FINDING JORDAN

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on November 07, 2016 with No Comments

Discovering an ancient kingdom for the first time traveller.

Words & Images VISIT JORDAN

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Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the Siq.

 

 

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which once captivated ancient travellers, continues to enthral a whole new generation as a modern, vibrant nation. From the haunting, primeval starkness of Wadi Rum to the teeming centre of urban Amman, and from the majestic ruins of bygone civilisations to the timeless splendour of the Dead Sea, Jordan is unveiled as a unique destination offering breathtaking and mysterious sights with countless activities that can provide visitors with inspiration, motivation and rejuvenation.

Marvelling at herds of gazelles and oryx and migrating birds, camping amidst the grandeur of Wadi Rum or Dana Reserve, trekking the ancient caravan trails from the highlands of Moab and Edom, hiking the wooded hills of Gilead, or experiencing the unique, cleansing mud baths of the Dead Sea are just a few examples of the treasures awaiting visitors to this unique kingdom.

Amman, the capital of Jordan for instance, is a fascinating city of contrasts. A sprawling city spread over 19 hills, or “jebels,” it makes the perfect base to delve deep into Jordan as it is no more than a four hour drive from anywhere in the country. Known as Rabbath-Ammon during the Iron Age and later as Philadelphia, the ancient city that was once part of the Decapolis league now boasts a population of around 2.3 million people.

As a modern and prosperous city, almost half of Jordan’s population is concentrated in the Amman area. The city is also often referred to as “the white city” due to its low size canvas of stone houses. There are a number of renovations and excavations taking place that have revealed remains from the Neolithic period, as well as from the Hellenestic and late Roman to Arab Islamic Ages. The site which is known as the Citadel includes many structures such as the Umayyad Palace. At the foot of the Citadel lies the 6,000 seat Roman Theatre, which is a deep-sided bowl carved into the hill and is still being used for cultural events. The three museums found in the area offer a glimpse of history and culture; they are the Jordan Archaeological Museum, The Folklore Museum and the Museum of Popular Traditions.

There is evidence of the city’s much older past everywhere you turn. You can find modern building rubbing shoulders with traditional coffee shops and old souqs. The downtown area is much older and more traditional, with smaller businesses producing and selling everything from intricate gold and silver jewellery, to everyday household items. You can find art galleries, coffee shop and a diversity of artisan shops along Rainbow Street that truly embodies the unique blend of old and new that the city manifests.

Travelling south from Amman along the 5,000-year-old Kings Highway and passing through a string of ancient sites, visitors will encounter Madaba. This “City of Mosaics” is best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics and is home to the famous 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of coloured stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.

The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan’s national treasures and by far its best known tourist attraction. Located approximately three hours south of Amman, Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that enchants visitors from all corners of the globe. Much of Petra’s appeal comes from its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. The site is accessed by walking through a kilometre long chasm (or “Siq”), the walls of which soar 200 metres upwards. Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the Siq. Used in the final sequence of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the towering façade of the Treasury is only one of myriad archaeological wonders to be explored at Petra. Various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds of buildings, baths, arched gateways, colonnaded streets and haunting rock drawings, all of which can be explored at leisure.

A close second to Petra on the list of favourite destinations in Jordan, the ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. The city’s golden age came under Roman rule and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. Beneath its external Graeco-Roman veneer, Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of east and west. Its architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed and coexisted: The Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.

Don’t leave Jordan without visiting the Jordan Rift Valley, a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 400 metres below sea level. The lowest point on the face of the earth, this vast stretch of water receives a number of incoming rivers, including the River Jordan. Once the waters reach the Dead Sea they are land-locked and have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind a dense, rich, cocktail of salts and minerals that supply industry, agriculture and medicine with some of its finest products. The leading attraction at the Dead Sea is the warm, soothing, super salty water itself – some ten times saltier than sea water, and rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine and several others. The unusually warm, incredibly buoyant and mineral-rich waters have attracted visitors since ancient times, including King Herod the Great and the beautiful Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra. All of whom have luxuriated in the Dead Sea’s rich, black, stimulating mud and floated effortlessly on their backs while soaking up the water’s healthy minerals along with the gently diffused rays of the Jordanian sun.

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Dubai daily for connections to Jordan.

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