Silk Road Tours offer private tailor made journeys to Jordan
In most people’s minds Jordan is synonymous with the ‘Rose Red City’ of Petra, and while this incredible archaeological gem rightly has its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is far more to see and explore in this compact country. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, and its mineral-rich mud is revered for its health-giving properties. David Lean shot his classic film Lawrence of Arabia amongst the sandstone cliffs of Wadi Rum, which offers unparalleled desert scenery. Jordan’s history dates back thousands of years, and within its borders you will find Bronze Age settlements, Hellenistic and Roman sites, Crusader castles and buildings from the period of Ottoman rule.
The Roman city of Jerash, with its famous oval precinct, is one the most complete ancient cities in the region, whilst Madaba, Mount Nebo and Umm Al Rasas feature some of best-preserved mosaics of the late Roman / early Byzantine period. The crusader castles of Ajloun, Karak and Shobak demonstrate its importance during this turbulent period, and the little-visited early Islamic hunting lodges and caravanserais in the desert to the east of Amman offer a fascinating glimpse of Jordan’s role on the Asian trade routes.
The capital city, Amman, is rapidly expanding and developing, yet as in all Middle Eastern countries the Jordanians maintain a strong affinity with their semi nomadic past. The national cuisine is heavily influenced by that of the Bedouin, with tasty dishes such as Gibir – chicken, rice, nuts and raisins all cooked together in a large earthenware dish. Though overwhelmingly Muslim, the people have a tolerant and relaxed outlook as well as legendary hospitality, making Jordan one of the friendliest places in the world to visit.
Tours that feature Jordon
Sitting amidst the rugged canyons and mountains in the South West of Jordan stands the ‘Rose Red’ city of Petra, so called due to the colour of the stone it is carved from. Sitting on an ancient caravan route it was the capital city of the Nabateans flourished from around 300BC to the first centuries AD after which it gradually fell into decline. The site was justly named in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of The World and also has UNESCO World Heritage status. A vast site of elegance and grandeur it is worth at least a full day’s visit to explore the breath taking facades of tombs such as ‘The Treasury’ and ‘The Monastery’.
Travel in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia through the spectacular canyons of Wadi Rum, an area of stunningly beautiful desert interspersed between granite, basalt and sandstone mountains that over millennia have been weathered into contorted, wonderful shapes with colours that catch the light and delight the eye. The valley is best explored by 4WD or camel to discover the petroglyphs depicting antelope and people thought to date back to the 8th century BCE and immerse yourself in the timeless atmosphere that evokes the ghosts of trading caravans travelling through the desert carrying the riches of India to the Mediterranean. With some of the most stunning scenery in Arabia Wadi Rum is sure to delight and never disappoint.
Surely counting as one of the natural wonders of the world the Dead Sea sits at more than 400 metres below sea level – making it the lowest point on Earth. With waters that are ten times more saline than normal sea water meaning that life cannot survive within its waters, it is impossible to swim – only bob on its surface. Its depth creates a unique, surreal atmosphere where the air can seem heavy (oxygen levels are up to 4% higher than at sea level) and sound seems to be deadened. King Herod is thought to have first recognised the therapeutic properties of The Dead Sea, building a palace on its shores and today its mineral heavy mud is believed to provide relief for a number of ailments as well as being used for beauty treatments. The luxury hotels along its shores are the perfect place to relax for a few days after a tour of Jordan.
Travel East from Amman to discover some of Jordan’s most atmospheric sites located deep in the heart of the black basalt desert. The name ‘Desert Castles’ is actually a misnomer as they are a series of desert complexes consisting of bathhouses, meeting halls and farmsteads dating from the 7th century Umayyad period. Highlights include Qasr Hallabat, full of desert atmosphere, which began as a small Roman fort built of black basalt and was expanded in the 8th century with the addition of a mosque and some fine mosaics. Most fort like is Qasr Harraneh, standing squat and foursquare, which could never have actually served as a fort due to its design but was most likely a meeting place for the local Bedouin tribes. Perhaps the most intriguing site is that of Qasr Amra, a bathhouse fed by the waters of Wadi Butm. Most likely built by the Caliph Walid I in the early 700’s AD its interior walls are lined with wonderful frescoes dancing girls, cupids, musicians as well as animals that were once abundant in the area – all strictly forbidden under Islamic law. Walid’s successors issued edicts for the destruction of such art but somehow these frescoes survived which along with their beauty makes them extremely rare.
Some 30kms South West of Amman, Madaba contains some of the most impressive mosaics in Jordan dating from the Byzantine and Umayyad eras. The most frequently visited site in the town is the Church of the Map which houses the famous mosaic map of the Eastern Mediterranean most likely dating from the late 6th century AD. However Madaba has many equally impressive and better preserved mosaics such as in the nearby Archaeological Park including one from the Hellenistic period – the oldest in Jordan. A trip to close by Mtn Nebo, where it is believed Moses is buried, and which also has fine mosaics as well wonderful views over the Dead Sea and West Bank.