Jordan – a mystery in stone, 2018.
Despite its location on the very edge of the Middle East hotspot, Jordan is a country that has managed to survive and represent a peaceful oasis in the chaos surrounding it. Partially captured in time with its biblical inheritance, alongside Israel and Palestine, Jordan is an interesting mix of traditional and modern. The country’s Bedouin culture successfully resists modernization, unwilling to renounce their customs, traditions, and doses of mysticism, causing tourists to fall in love with the desert expanses, red sand, and its legends.
When you think of Jordan, one place that undoubtedly comes to mind is Petra. This ancient city is a must-visit destination for travelers worldwide, and for a good reason. Its raw beauty and mysterious history make it an unforgettable experience.
Petra tells the story of a lost civilization that thrived long ago. The Nabateans, a group of desert nomads, were unique and innovative. They carved their kingdom out of pink sandstone, and Petra was their most significant city. For centuries, Petra remained unconquered, and the Nabateans enjoyed its beauty and prosperity.
Entering Petra is an experience in itself. The narrow gorge, Siq, over 1km long, is the only way to access the city. Legend states that Moses created the Siq by splitting the rock to provide water for his people after escaping Egypt.
Once a bustling crossroads of caravan routes, Petra is now one of the new world’s wonders. The city boasts hundreds of tombs, temples, baths, funerary halls, colonnaded streets, an open-air theatre, a huge Monastery from the 1st century, and networks of water capture, storage, transport, and irrigation systems. All of this incredible architecture and engineering still stand today, making Petra one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world.
For centuries, Petra resisted conquerors and maintained the reputation of being unconquerable. However, as time passed, the city became vulnerable, and conquerors came, one after another. Eventually, the Nabateans vanished, and Petra was abandoned. It was rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt, but even now, archaeologists have explored only 15% of the site.
Petra’s beauty and history have inspired many myths and legends, even in Hollywood. When Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail in Pharaoh’s treasury (Khaznat al-Faron), Petra’s former splendor returned to the world traveler’s map. Today, Petra is more popular than ever and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Jordan. It generates the largest national income, not from oil but from tourism.
Visiting Petra is an unforgettable experience. Its history, beauty, and mystery make it a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Petra is a testament to human ingenuity, architecture, and engineering and a reminder of the power of nature to create something truly awe-inspiring.
Wadi Rum is a surreal and out-of-this-world desert in Jordan that boasts breathtaking caves, narrow canyons, imposing cliffs, and red sandstone formations. The timeless desert is magnificent in its purity and beauty, and it has a rich past full of diverse stories of Bedouins, merchants, romantics, adventurers, and rebels.
Throughout history, caravans carrying incense and spices would rest in Wadi Rum on their way to the ports of the Mediterranean. The desert is grandiose, enchanting, and cruel, as it has witnessed many battles and conflicts. But despite its tumultuous past, Wadi Rum has remained iconic, and its history is somewhere between reality and legend.
Wadi Rum was brought closer to us through the adventures of the versatile Briton, Lawrence of Arabia, who described its charm and beauty in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Freshwater sources can be found in the desert, one of which is named after Lawrence of Arabia. These sources have been known since the Paleolithic era and are still used today as a water source for the capital city of Amman. Jordan’s drinking water reserves are considered sufficient for the next 40 years.
The Wadi Rum desert is also home to thousands of carvings and inscriptions on the walls that testify to the letter’s development and represent a walk through the epoch of the Earth’s history. The geological structures in the desert are a wonder to behold and will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to another world.
Wadi Rum offers various activities for those seeking adventure, including rock climbing, hiking, camel riding, and stargazing. Spending a night under the stars in a Bedouin camp is a must-do experience that will make you appreciate the beauty and serenity of the desert.
Mt. Nebo and Madaba
Mt. Nebo and Madaba are important sites in Jordan steeped in history and religious significance. Mt. Nebo, located about 10 km northwest of Madaba, is a must-visit destination for people of all faiths. As mentioned earlier, it is believed to be the place where Moses saw the Promised Land for the first time. This mountain offers stunning panoramic views of the Holy Land, and on a clear day, visitors can see as far as Jerusalem. The most iconic feature of Mt. Nebo is the Serpentine Cross, a symbol of Moses’ bronze serpent and Jesus’ crucifixion.
In addition to the Serpentine Cross, there is a church on Mt. Nebo with well-preserved mosaics dating back to the 6th century. These mosaics depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments and are considered some of the finest examples of early Christian art worldwide.
Madaba, on the other hand, is a small town located just south of Amman. It is known for the Madaba Map, a mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land that dates back to the 6th century. The map is preserved on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George and is considered one of the region’s oldest surviving maps. It shows the city of Jerusalem with all its gates, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and many other important landmarks.
Madaba is also known for its numerous Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, many of which have been uncovered in excavations around the town. The Madaba Archaeological Park, located in the city’s heart, is great for exploring the ancient ruins and learning about the town’s rich history.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is truly a unique wonder of nature. It is the lowest point on Earth’s surface, situated between Jordan and Israel, with its shores lying 423 meters below sea level. With a salinity level that is 9 times higher than that of seawater, it is also one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. These extreme conditions have created a one-of-a-kind ecosystem home to only a few types of bacteria, making it impossible for fish or other marine life to survive.
But its therapeutic qualities set the Dead Sea apart from any other body of water worldwide. The high concentration of salt, minerals, and other essential elements in the water and the surrounding mud and air has made it a popular destination for those seeking relief from various skin and respiratory conditions. The Dead Sea has been known for its medicinal properties since ancient times, with historical records showing that people have been visiting the area for its healing powers for thousands of years.
Visiting the Dead Sea is an experience like no other. I was lucky enough to visit it twice! I still remember my first time at this unique lake – everything was the same, except that I was on the Israeli side. Despite being the middle of January and snowing in Serbia and Israel, the weather was a pleasant 23°C, making it a perfect day for floating!
As soon as you step out of your car or bus, you’ll feel the dry and hot desert air rich in minerals and other natural elements. Once you reach the water, you’ll notice that it has a distinct oily texture due to the high salt concentration. But the real magic happens when you get into the water and start floating effortlessly on the surface. It’s a surreal sensation that has to be experienced to be believed.
In addition to floating, visitors can also cover themselves in the famous Dead Sea mud, which is said to have rejuvenating and cleansing properties for the skin. There are also many spas and resorts in the area that offer a range of treatments and therapies, from massages to facials, using the natural ingredients found in the Dead Sea.
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a fascinating city with a rich history and cultural diversity. Its modern infrastructure, vibrant markets, and fantastic restaurants make it a great place for anyone interested in experiencing the Middle East’s beauty and complexity.
The city was once a small village, but it has undergone significant growth and development since becoming Jordan’s capital in 1921. Nowadays, it spans over 19 hills and comprises 27 districts, making it a sprawling metropolis. The city’s multicultural character is reflected in its diverse population, which includes Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Armenians.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Amman is the Al-Husseini Mosque, located in the heart of the city’s bustling downtown area. It is a beautiful and peaceful place to visit, and you can witness the daily prayers of the city’s Muslim residents.
The Roman Amphitheatre is another must-see attraction in Amman. It was built during the Roman Empire’s reign and is still used for concerts and events today. The ruins of the Roman Nymphaeum, an ancient public fountain, are also worth a visit, as are the Citadel and the ruins of a temple dedicated to Hercules.
The Gold Souq is an exciting destination if you’re looking for some retail therapy. Here you will find a wide range of jewelry shops selling gold, silver, and precious stones, making it an excellent place to pick up a unique souvenir.
But no visit to Amman is complete without sampling its delicious food. Hashem Restaurant is a must-visit, famous for having Jordan’s best falafel and hummus. And if you have a sweet tooth, Habibeh is a dessert shop renowned for serving the tastiest kanafeh in Amman.
In conclusion, Amman is a vibrant and diverse city with much to offer visitors. From its fascinating history to its exciting food scene, this capital is a destination that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
Aqaba is more than just a stopover destination. This small but vibrant city has a unique charm and offers plenty of activities and attractions for tourists. The city is a mix of old and new, with a rich history that dates back to ancient times.
One of the main attractions of Aqaba is its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, which are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The marine life in the Gulf of Aqaba is abundant, and visitors can explore colorful coral reefs and a variety of fish species. The city offers plenty of options for those who prefer to stay on land, including historical sites, local markets, and traditional restaurants.
Aqaba is home to several historical landmarks, including the Aqaba Fort, built by the Mamluk Sultanate in the 14th century. The fort has been restored and is now open to visitors, offering a glimpse into the city’s past. Another must-see attraction is the Aqaba Archaeological Museum, which features exhibits from the Bronze Age to the Islamic era.
The city’s markets are also a highlight, with various shops selling local crafts, spices, and souvenirs. The main market, Al-Hussein bin Ali Street, is a bustling area with a vibrant atmosphere. Visitors can try traditional Jordanian food, such as Mansaf (a traditional Jordanian dish made with lamb, rice, and yogurt), at one of the many restaurants in the city.
For those exploring beyond Aqaba, the city is a perfect base for short trips to nearby destinations. The ancient city of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is just a few hours drive away, as is Wadi Rum, a stunning desert landscape featured in several films, including Lawrence of Arabia.
Jordan is truly a mystery in stone. Its ancient and diverse history, stunning natural beauty, and hospitality make it a must-visit destination for any traveler. From the legendary city of Petra to the vast deserts and the serene Dead Sea, Jordan offers a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Whether you’re an adventurer, a history enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Jordan has something to offer everyone.
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