Beautiful Aqaba perched on the edge of the Red Sea. Shimmering red and gold desert sand punctuated with interesting geological formations in Wadi Rum. Petra and its rose-colored magnificence. The beguiling and rejuvenating Dead Sea. Contemporary urban buzz rooted in ancient history in Amman. Amazingly well-preserved ancient Roman ruins in Jerash. This is Jordan.
But Jordan is more than just beautiful places. Its complex history is observable through fascinating ancient mosaics, castles, museums, churches, mosques and ruins. Yet it’s the intangible way this rich historical legacy colors your experience and shapes your mood that makes a trip to Jordan so special. There’s also delicious food, most of which is transported farm to table daily from the valley, and stunning and surprisingly varied landscape such as desert, mountains, grasslands, olive groves and canyons. There are many sites of tremendous religious significance for Christians, Muslims and Jews, and a fascinating and complex cosmopolitan vibe due to its geographical location (it shares a border with Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Saudi Arabia.) The super friendly and hospitable people make discovering it even more enjoyable.
Jordan has been on my travel wish list for a while now. A three-hour flight away, it’s a popular vacation spot from Dubai. When I started researching for the trip, I felt really uninformed because I had no idea how much there is to do. There’s much more to this country than Petra and the Dead Sea (as if those weren’t enough!). In the few days we had, we could only scratch the surface of discovering everything this amazing country has to offer.
We started with a day in Amman. I’ve heard people speak dismissively of the capital. “Skip it” is the usual advice. In a country with so much to do, I can understand in a way, but I really enjoyed our brief visit. It’s gritty and lively, which I really like. Fifty percent of all Jordanians live here, so I think it’s important to see if you want to get a sense of how people live here.
The citadel sits on the highest hill in Amman. It features Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic structures. A few pics from the area follow:
I liked the way the delicate little wildflowers framed the view of the ruins and city.
The shabby condition of the building that houses the Archaeological Museum deceives the high quality of the treasures it holds. It features some interesting works of art, coins and other artifacts.
The citadel is also home to an ancient Islamic palace from the Umayyad period. The mosque in the area has a newly built wooden dome. (The Umayyad period refers to a Muslim dynasty that ruled the Islamic world from 660-750 AD and Moorish Spain from 750-1030) The dynasty claimed descent from a distant relative of Muhammad named Umayya.
Built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Theater held around 6,000 people. Restoration work reinforced the structure and it is still used for events. The columns outside the theater were part of a Roman Forum which was one of the largest public squares at the time.
After visiting the ancient ruins, we drove through the souk area and then on to the newer part of the city. I would have loved to jump out of the car to wander around. It wasn’t a particularly atmospheric area in terms of space, but I enjoyed the glimpse of normal daily life: vendors selling live chickens, women shopping for fruits and vegetables, people drinking freshly squeezed juice. I took the following pictures from the car.
Next time we’re off to Mt. Nebo (where it is said Moses saw the promised land) and to discover some of the locally made handicrafts.