Playing an important role in the Great Arab Revolt, British archaeologist and military officer T.E Lawrence still conjures strong connections to Jordan, and the 1960s biographical film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ starring Peter O’Toole was also filmed here. He spent time in Amman, which has grown from the small village during Lawrence’s stay to a busy capital, and if you set off across Wadi Rum on the back of a camel, you can’t help but imagine Lawrence making his way across this vast desert landscape a century earlier.
Whether you explore the maze of streets in Jordan’s capital, Amman, venture to the historic city of Madaba, relax by the Red Sea in Aqaba or discover ancient Petra, Jordan’s cities are a great way to learn about how this fascinating country ticks. If you love history, you’ll be spoilt for choice, and if you want to embrace local traditions and customs then the variety of charming shops, souks and restaurants will give you ample opportunities.
A high point for many visitors to Jordan is visiting the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea, which sits 1,400 feet below sea level. The famously high salt level of this Salt Lake provides a unique experience for bathers, allowing them to float effortlessly in the waters – even those who can’t swim! For a full spa experience, be sure to smother some of the natural mud on your skin, as its high mineral and salt content has been known to rejuvenate and relieve a variety of physical ailments.
With its deep Bedouin roots, Jordan’s national dish, Mansaf, is food made for communal eating, with layers of slow-cooked tender meat (usually lamb or chicken) served with aromatic saffron rice, flatbreads and yoghurt sauce. Falafel, hummus, tabbouleh and moutabel are also staples to a Jordanian diet, but if you have a sweet tooth, then honey-drizzled nut filled pastries known as Baklava are sure to make your mouth water.
No holiday to Jordan would be complete without a visit to the world-famous rose-red city of Petra, and one trip to this incredible site will reveal why it’s such a popular attraction. As you head through the site’s winding canyon entrance, known as the siq, you’ll first glimpse the Treasury, arguably one of the most recognised buildings of the site. Explore further, and you’ll discover a variety of buildings carved into the ochre-coloured rock face dating from 300BC that were once home to the Nabataeans. The site simply takes your breath away.
Vast and arid, Wadi Rum’s sand dunes, canyons and crevasses have understandably earned it the name ‘Valley of the Moon’ and has inspired artists, poets and explorers for centuries. It’s a stark contrast to the cities, where you can take in far-reaching views that feature mountains and rock bridges, and immerse yourself in the simple quiet of the wilderness. Tours by jeep and camel are common, and don’t miss the chance to meet some of the Bedouin community to learn how they thrive in this region.
Becoming Jordan’s capital in the 20thcentury, Amman has matured quickly into a buzzing Arab city, where westernisation blends with Middle Eastern charm. Here you’ll find traditional souks alongside modern eateries offering delicious cuisine with international flair. The city is also evolving to become an art hub, with local artists displaying their works alongside classic Arab art. For a different view of the city – and to appreciate how the city sits in a bowl – head to the ancient Citadel located nearby, which rewards its visitors with fantastic views.
Set on the Red Sea coast, Aqaba offers tempting sand beaches and a variety of water activities to enjoy, including boat tours and diving. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, you’ll find plenty of historic attractions within the city including a 4th century Roman church and Aqaba castle. You can also experience the hustle and bustle of local life in the grocery stores where you’ll be met with the heady aromas of an array of spices, including saffron, ginger and cumin.
An overnight stay in a Bedouin camp is a fantastic way to experience the hospitality of the region and is a real highlight for any holiday to Jordan. You can learn more about the culture and customs of the ‘desert dwellers’ as you listen to stories around the campfire, enjoy authentic food cooked in a traditional pit cooker and stare at a sea of stars in the night sky.
The cooler temperatures in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) mean you can explore the sites for longer.
If you are a British citizen you’ll need a one month, single-entry visa which can be obtained on arrival. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/jordan/entry-requirements.
In Jordan, the currency is dinar (JD), broken down into 100 piastres or 1,000 fils.
The main language in Jordan is Arabic, although English is widely spoken.