Walk in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, float in the healing waters of the Dead Sea or go back in time to the pre-historic city of Petra – Safinah & Danish Elahi discover that there’s no shortage of adventures awaiting one in Jordan.
There’s a reason why Jordan has served as the backdrop for many a Hollywood blockbuster – from Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to more recently, The Martian. Perhaps no other country in the world presents such a fascinating array of natural and man-made sights, be it the spectacular desert of Wadi Rum, the archaeological marvel that is the city of Petra or the healing waters of the Dead Sea. Add to that the bustling metropolitan capital, Amman, that provides a charming mix of modernity and tradition, exotic cuisine and legendary Arab hospitality and you have a holiday destination that is a real winner, as Safinah and Danish Elahi discovered on a recent trip. Here, the couple shares their tips on travelling to the country.
Jordon is a 2 hour 45 minute flight from Dubai, which makes it the perfect long weekend getaway. It has tremendous historic significance and is a great tourist spot for all who wish to visit. It’s home to Petra, one of the New Wonders of the World.
Our first impression of the country was that it was decidedly Arab, with a splash of modernity. There were mosques and cathedrals side by side; people were in western attire as well as Islamic. Jordanians are hospitable and hard-working people; they will fondly refer to the West Bank as Palestine yet they have good relations with their neighbour Israel as well. We’ve visited the UAE and Egypt but Jordon is unique in its own way. Nature plays an important role in lending the country its distinct appeal.
Best time of the year to visit:
We travelled mid-May, which was the tail end of the tourist season and still pretty good weather. Nights can be a bit chilly in the desert and within Amman, but the days were sunny. The weather was perfect for snorkelling. The best time to visit Jordan is between February and May.
Top places to visit:
Amman is a metropolitan that is spread across hills. It’s a thriving modern city with some interesting cafés, malls and art galleries yet it retains an old city feel, given its various ancient relics, such as The Citadel and the Roman Theatre that was built originally in the 2nd century BC. The downtown souvenir market and Rainbow Street, along with a couple of good malls, are the places to hit if you’re looking to pick up some goodies.
Aqaba has a rich history and is home to the world’s oldest church but the city, which is Jordan’s gateway to the famed Red Sea, is known mainly for its water sports activities such snorkelling and scuba diving. Equipment can be easily rented.
The Dead Sea:
People from all parts of the world come to the Dead Sea for several interests, whether it is just to take a dip in the majestic waters, or to benefit from the mud that cures all sorts of skin diseases, or to relax in one of the many top-of-the-line resorts built to favour travellers. The Dead Sea is famous for its products enriched with minerals, such as scrubs, shampoos, bath salts, anti-aging creams etc. It was pretty cool to swim and use the body mud mask available at the beach.
Wadi Rum, or the Valley of the Moon, is a spectacular desert valley with dramatic rock formations and possibly the clearest skies in the world. Tents set up in the middle of the desert provide a true Bedouin-like experience, taking one back to ancient times when caravans plied through the valley trading spices and other goods. The tents are very comfortable with basic amenities and for dinner, we were served lamb that had been cooked under the sand for more than 4 hours. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender!
Petra is an ancient city carved into red desert cliffs. It is believed to have been established as early as 312 BC by nomadic Arabs known as the Nabataeans. Petra is still only 17% excavated and yet it is magnificent in its expanse. The structures are brilliant, the techniques are intelligent and there are remnants of multiple communities who seem to have resided there. Some religious symbols are found, which confirm that Petra was the capital of its civilization at several points in time through history. A must-see for all visiting Jordan.
Where to stay:
- The Four Seasons in Amman – a lovely hotel with an excellent breakfast, friendly staff and good location.
- Sun City Camp at Wadi Rum – for an unforgettable night under the stars.
- Kempinski Ishtar Hotel on the Dead Sea – with multiple pools including an infinity pool and a private beach with mud mask facilities free of cost, it is highly recommended.
Top things to do:
Snorkelling in the Red Sea
The Red Sea is famed to have unparalleled underwater sights, with crystal clear blue waters, stunning corals and gorgeous fish.
Desert Safari at Wadi Rum
Just before sunrise, we hopped onto 4×4 jeeps and drove across the desert to the Sunrise Viewing Point on top of a sand dune next to Rakhabat Canyon. Watching the sun rise over the horizon here is perhaps one of the most beautiful sights in the world. The safari traces the footsteps of the indefatigable TE Lawrence, who stayed here in 1917; stops include the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Nabataen Temple and the Lawrence House. Another highlight of the safari was pretending to be Matt Damon in The Martian (which was filmed here) and taking his spot on the rocks overlooking the region!
We actually got very lucky on our ride because our Bedouin guide let my husband Danish drive the jeep across the sand dunes, which was a great adventure. We also used the opportunity to take really artsy photos of the Traveller Bag that we produce and sell through our e-Commerce platform
Floating in the Dead Sea
It’s really quite miraculous, as given the water’s natural buoyancy due to the high salt content of the sea, one just floats naturally here. And once you step out, your skins feels as soft as a baby’s!
Sampling local delicacies
You can’t leave Jordan without trying out Hashem’s for falafel and Habiba for baklava (Arab fried dessert).
Shopping for souvenirs
The best souvenir shops are in downtown Amman. From lamps to jewellery, Dead Sea beauty products to textiles and ceramics, you name it and they have it. The most interesting souvenir we bought back was an ostrich egg, with a verse from the Holy Quran painted on it. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Travel light, don’t forget your sunblock and good walking shoes if you plan to spend some time in Petra. Keep a light jacket for evenings, as they can get chilly even in May.