Jordan, by Ted Cookson

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by Ted Cookson
Published in March 2005

Jordanian flag & Aqaba Fort, 43-second video clip
Wadi Rum #1, 37-second video clip
Wadi Rum #2, 30-second video clip

While Jordan is a country for all seasons, it is most often visited during spring and fall, between the temperature extremes of winter and summer.  The best weather is in April and October, while winter snows are not unknown in Jordan.

Amman, the capital, boasts a Roman amphitheater and a museum.  The so-called Kings' Highway, a well-paved but winding road, makes for an interesting full-day drive between Amman and Petra, Jordan's primary tourist attraction.  Heading south, Madaba is the first stop.  A church there contains the oldest known map of Palestine, which is depicted in mosaic on the floor.  Farther along, the Biblical site of Mt. Nebo features lovely examples of mosaics in its small museum.  There is also a fabulous overlook of the Dead Sea, situated far below in the Wadi Araba.  The final tourist site on the Kings' Highway is Kerak, where there is a well-preserved Crusader-era castle.  Tourists then sleep at Petra and begin their sightseeing there the following morning.

Settled by the Nabataeans in about 500 B. C., rock-carved Petra was the capital of a mighty empire which at times stretched as far north as Damascus.  It is thought that the Nabataeans extracted transit fees from passing trade caravans.  Whatever the case, Petra grew rich as a trading metropolis, reaching its zenith around the time of Christ.  In 106 A. D. Trajan incorporated the Nabataean kingdom into the Roman empire as the province of Arabia Petraea.  Petra's decline began in the third century, and then it was forgotten from the Middle Ages until being rediscovered by the Swiss adventurer Burckhardt in 1812.

The height of the siq, a gorge several miles long which forms the entrance to Petra, is as much as 300 meters.  Yet in some places it is only a few meters wide.  Many tourists elect to ride horses or horse carriages through the siq while others walk.  At the end of the siq, visitors suddenly come upon the remarkable pink sandstone facade of the so-called Treasury, probably dedicated to one of the Nabataean kings.  The theatre and a great number of tombs carved from the pink rock are to be seen farther down the widening gorge.  The trail continues into the former town center, which contains the remains of a triumphal arch, a palace, temples and various dwellings.

Had Petra never existed, the magnificent Roman-era ruins at Jerash, situated an hour north of Amman, would probably be more well-known than they are today.  As it is, Jerash is Jordan's second most important tourist site.  Founded in the fourth century B. C., Jerash's golden age began after the city was captured by Pompey in 63 B. C.  Much construction was undertaken in the first and second centuries A. D.  Jerash reached the height of its power during the third century A. D. after the fall of Palmyra, its rival to the north in present-day Syria.  Later Jerash was sacked by the Persians in 614 A. D. and again by the Arabs in 635 A. D.  The city boasted a 1900-meter-long main street, and many of the first- and second-century Ionic and Corinthian columns which formerly lined that street have been preserved.  An amphitheater and a forum also existed in addition to temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis.

A long weekend in Jordan is a wonderful escape for those who enjoy viewing antiquities.  While pleasant, the beach hotels in Aqaba, Jordan's Red Sea port adjacent to Eilat, Israel, offer little to those living in Egypt who have access to Sinai's well-developed beach resorts.  On the other hand, one special highlight in Jordan is the Dead Sea where, in addition to enjoying traditional spa activities, tourists can experience the unique sensation of floating in the world's most buoyant water! 

Current round trip airfare from Cairo to Amman, including taxes, is approximately EGP 1,640 on Royal Jordanian and approximately EGP 1,620 on Egypt Air, with no minimum stay.  Egypt Air flies once daily between the two capitals, and Royal Jordanian flies either once or twice daily.  Confusingly, the air schedules are not the same every day for either airline.  There is a cash departure tax of 5 Jordanian dinars (equivalent to about EGP 41) upon departure from Amman's Queen Alia International Airport. 


ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 359-0200, 358-5880, 359-1301.  Fax 359-1199.  E-mail:  Web site:

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