christian community, where we heard the bells of the ancient CHURCH OF ST SERGIUS at the bottom, and those of the CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, at the top. A Prayer for Peace was held at this beautiful church.
After this, we left for the Greek-Roman city of JERASH, known as the “Pompeii of the East” for its excellent state of preservation; a whole monumental complex that took us back in time. We saw Hadrian’s Arch, the Hippodrome, the Agora, the Temple of Artemis, the South Theatre as well as the Forum with its beautiful columns. After the visit, we went on to AMMAN.
Thursday, 7 November-Amman – Castles of the Desert – Amman (275 Km)
After Breakfast, we visited the CASTLES OF THE DESERT, built between the seventh and eighth centuries under the caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty, which made Damascus it’s capital in 661. Most of the castles are on the ancient route between Medina and Kufa. They may have been partly defensive, partly barns and partly shopping centres. We saw QASR KHARANA, with its imposing thick walls. Inside, the central courtyard provides a space of calm. We continued to QUSAYR AMRA, a Unesco World Heritage Site that stands in the middle of a desert plain and is known for its remarkable frescoes on its walls. We finished our visit at QASR AL AZRAQ, built-in black basalt stone, a stopping place for the caravans that travelled the commercial route between Baghdad and Jerusalem. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was Lawrence of Arabia’s centre of operations during the Arab Revolt against the Turks. This area is the place of the Druze minorities. We return to Amman after the visit. On the way, we will see one of the largest refugee camps (Zaatari) that houses those who have managed to flee the Syrian civil war.
Friday, 8 November: Amman.
Transfer to the airport to fly to different points of origin. To be honest I wish we could have stayed at least a couple of more days. This place is phenomenally beautiful and I know there is more to discover behind this vast historical beauty.
I hope you all are inspired by my adventurous journey and hope to hear feedback from your future visits to Jordan…