Journeying Through Jordan

22 May

Treasury at Petra

Treasury at Petra

It’s likely an area, instinctively, one may shy away from due to the unrest in neighboring countries. Syria after all is a bordering nation to the north and Egypt flanks it to the southwest. This is certainly understandable but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that with the proper amount of research and preparedness, squashing such a concern is possible.
Having said that, of course, as with any place, and as common sense would dictate, one need exercise the right amount of caution. As a side note, I highly recommend US nationals traveling to regions with a history of problems take the time to register with the US Dept. of State Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Smart Traveler Enrolment Program or STEP as an additional safety precaution measure. Armed with all your research and precautions in tact, it’s time to embark on your journey.

Steeped in history that dates back centuries, Jordan is a place that’s endlessly fascinating. It’s home to one of the New 7 World Wonders, Petra, Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon), the capital and bustling city of Amman, and just miles to the north of Amman, the mightily impressive ancient Roman city of Jerash, a must see; plus, the magnificent Dead Sea.

Amman is the main gateway to Jordan. From North America, One World Carrier, Royal Air Jordanian flies directly to Amman, Queen Alia International Airport, from NY-JFK. Connections are also possible via European hubs like London Heathrow. Entry visas for visitors can be obtained upon arrival in Amman. The journey into town is fairly straightforward via taxi right outside the main terminal or as I understand it via Airport Express Bus which takes you to the 7th Circle.
Though several decent choices exist for your hotel stay, I highly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel in the 5th Circle. The nightly rate for a hotel its caliber is attractive and the staff and experience are well worth it.

Tea Service - Four Seasons

Tea Service – Four Seasons

While in Amman, do not miss the impressive Citadel (Jabal al-Qal’a in Arabic) and the city market for some good retail therapy. When you’re through sightseeing, head to Cantaloupe Gastro Pub in the 1st Circle off Rainbow St. for pre-dinner cocktails. The picturesque views from the terrace alone is well worth it. Plus the staff are super friendly and accommodating.
Remain at Cantaloupe for dinner or better yet, for some scrumptious traditional Jordanian fare, head to nearby Sufra Restaurant. To be forewarned, do note that Sufra does not serve alcoholic beverages (apparently due to its proximity to a nearby mosque). Some hits on the menu for me: Mufarakeh (braised diced potatoes with eggs and onions) and Jaj (clay pot slowly baked seasoned chicken and w/ coriander, pine nuts, and vegetables). Another that was highly recommended though I didn’t get to try due to dietary restrictions, Mansaf (rice based served w/ Jameed sauce, lamb chunks almonds and pine seeds). After dinner, head to Books@Cafe to cap off the evening. It has a fun ambiance and the scene’s quite vibrant.

Just a little over 30 miles (approx. 50 minutes to an hr. drive) from Amman is that must-see ancient Roman city of Jerash. It’s a well preserved ruin dating back centuries and rivaling anything that can be found in Rome or Pompeii (it is sometimes referred to as the Pompeii of the east) without the crowds. Take your time and explore the grounds–it’s quite an impressive sight to see. There are Guides (if you’re so inclined) at the entrance that can lead you through, for a fee, but that’s just an option. After you’re through and have worked up an appetite, Green Valley Restuarant is a decent choice for a lunch spot on your way back into town.

Ancient City of Jerash

Ancient City of Jerash

Further afield, the destinations of Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, the Dead Sea, etc., await. These can be done in parts as you progress on your journey but if time’s limited, I would suggest making sure Petra and possibly the Dead Sea are items you check off your list before leaving Jordan. It is conceivable to make day journeys from Amman to these places. The Dead Sea is relatively easy; it’s just about 52 miles southwest of Amman and should take approximately 1.5 hrs. by car. Petra is much further south and I would say give yourself 3.5 to 4 hrs. to make the journey. You’ll need time (and comfortable shoes) to explore Petra. It is a must-see. The Treasury is a marvel to behold but also make sure you continue all the way to the summit. You’ll realize why this massive complex is on the list of World Wonders.
Jordan is a sensational place steeped in history and culture. I was perfectly charmed by it and can’t wait to return.


Authors Note: If your itinerary takes you to destinations in neighboring countries, check out my entries on Israel and Egypt

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