Jordan Guide: where to go and what to see

Jordan guide. We take you to the discovery of Jordan, a fascinating Arab country, with an ancient history and extraordinary landscapes. Jordan or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a state of the Middle East, as we say today, although it would be more correct to speak of the Near East. It rises on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, from which it takes its name, at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe, in an area of ancient civilizations.

Jordan, in fact, belongs to the historical region of the Fertile Crescent, an expression created by the American archaeologist James Henry Breasted, which indicates that strip of countries in the Middle East, which goes from the Persian Gulf to the Nile valley, in which the great four rivers are included, Tigris, Euphrates, Nile and Jordan, in whose fertile valleys the first agricultural civilizations of history and the first great nations of antiquity were born.

The territory of Jordan is formed by deserts and large plateaus, overlooking the Dead Sea, to the west, and the Red Sea, in the Gulf of Aqaba, to the south-west. The countries with which it borders are: Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, Israel and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank to the west and northwest. With the latter it shares the Dead Sea. The capital of the country is the city of Amman.

Jordan is famous for its spectacular natural landscapes of the desert and the Dead Sea, as well as for its ancient monuments and archaeological sites. The most famous of all is Petra, an ancient city carved into the rock, within a narrow valley. A country that offers many attractions to visitors and beautiful resorts where to stay. Here’s where to go and what to see in Jordan.

Its capital city Amman is both ancient and contemporary, with archaeological sites of the ancient Roman city and mirrored skyscrapers reflecting the blinding sunlight on the desert. Amman was built on seven hills, then its area expanded to include other hills, called Jabal. Due to its location on a plateau, the city enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The ancient name of Amman, in the 3rd century B.C., was Philadelphia, named after King Ptolemy Philadelphus, Ptolemy II.

Worth seeing in Amman is the impressive Roman Theater, built between 138 and 161 AD by the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. The theater is located at the back of the ancient Forum, of which today remains part of the colonnade, and is leaning against the side of a hill. It has about 6,000 seats and is still used for performances. Next to the Roman Theater are on one side the Roman Odeon and on the other the Folklore Museum, which houses clothing and objects of traditional culture.

Above the Roman Theater rises the Amman Citadel, a place of historical and archaeological interest. Here are the ruins of the Temple of Hercules and the Palace of the Ammonites, the Umayyad Palace, the Byzantine church and the Jordanian Archaeological Museum, which has a collection of ancient artifacts from prehistoric times to the 15th century. Below the Citadel, near the Roman Theater, is the Roman Nymphaeum. Also worth a visit is the Jordanian Museum, in the Ras Al-Ein district, the largest museum in the country, which houses the most important archaeological finds, including the statues of ‘Ain Ghazàl, named after the ancient Neolithic settlement near Amman, dating back to 7,500 BC and considered the oldest human statues ever made by mankind.

Amman is located just over 50 km from the northern coast of the Dead Sea, where the city’s tourist beach is located, connected by the Jordan Valley Hihgway. The beach is home to a resort with several hotels, spas, swimming pools and bathhouses.

To the south of this tourist resort, there is also along the Dead Sea coast the Mujib Nature Reserve with the thermal springs of Ma’in, inland. The sources gush out from a fracture in the rock, forming a waterfall of natural hot water, under which it has been obtained a thermal establishment with hotel. The area is crossed by dark rock gorges, surrounded by lush green nature. The characteristic of this place is its deep depression, up to 200 meters above sea level.

Jordan Guide: Petra and Jerash
The most famous archaeological site in Jordan is Petra, the city carved into the rock, inside a narrow valley, also called the «pink city», because its buildings are carved into the walls of sandstone pink color, which changes with the changing sunlight. Petra dates back to 300 BC and was the ancient capital first of the Edomites and then of the Nabateans, a people of merchants who settled in this area at the time important crossroads for trade. Its Semitic name was Reqem or Raqmu, which means «the Variopinta», also attested in the manuscripts or Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran Manuscripts). Petra is one of the most amazing places in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and one of the new 7 Wonders of the Modern World.

The symbol of the city, depicted in all pictures and postcards, is the majestic building of El Khasneh al Faroun, the Pharaoh’s Treasure, with its monumental facade carved into the rock face opposite the mouth of the narrow Siq gorge that gives access to the ancient site. Petra was a huge city, whose magnificence has remained testimony in its temples, tombs and other ancient buildings. The archaeological site covers a vast desert area, formed by mountains and wadis, stream beds where water flowed. It houses more than 800 monuments, 500 of which are tombs. The ancient city is developed on a long and narrow path between the mountains, where there are temples, tombs, a nymphaeum, a Byzantine church, a theater and a museum. It can be accessed from a single entry point, which starts from the visitor center of Wadi Musa, the name of the modern town of Petra. The city is located 250 kilometers south of Amman, between the mountains of Wadi Araba, to the east, and the great valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, on the Red Sea, to the west. In this area, on your way to Petra, stop to visit the impressive Montreal Castle, or Shobak Castle, a fortress built by the Crusaders in the 12th century. It was built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem during an expedition to the area and stands on a cone-shaped mountain.

The other archaeological wonder to visit is the site of the ancient city of Jerash. First Greek then Roman, Jerash has a very rich heritage, with remains of Greco-Roman buildings, but also Byzantine churches. The first important settlement was established by the Greeks with Alexander the Great, but it was with the Romans that the city became important, acquiring the classical urban structure of which the signs remain in the second century AD under Emperor Hadrian. After a period of decadence, it knew a new splendor in the sixth century, with Justinian and the construction of Byzantine churches, unfortunately at the expense of Roman temples. The Arab occupation and a very violent earthquake in 747 marked its destiny for good. Modern Jerash has grown a lot in recent years thanks to tourism.

The archaeological site of Jerash is characterized for the great Forum to elliptic form, surrounded by the evocative colonnade. The other important monuments are the Arch of Hadrian, erected on the occasion of the visit of Emperor Hadrian, the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Artemis, the Hippodrome, the South Pota, the nymphaeum, the baths and several theaters. A wonder to visit absolutely. The site also houses a museum. Jerash is the second tourist attraction in Jordan after Petra. It is located 52 km north of Amman.

Jordan Guide: Sea and Desert
Jordan’s other major attraction is the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, with a depression 425 meters deep below sea level, and the saltiest sea, in which you naturally float without sinking. The Dead Sea is a popular tourist destination for relaxation and body care. Its waters with a very high concentration of salt, 10 times higher than that of other seas on Earth, and with other minerals, have healing and aesthetic properties. The Dead Sea offers an evocative, almost lunar setting, with its dazzling turquoise waters, white salt deposits, palm trees along the shores and surrounding ochre-colored mountains.

Jordan’s other sea to visit is the Gulf of Aqaba, on the Red Sea in southern Jordan. Here at the end of the Gulf lies the city of Aqaba, next to the city of Eilat, separated by the border with Israel. Aqaba is a tourist city with hotels and resorts, equipped beaches of golden sand, with palm trees and a clear dark blue sea, with spectacular backdrops, ideal for diving enthusiasts.

An old military plane was sunk off the coast of Aqaba to attract diving enthusiasts.

Inland from Aqaba, about 60 km to the east, lies the large and spectacular desert of Wadi Rum, a deep valley carved over millennia by the passage of a river over the land formed by sand and granite rock. It is the largest wadi or uadi of Jordan, with high mountains, of which the highest peak is Jebel Rum, at 1754 meters. Wadi Rum is also called the Valley of the Moon and the Red Desert, because of the color of its sand. The striking landscape makes it a much sought-after film location. Many films set on Mars have been filmed here and especially many scenes from the colossal Lawrence of Arabia. See the rock carvings in the Khazʿali Canyon.

Jordan guide: when to go and practical information
The best times to visit Jordan are spring, March to May, and fall, September and October. In summer it is too hot, because of the scorching sun, while in winter it is unexpectedly very cold, mainly because of the winds. The climate on the Gulf of Aqba is milder in winter.

There are numerous air connections from Europe to Jordan, even from the cities of Rome and Milan. In addition, low cost flights to Amman are increasing, such as the new Ryanair flights.

Documentation required. To enter Jordan you need a passport with a residual validity of at least six months and a visa, which can be obtained directly upon arrival at the airport, with the payment of a sum in local currency. Or at the land borders, with the exception of Israel, where visas are not issued. Finally, the visa can be obtained, before leaving, at the Jordanian diplomatic/consular offices in Italy. For further information consult the portal Viaggiare Sicuri.

The language spoken in Jordan is Arabic, but in the capital Amman and in the main cities Jordanians also speak English, then French and German.

The current currency is the Jordanian dinar.

The time zone is one hour more than in Italy when we use standard time, from October to March, and two hours more in the summer season, when we use daylight saving time, from April to September.

We remind you our article: Jordan: 5 beauties to visit, in addition to Petra



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