My Travel Guide to the Arab World
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Map of Jordan

Jordan

Jordan in Arabic
Flag of Jordan

Time zone: GMT +2
Capital: Amman
Area: 89,342 square kilometers
Population: approx. 5,7 million
Currency: Jordanian Dinar (JOD)
Click for Amman, Jordan Forecast

Jordan is like a huge, open-air history museum. The country is awash with awesome monuments, like the Nabatean city of Petra, and the Graeco-Roman city of Jerash. Jordan boasts indeed some of the most spectacular historical sites in the Middle East.

Jordan is also a land of unique natural beauty and variety. Explore the shores of the Dead Sea, or venture on a camel-ride into the desert landscape of Wadi Rum. Add to this the warmth and friendliness of its people, and it is easy to understand why Jordan is the preferred holiday destination for so many.


Getting to and from Jordan:

airport

Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) is located 35 km southeast of Amman, near the town of Al Jiza. The airport is the hub for the national carrier Royal Jordanian. A large number of international airlines operate scheduled flights from Amman to destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.

Terminals: Two passenger terminals and one cargo terminal.

Getting to & from Amman: An airport bus service operates every 30 minutes during most of the day, between Abdali bus terminal in central Amman and the airport. The journey takes approximately 45-60 mins.

Taxis run from Amman to the airport at fixed rates.

Car rental and taxi services are available at the airport.

seaport Jordan's only sea port is Aqaba on the Red Sea. There are daily car and passenger ferry services between Aqaba and Nuweiba in Egypt. The ferry takes about 8 hours. There are also speedboat services that cover the distance in about an hour.
bus services

The JETT bus company runs buses from Amman to a number of international destinations, like Damascus in Syria, Baghdad in Iraq and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

JETT also serves a number of routes within the country, such as Amman to Aqaba, the King Hussein Bridge (for travel to the West Bank and Israel), Petra, and Hammamat Ma’een. The JETT station is on King Hussein Street, some 500 meters from the Abdali bus station. Tickets should be booked in advance.

Buses from Abdali terminal in central Amman run to Ajloun, Beqa’a, Deir Alla, Fuheis, Jerash, Irbid, Sweileh, Wadi Seer and the King Hussein Bridge.

Buses from Wahdat station run south of Amman to Aqaba, Madaba, Petra, Ma’an, Wadi Mousa, Karak and Hammamat Ma’een.

Another way of getting to and from Jordan is by using "servees", communal taxis. These are a great way to experience the genuine local culture.


Road distances in Jordan
From Amman to:
Al Zarqa: 26 km Kerak: 130 km
Aqaba: 330 km Ma'an: 221 km
Damascus (Syria): 350 km Madaba: 37 km
Halit Ammar (Saudi border): 22 km Petra: 243 km
Irbid: 92 km Syrian border: 95 km
Jerash: 50 km    

Amman

Amman, the busy capital of Jordan
Amman, the busy capital of Jordan.

Amman, the capital of Jordan, has a history going back as far as to 6500 BC. In the 13th century BC, this city was the Ammonite capital of Rabbath-Ammon, During Greek rule; the Hellenic ruler of Egypt changed the city’s name to Philadelphia.

Today, the capital of Jordan is a bustling city spread across seven hills.

For excellent views of Amman’s old city, a visit to Citadel Hill is recommended. Here you can also see the ruins of the Roman walls and the Temple of Hercules. There is also a castle dating back to the 7th century Umayyad period.

Not to be missed while you are on Citadel Hill, is the very interesting Archaeological Museum, with exhibits dating back to pre-historic times.

The Roman amphitheatre, dating back to the 2nd century AD, is one of Amman’s dominating monuments. It is located in the centre of the city, and houses two museums; the Museum of Popular Tradition and the Museum of Folklore.

The Jordan National Museum houses exhibits of modern Islamic art.

The Souk (central market), has a traditional oriental market atmosphere, and is well worth visiting.


Jerash

Ancient site of Jerash
The ancient site of Jerash.

Jerash is a town known for its ancient site, situated about 45 km north of Amman. Excavations have shown that the area was inhabited already during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Jerash began to grow as a city during the days of Alexander the Great, in the 4th century BC. It was, however, during Roman times that the city lived its golden age.

In the 1st century BC, Jerash became part of the Roman province of Syria. It later joined the “Decapolis”, a league of ten cities built by the Romans in the same century. This brought more prosperity to Jerash, and the city had trade relations with the Nabateans in Petra. Jerash finally reached a size of approximately 800,000 square metres.

Jerash decline began with the Persian invasion in 614 AD. An earthquake in 746 AD destroyed much of the city. Jerash is unique because of its excellent state of preservation, and it is one of the most well preserved ancient sites in the Middle East. The city walls still remain, and within them are temples, amphitheatres, public squares, public baths and colonnaded streets with sculptures and fountains.

Jerash is host to the annual “Jerash Festival of Culture & Arts”, held for two weeks every summer. The festival features performances by artists, musicians and poets from across the globe.


Along The King’s Highway - from Madaba to Aqaba


Map of the King's Highway
The King's Highway stretches across Jordan, from Amman to Aqaba.

The King's Highway is a 5000 year-old, modern road following an ancient route used since Biblical times. The road covers a distance of 335 km between Amman and Aqaba. Travelling the spectacular King’s Highway is like embarking on a journey through Jordan’s history. The road passes by ancient towns and through different ecological zones providing some breathtaking scenery.

Starting from Amman, the road passes by Madaba, crosses the Dead Sea valley of Wadi Mujib, climbs towards the hilltop of the Crusader town of Kerak, before continuing towards Petra and ending in Aqaba on the Red Sea.


Madaba

Just 30 kilometres from Amman, along the King's Highway, Madaba is best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics.

The Greek-Orthodox church of Saint George, houses the most noteworthy collection of Byzantine mosaics in Madaba. The famous Map of the Holy Lands, is a mosaic made from more than two million pieces. It is thought to be dating back to around 560 AD.

Other mosaic masterpieces found in the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles and in the Archaeological Museum, depict a profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and the everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Literally, hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba's churches and homes.

Close to the Church of the Virgin is the Mosaic School of Madaba, which operates under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism. The only project of its kind in the Middle East, the School trains artisans in the art of making, repairing and restoring mosaics.


Hammamat Ma'in

Southwest of Madaba is Hammamat Ma’in, the thermal mineral springs that for centuries have attracted people to come and immerse themselves in the site's warm therapeutic waters. There is a 4-star hotel here, which offers indoor and natural outdoor hot pools, a swimming pool and spa facilities.


Umm Ar-Rasas

The River Jordan.
The River Jordan near the Dead Sea.

To the east of Madaba, is Umm Ar-Rasas, a very ancient site mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The rectangular walled city is mostly in ruins but does still include several buildings, as well as four churches and some beautiful stone arches. The main attraction is outside the city walls within the Church of St. Stephen, which contains a very large, perfectly preserved mosaic floor laid down in 718 AD. It portrays fifteen major cities of the Holy Land from both east and west of the River Jordan. This magnificent mosaic is second only to Madaba’s world famous mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.



Mount Nebo & View of the Jordan Valley

The Byzantine Church at Mt. Nebo

This is a Byzantine church, built by early Christians. It has later been expanded into a vast complex. During his visit to Jordan in 2001, the Late Pope John Paul II held a sermon here that was attended by some 20,000 persons.

There is a platform in front of the church, where you can stand and admire the breathtaking view. It overlooks the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, across the West Bank to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.


The Jordan Valley & The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea in Jordan.
Salt crystals on the shores of the Dead Sea.
(©istockphoto.com/Simon Podgorsek)

The Jordan Rift Valley is a dramatic landscape, which at the Dead Sea reaches almost 400 metres below sea level. The Dead Sea is 55 km from Amman, and at 418 m below sea level, this is the lowest point on Earth. The sea got its name from the fact that it doesn’t contain any life, owing to its high salt and mineral content. The salinity of the Dead Sea amounts to about 30%.

Despite its name, the Dead Sea area is a lively place, attracting large numbers of visitors. The natural conditions of the Dead Sea location are said to be beneficial in the relief of certain ailments. Health and recreation spas have grown up along the Dead Sea shores, offering opportunities to treat conditions such as cystic fibrosis and psoriasis.


Kerak

Kerak is a city 120 km south of Amman, on the King’s Highway. The city lies on a hilltop, about 1000 m above sea level, and is surrounded by a valley on three sides.

The spectacular location of Kerak makes it an attraction in its own right. However, the city is also famous for its huge Crusader castle, built in 1142. This majestic castle, built for the protection of Jerusalem, was held by the Crusaders for 50 years, until defeated by Salaheddin in 1189 AD.

The lower court of the castle contains an archaeological museum, covering local history and archaeology.


Petra

The Khazneh, Petra
At the end of the "Siq", rises the spectacular "Khazneh".

Often described as the eighth wonder of the ancient world, Petra is without 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 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 a narrow gorge, called the Siq, over 1 kilometre in length. The Siq is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 metre 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 ("The Treasury").

This is an awe-inspiring experience. A massive façade, 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.

In addition to the Khazneh, there is an amphitheatre, and numerous other monuments located further into the area. Guided tours of Petra are available from the ticket office.

Enjoy these panoramic views of Petra.


Aqaba

Aqaba is a port city on the Red Sea, in the southernmost part of Jordan. Aqaba has three countries as its neighbours - Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are all within a radius of less than 20 kilometers from Aqaba.

Aqaba is a microcosm of all the good things Jordan has to offer, including a fascinating history with some outstanding sites, excellent hotels and activities, superb visitor facilities, good shopping, and welcoming, friendly people.

Aqaba is a great place to stay if you are planning to visit the desert landscape of Wadi Rum. Day trips can easily be organized and, because the distance is short, you will have more time to spend at the site.

Aqaba’s greatest asset is probably the Red Sea itself. Here you can experience some of the best snorkelling and diving in the world. The temperate climate and gentle water currents have created a perfect environment for the growth of corals and a teeming plethora of marine life.

There are several dive centres in Aqaba. All offer well-maintained diving equipment, professional instructors, and transport by boat to a variety of dive sites.

For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, all the deep-sea wonders can be viewed through a glass-bottomed boat or by submarine, or you can just relax under the sun on the resort’s sandy beaches. There are plenty of other water-sport activities available, as well as an extensive and interesting Marine Park.

From as far back as five and half thousand years ago Aqaba has played an important role in the economy of the region. It was a prime junction for land and sea routes from Asia, Africa and Europe, a role it still plays today. Because of this vital function, there are many historic sites to be explored within the area, including what is believed to be the oldest purpose-built church in the world.

Aqaba International Airport is just a 20-minute drive from the town centre and services regular flights from Amman as well as from several European cities.


Wadi Rum

The Khazneh, Petra
Wadi Rum in southern Jordan, offers spectacular sceneries.

Wadi Rum, in the desert of southern Jordan, is a stupendous, timeless place. It is a maze of monolithic rock-scapes, rising up from the desert floor to heights of 1,750 metres. Hikers can enjoy the tranquility of the boundless empty spaces; explore the canyons and water holes to discover 4000-year-old rock drawings and the many other spectacular treasures this vast wilderness holds in store.

When visiting Wadi Rum remember to bring something warm to wear at night as temperatures can vary from a daytime average of 32°C down to 4°C at night.

Also known as ‘The Valley of the Moon’, this is the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hussein and T.E. Lawrence based their headquarters during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in World War I, and their exploits are intrinsically woven into the history of this amazing area

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