If you are looking for adrenaline-pumping travel experiences then Jordan is for you. What makes Jordan all the more exciting is its stark juxtaposition of the ancient and of the modern. Across the beautiful dessert of Jordan, Bedouin men clothed in flowing robes and headgears tend to their herds of livestock just as how their ancestors lived in ancient times. However, once you set your feet inside the capital city of Amman, all notions of antiquity are erased as the city is surprisingly modern and Westernised in every sense, a stark contrast with other Arab cities in the region.
In the commercial centre of Amman are ultra-modern buildings designed according to the architectural trends of its days, smart hotels and fashionable restaurants, trendy cafes and stylish boutiques and art galleries. All these evidences of a Westernised Jordan sit comfortably and peacefully with throwbacks to the old days of the city with its traditional coffee shops and artisan workshops.
Petra is one of Jordan’s national treasures and becomes well-known tourist attraction after the climactic scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the Treasure serves as a hidden temple.
Petra is the legacy of the ancient Nabataeans who settled in Jordan over 2,000 years ago. It sits inside a narrow desert gorge, accessible only by walking through a 1km long narrow, weather-sculpted siq (chasm). The walls of the siq itself are a sight to behold as they touch the 200m mark upwards. And at end, greeting visitors with its dramatic façade is the famous Treasury itself, the ornate monolith chiseled out of the pink sandstone. The surrounding area is dotted with hundreds of tombs, buildings, temples, arched gateways, colonnaded streets and rock drawings. Also in the vicinity are a 3000-seat open air theatre and a monastery which dates back to the 1st century.
Beauty in Ruins
There are other heritage sites that house glorious artefacts that speak of Jordan’s glorious past. The first is Jerash, which has been sustaining a civilisation for millennia. This fertile land was conquered by the Romans in 63 BC and is today one of the best-preserved provincial Roman town in the world.
Excavations at the site reveal paved colonnaded streets, tall hilltop temples, theatres, spacious public squares, fountains and city walls fortified with towers and gates. Hidden for centuries in sand, the archaeological marvels of Jerash have undergone restoration for the past 70 years to reveal glimpses of their original splendour.
During the crusades, Jordan was thick in the fighting and it was in this time that the Ajlun /Ajloun Castle and the Karak/Kerak Castle were erected. Sitting up high on hilltops to offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape, these majestic fortresses have stood the test of time and today make for perfect photo opportunities. While the Ajlun is an enthralling maze of towers, chambers, galleries and staircases begging to be explored; the Karak Castle is in fact a fort, a shadowy labyrinth of stone-vaulted galleries and never-ending hallways.
Sailing in the sands
In the midst of a series of valleys in the south of Jordan lies a desert landscape that has towering monolithic rock formations rising from the floor. This region is known as Wadi Rum and is popular with avid hikers. The Wadi Rum provides a natural challenge for them as some of the imposing rockscapes reach heights of up to 1,750m. With many empty spaces, canyons and water holes to explore, this desert jewel also has 4,000-year-old rock drawings tucked within its crevices.