Jordan is a desert country with many hidden secrets. From fantastically preserved Roman ruins, to the hidden cities of lost civilizations, to the timeless culture of the Bedouin people, there’s so much to see and enjoy in this friendly place. Here are some highlights.
Jerash and the Roman ruins
Situated in the north of Jordan, Jerash is about 50 kilometres away from Amman, the capital of the country. It’s well known for its rich soil – highly suitable for agriculture – and is also famous for its annual Festival of Cultures and Arts, celebrating Arabic and international culture. Visitors can enter the ancient Roman site and enjoy the show, including poetry recitals, plays, concerts and more.
I recommend visiting the roman ruins of Jerash early in the morning. The light then is amazing and you won’t be bothered by the crowds of tourists. Moreover, the site is incredibly well conserved – actually one of the best preserved Roman towns in the world. You’ll be able to appreciate the Roman city’s streets, columns, temples, theatres, squares, baths, fountains and gates. The story of Jerash is long and full of details, so one way to discover and understand it better would be going around with a local guide.
Roman amphitheatre in Jerash
Petra – the Rose City
Petra has been chosen as one of the modern wonders of the world, and I have to admit it deserves the title. This holy and secret city was created by the Nabataeans around 300BC and was discovered again only hundreds of years afterwards. It remains a site full of mystery, its monuments literally carved into the red stone.
I had only a day to discover Petra, and it was definitely not enough. The best advice I can give is to get up very early and begin the tour with a local guide. Jordanian people are very proud of their country and culture, and there’s no better way to discover such a place than having a local telling you about its history and traditions.
On your way into the secret city, you’ll follow the Siq – a narrow, twisting passage between the stone walls – and will have to walk for about an hour before reaching the ‘entrance’. The first monument you see when arriving in the valley is the Treasury (Al Khazneh), built as a mausoleum and crypt. Be there by 8.30am so you can see it with the right, magnificent light.
After this first wonder, you’ll arrive in the valley: the spectacular heart of Petra. There are so many tombs carved into the stone that you won’t be able to count them. A must-do is the road up to the Monastery (Ad Deir) – another hour’s walking until you reach a breathtaking view over the desert.
Petra’s Monastery (Ad Deir)
Some tips to enjoy Petra:
- Stay at a hotel next to the site the night before
- Begin your visit early (8.00am)
- You are in the desert, so you’d better bring a hat, water, sunscreen, hiking shoes, sunglasses… and your camera!
- Book a visit with a local guide
Last stop in Jordan for us was the famous Wadi Rum, a Unesco World Heritage site. We were lucky enough to find a modern Bedouin camp to spend the night before we went on a tour in the desert. We enjoyed sunset from the top of the big rocks before having a traditional dinner with other travellers from all around the world. Around 3.57am, the call for prayer reminded us that we were in a Muslim country, and it was interesting to note that even in the middle of the Jordanian desert religion has its importance.
We woke up at 7.00am and were ready at 9.00 to get on a Jeep that took us into the heart of Wadi Rum. Colors are what I remember most from the experience: deep blue sky, warm red sand and bright golden rocks.
Lucile enjoying Wadi Rum Desert
What to do in Wadi Rum:
- Go for a Jeep tour
- Fly by plane over the desert
- Take a balloon to experience the silence of this special place from the sky
- Ride with camels and reach a Bedouin camp for a day or two
Camels in Jordan
Did you know . . . ?
Some famous movies were shot in Jordan:
- At Petra: Indiana Jones and the last crusade (with Harrison Ford)
- At Wadi Rum: The Martian (with Matt Damon), Lawrence of Arabia (with Alec Guinness), Queen of the Desert (with Nicole Kidman), Fair Game (Naomi Watts and Sean Penn), Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker (with Jeremy Renner)