The Rose City of Petra is the jewel in Jordan’s glittering archaeological crown, and is now one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Accessed on a walk through a narrow, deep and winding cleft in the rock that is known as the Siq, the end prize is the hidden valley where the Rose City of Petra lies. And the first sight to behold is the façade of Al-Kazneh – aka the Treasury of Petra. This rose red building actually served as a royal tomb, but got its name from the legend that pirates hid their treasure there. With a backstory like that and its amazing appearance its no surprise to learn that it was this building that served as the Holy Grail’s resting place In Indiana Jones and the last crusade.
In all, there are some 800 registered sites in Petra, including some 500 tombs. Just as fascinating as the rock–carved monuments are the strange rocks themselves. Sandstone shot with minerals burst into colour giving off blue, red, orange and green hues. Amongst the rocky and sometimes jagged scenery, it’s sometimes hard to know what is man–made and what is the result of pure nature
Situated on the tip of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Aqaba, the laid-back resort of Aqaba is Jordan’s only gateway to the sea. Renowned for its pristine sandy beaches, clear waters and colourful reefs studded with marine life, Aqaba is just the ticket for sun, fun, diving, snorkelling and swimming. Its also a great place for watersports such as waterskiing, parasailing, jet-skiing and fishing and ideal for a spot of relaxation. Historically, Aqaba boasts sites dating back to 4,000 BC, including the recent discovery of possibly the world’s oldest church dating from the 3rd century AD, the remains of the medieval walled city of Ayla and a Mamluk fort.
A vast, silent landscape of ancient riverbeds, pastel-coloured stretches of sandy desert and amazing rock formations known as jebels which rise from the desert floor at Wadi Rum in the south of Jordan. Wadi Rum possesses unspoilt beauty forged by millions of years of geological formation, erosion and evolution. The region is also home to semi-nomadic Bedouin living in their great goat hair tents, tending their herds of sheep and goat and preserving a lifestyle that has been practised here in the Arabian desert for centuries. On visits to Wadi Rum, we take a 4x4 desert jeep ride through the heart of the stunning wadi, enjoy a traditional Jordanian grilled dinner and camp under the stars or in tents.
The lowest point on the earth’s surface, the Dead Sea is a fascinating natural phenomena. Straddling the border between Israel and Jordan, the mineral content of this 75-km-long and 10-km-wide saltwater lake tops out at 33%, or about six times as salty as a normal ocean. This incredibly high salt content means the Dead Sea is extremely buoyant, making it impossible to sink or swim in - the only option is to bob around like a cork! It’s called the Dead Sea as nothing can live in it. There are no fish, seaweed or plants of any kind in or around the water. What you’ll see on the shores are clusters of white salt crystals. These salts are mineral salts, which is just like you find in the oceans of the world, only in extreme concentrations. Many believe that these salts have curative powers and therapeutic qualities, and so the Dead Sea is a great place to try out a spot of pampering in the local spas.
Second only to Petra in touristic appeal, the 2,000 year-old Graeco-Roman ruins of Jerash are recognised as one of the best-preserved member cities of the Decapolis, a confederation of 10 Graeco-Roman cities. When Emperor Hadrian paid a visit in 129 AD, the place was buzzing. The citizens threw up a Triumphal Arch for him which still stands today. Exemplifying the finesse of Roman urban life, the town boasts a hippodrome, the old sports field that once held 15,000 spectators, a stunning amphitheatre with amazing amplification abilities, the forum which gracefully links the main north-south axis of Jerash, a colonnaded street paved with original stones and the rut marks of chariots and a nymphaeum replete with ancient fountains trimmed with dolphins and various temples.
Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, is one of the oldest cities in the world. The old walled city is a mix of small alleys and has several revered sites such as the Western Wall, the Church of holy Sepulcre, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. It is considered a holy city for the Islamic, Christian and Jewish faiths and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
The Western Wall (better known as the Wailing Wall) attracts thousands of Jewish worshippers each day, who come to pray, write notes to God and place them between the ancient stones of the Wall because they believe that the presence of God resides there. The Holy Sepulcre is a beautiful church built in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. It is considered one of the holiest places in Christian Religion as it believed to be the site of Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial. Inside the church is a rocky outcropping which is the traditional place where the cross was placed. Inside the lavishly decorated church is the opulent marble tomb (Sepulcre) of Jesus, where you will find many pilgrims in prayer and paying homage.