I began my trip through Jordan by arriving overland from Damascus, Syrian’s capital, to Amman, Jordan’s Capital. Officially known as The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan is a relatively small semi-arid nation that has been continuously inhabited since the Paleolithic period so has seen many Empires come and go. Modern day Jordan became independent in 1946 and is considered one of the most stable, safest, hospitable and open-minded countries of the region.

It’s more likely that today’s travellers will travel overland from Egypt or Israel rather than Syria or Iraq which is easily done as Jordan has a peace agreement with Israel. During my 3 hour taxi ride from Damascus, the shared taxi driver described the Syrian way of life as “disorganized”, despite them claiming to have a ‘relaxed’ lifestyle. The Jordanian driver also had a particular disliking of the GCC (oil rich Arabian Gulf countries) Arabs who holiday in these parts during the uncivilized heat of summer in their own country (they aren’t hard to spot as they’re driving around in Mercs’, Hummers or other grossly oversized American vehicles on account of the handouts their state gives them and their cheap fuel).  So he assured me I can expect a more ‘modern’ approach to life during my time in Jordan, be that good or bad.  It was interesting to listen to him though, talk about life in this ancient, and often, volatile region especially seeing he was Palestinian. 

Amman is not considered one of the ‘great cities of antiquity’ in the Middle East.  Prior to the Palestinian exodus out of the West Bank and into Jordan, in the years after the creation of Israel, it was nothing much more than a small town.  Now, the desert has been flooded with apartment buildings to house the refugees. One of the major attractions in Amman is one of the ancient Roman amphitheatres that dot this stretch of the Fertile Crescent which are located on a hillside near the center of town.  Another attraction to visit is a nice little museum called the Jordan Folklore Museum which shows, among other things, local Bedouin (semi nomadic desert people) attire and artifacts from the Roman period such as fascinating mosaics. The Temple of Hercules and Amman’s hilltop Citadel (Jabal al-Qal'a) are perfect sites to visit on sunset.

One of my great loves of the Middle East is the Kunafa; a dessert served directly from the hot pan comprising of a base of mozzarella-like goat cheese with a crumble topping covered in crushed pistachios all soaked in a sweet sweet sugar. Sooo good, don’t miss it if you’re passing through, Amman has some of the best Kunafa I’ve tried on my travels.

Amman is a particularly good staging point for day trips to the surrounding attractions of interest in Jordan as it’s not a particularly big country. One of those day trips was to the remains of the Roman city of Jerash. I was joined there by Yurika, a Japanese girl who had only just arrived from Bangkok in the morning we depart, yet she still had the energy to head out for a full day, what a trooper. I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the first day of two weeks we spent travelling together. Jerash was fantastic and well worth a day’s visit as you’ll see countless Roman pillars, chariot arena, colonnades and intricate carvings that are 1,800 years ago which never ceases to amaze me.

Another of the must-do day trips from Amman is to that record setting (lowest point on Earth 430m below sea level) lake with a rather morbid name: the Dead Sea.  On a still day, like we got, the views across to Israel are marvelous. With no outflow, all dissolved salts that do drain into the lake from the surrounding deserts stay as the water evaporates; as a result the lakes salinity is six times that of the oceans. It is of course safe to swim in, and with the elevated salt levels your buoyancy increases significantly, so much so (as strange as it sounds), you often ‘lose your balance’ while in certain positions in the water as your centre of gravity is so much higher.  A strange, but must-have experience in my opinion, I’d come back to Jordan just to do it again. Be sure to get that classic of picture of you floating high in the water!

Known for its impressive Crusader Castle, we’d take the opportunity to visit Karak (Al-Karak) enroute to Petra in the south of Jordan.

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