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Places To Visit

The capital Amman is situated on several hills and houses almost half of the country's population. Worth seeing in the so-called white city is the Citadel hill, once an important military and religious site. Other interesting place are the Archaeological Museum, the Roman Theater, the King Abdullah Mosque.

Amman is originally built on 7 hills, but spreads today over 20. It is mainly a modern city with restaurants, art galleries, malls, hotels and almost uniformly white houses in accordance with a municipal law. But Amman is changing its skyline due to the lifted ban of building taller than 4 storey houses, several skyscrapers are under construction. Amman has a rapid growth in the real estate, construction, finance and business sectors. Much older, more traditional and exotic is the downtown area - also known as the ''Souq'' - with small shops.

Despite its modern spirit, Amman is one if the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. It was the capital of the Ammonites, and it is referred to as Rabbath-Ammon in the Old Testament. Rebuilt during the Hellenistic and Roman periods the city was renamed Philadelphia by Ptolemy II. in 63 B.C. In 106 AD, the Roman Emperor Trajan built a new road from Eilat to Damascus which ran through Philadelphia. This created an economic boom for the city. Later, during the Byzantine Period, the city was home to bishop and several churches in the early 7th Century. In the early Islamic Era the city was named Amman and important through its location on trade routes and for its strategic military position. In the 10th century the city declined. In 1921 the Emir of Transjordan Abdullah bin Hussein moved his capital to Amman.

Some of its cultural heritage you can visit in the downtown area. On the Citadel hill you see the remains of the the 2nd century Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and a Byzantine basilica. Many valuable remains and important relics from across Jordan can be found in the Archaeological Museum located at the Citadel. The Roman Theatre is the largest in Jordan, with room for 6,000 spectators. The east wing houses the Folklore Museum, the western wing the Museum of Popular Traditions.

The only mosque non-Muslims are allowed to enter is the King Abdullah Mosque with its blue mosaic dome, built between 1982 and 1989. The most unusual mosque in Amman is the Abu Darwish Mosque. It is covered with an extraordinary black-and-white chequered pattern and is unique to Jordan.

Aqaba is Jordan's only seaport and popular as diving and beach resort, located at the Red Sea, framed by rugged mountains. It is a delightful place for holidaymakers, but also rich in history. The town is moreover attractive due to its status as Special Economic Zone offering duty free shopping.

Aqaba's greatest treasure is the Red Sea, you can experience some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world due to the well preserved coral reefs. A glimpse of the sea wonders can be viewed through a glass-bottomed boat. There are plenty of other water-sport activities available, like windsurfing. The whole area is a duty free zone.

Today, a place for relaxation and fun, historical Aqaba has played an important role in the economy of the region. It was a junction for land and sea routes from Asia, Africa and Europe. In biblical times, there were two cities in this area: Eilat and Ezion Geber. The Israelites passed by this area on their wilderness travels, and later Prophet Moses led them near here on their detour around Edom. You can see here the oldest church in the world, Ayla.

During the 12th century, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem controlled the area and built a fortress, which remains are well preserved. In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye, known today as Pharaoh's Island - about 7 kilometers offshore and today in Egyptian territorial waters.

During World War I, the Ottomans occupied the town and were forced to withdraw from after a raid led by T. E. Lawrence and the Arab forces. The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviated a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal.

In 1965, King Hussein attempted to give Aqaba room to grow by trading land with Saudi Arabia. In return for 6000 square kilometers of desertland in Jordan's interior, the Saudis traded 12 kilometers of coastline to the south of Aqaba.

The giant red mountains and vast mausoleums of a departed race have nothing in common with modern civilization, and ask nothing of it except to be appreciated at their true value - as one of the greatest wonders ever wrought by Nature and Man.

Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It has to be seen to be believed.

Petra, the world wonder, is without a doubt Jordan's most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).

This is an awe-inspiring experience. A massive facade, 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people.

Dead Sea
The Dead Sea, the salt lake between Israel and Jordan, is the lowest point on earth with about 400 meters below sea level. It is an unique experience to bath without being able to sink, the water and the special conditions of the area have positive effects on dermatological and rheumatic diseases..

The name Dead Sea refers to the fact, that no organic life can exist here due to the high salinity. The lake is 75 kms long and 6 to 16 kms wide, mainly supplied by water from the Jordan River, but has no outlet, so the waters evaporate, leaving behind a dense mix of salts and minerals. The warm, soothing, salty water itself ten times saltier than sea water, is rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium and bromine.

The health effects of this special area was known since antiquity, it was one of the first spas in the world. Herod the Great, king of Judaea, already used it in the 1st century BC as health treatment, as well as the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra. The Nabateans discovered the value of bitumen extracted from the Dead Sea an needed by the Egyptian pharaos for embalming mummies. Today the Dead Sea is an attraction for health and leisure tourism. Several hotels with spa and fitness facilities are gathered at Sweimeh. Public beaches also providing showers and restaurant to enjoy some hours at the lowest spot on earth.

The Dead Sea plays a signficant role in the Bible, here it is named as Sea of Arabah, Salt Sea or Eastern Sea. At the plain along the Dead Sea, the Southern Ghor, several biblical events took place. The most popular is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God punished the sinful cities Sodom and Gomorrah, but allowed Lot and his family to flee the destruction.

But Lot's wife disobeyed Gods order not to look back on the burning cities and turned into a pillar of salt. Today see close to the Dead Sea a rock formation called Lot's wife, and Lot's cave with remains from an early Byzantine church. Here Lot and his daughters took refuge after the deletion of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some scholars proppose the remains of Bab ed Dhra and Numeira in the south-eastern corner at the Dead Sea are the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah

Jerash is the best example of a Roman provincial city in the Middle East, 50 kms north of Amman. It was initially built by Alexander the Great in 332 BC and started to prosper after conquered by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC. Jerash, also known as Gerasa, was made a city of the Decapolis. The Decapolis was a prosperous confederation of ten Roman cities formed during the first century BC as centers of Greek and Roman culture with strong commercial, political and cultural interests.

Recent excavations showed that Jerash was already inhabited during the Bronze Age, so its heydays had been in the 2nd century with a population of minimum 20,000. The Roman Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the provinces, more trade came to Jerash and the town prospered. To honor the visit of Emperor Hadrian in 130 AD, a triumphal arch was built. The so called Hadrian' Arch is from where visitors start the Jerash tour.

You pass the Hippodrome offering space for up to 15.000 spectators and the impressing Oval Plaza with 56 Ionic columns. From here you can walk to the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Artemis, the goddess of nature and hunt, which columns are 12 meters high and each drum weighs 20-40 tons. In Jerash you find also an 800 meters long Colonnaded Street, two theatres and a Nymphaeum, the main fountain.

In the year 330, Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of the Byzantine Empire. As consequence numerous churches were constructed in Jerash and from 350 AD, a large Christian community lived in Jerash, and more than thirteen churches were built, often with mosaic floors, some of them are still to see.

Due to the Persian invasion in 614 AD Jerash declined. The city continued to flourish during the Umayyad Period, but in 746 AD, a major earthquake destroyed much of Jerash. During the period of the Crusades, some of the monuments like the Temple of Artemis, were used as fortresses.

Wadi Al-Mujib
Wadi al-Mujib is the lowest nature reserve in the world, reaching the highest level in 900 meter, the lowest in 400 meter below sea level. The area about 220 square km offers a variety in nature and wildlife and is a hotspot for eco- and adventure tourism.

Wadi Mujib, the biblical Arnon River, is also called the Grand Canyon of Jordan. Over 300 species of plants, 10 species of carnivores and numerous species of permanent and migratory birds have been recorded. Some of the Remote Mountain and valley areas are difficult to reach, and thus offer safe havens for rare species of cats, goats and other mountain animals. Mujib's sandstone cliffs are an ideal habitat for one of the most beautiful mountain goats in the world, the horned Ibex, also for the caracal, a medium sized cat.

Wadi Mujib is a good place for adventures like hiking. Visitors have to consider the most trails are not accessible the year around, mostly limited from the 1st of April until the 31st of October. The water trails require the ability to swim and to have no fear of water and heights. Minimum age is 18 years.

This easy Siq Trail, open from April till end of October, leads you into the main gorge of the Mujib River (the Siq). It starts at the visitor center near the Mujib Bridge, from where you walk to the base of a large waterfall. Depending on seasonal rainfall levels, the gorge may contain pools deep enough for swimming. Always take care along the walk, avoid pools and rapids and respect any rope barriers. A guide is mandatory for the Ibex Trail (3-4 hrs). Between November till March hikers can start from the Visitor Center, follow steep ascends, climb up to historical fortification, on the way to the Ranger Station see the rock statue of Lot's Wife - according to the Bible she turned into a pillar of salt as she looked back on the cities Sodom and Gomorrah. Our hike ends at the Nubian ibex enclosure.

A special experience is the Malaqi Trail (6-8 hrs), accessible from April till October. This water trail starts at the visitor center and follows the same route into the nature reserve as the Ibex trail. After passing through hills, you begin your descent to the river Mujib. The hike continues upstream along in the river to the Malaqi area. Here you can linger, eat a picnic and enjoy swimming in the natural pools. You move on through the Mujib gorge to descend a waterfall, 20 meters in height, using ropes. From here you continue along the rest of the river, back to the visitor center.

Wadi Rum
The most remarkable buildings in the eastern Jordanian desert are the palaces built by the Umayyad caliphs in the 7th and 8th century. Most of the castles can be visited within one day in a loop from Amman via Azraq. The Desert Castles are examples of early Islamic art and architecture, built between 660 and 750. The majority of the castles lie on the ancient trade routes towards Medina and Kufa. The castles are partly rebuilt from earlier remains and partly new constructions. The function and use of the buildings are not totally clear, they may have been a fortress, a meeting place with the Bedouins, a caravenserai or leisure place.

The most popular castles can be visited in one day. Qasr Hallabat was originally constructed by the Roman emperor Caracalla, demolished and rebuilt by the Umayyads. In the castle 146 Greek inscriptions had been found, the site incorporates a mosque, a huge reservoir and several cisterns. Well preserved is Qasr Kharanah with its high walls and four corner towers. At first glance the construction is fortress, but it served most likely as a meeting place for the Umayyad caliphs.

The large black fortress Qasr Azraq, used by the Romans, Byzantines and Umayyads, gained its final building status by the Ayyubids, and in the 16th century the Ottomans stationed a garnison here. But the most popular occupant was Lawrence of Arabia, who at the beginning of the 20th century had here his headquarters during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Qasr Amra is the most charming of the desert castles due to its fresco paintings. Built by caliph Walid I as a bathhouse, it consists of three different chambers and a hydraulic structure for the water supply. The most impressing are the early Islamic frescoe paintings with varied iconographic themes depicting hunting and bathing scenes, musicians and dancers. They represent the formative stage of Islamic art and therefore Qasr Amra is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.