Situated between Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Jordan is unexpectedly peaceful amid the turmoil of its neighbouring countries and is a wonderful place to visit, made more so by its hospitable people whose immediate reaction to travellers is 'welcome to Jordan'. With a reputation for being one of the friendliest countries on earth, it is sad that so few people dare to explore its rich history, as well as two of the most magnificent sights in the Middle East: the ancient rock-hewn city of Petra and Wadi Rum's spectacular desert scenery.
Jordan is a kingdom layered in antiquity, from the work of Nabataean stonemasons to characters such as Moses and Lawrence of Arabia; from ancient cities and Biblical sites to desert castles, Crusader forts and Byzantine mosaics. This ancient culture belies the fact that it is also a modern country, with a good infrastructure, a thriving business and arts scene, and first class hotels, restaurants and shopping opportunities. The contradictions between the old and new are astonishing.
Jordan is a relatively small country of varied landscapes, where the fertile Jordan Valley, bordering the entire western side of the kingdom, is separated from the immense desert stretching to the east by the populated highlands. As part of the Great Rift Valley, the Jordan Valley incorporates the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth's surface and most famous for its heavy salt and mineral concentrations, while the main towns are strung out along the length of the highland plateau, including the friendly capital, Amman, as well as plenty of historical sites from ancient civilisations.
Home to breathtaking desert-scapes, colourful coral reefs that are unequalled anywhere else in the world, and sweeping vistas towards the Promised Land, Jordan is full of charismatic beauty, both in scenery and in the genuine Arabic welcome afforded to strangers. Welcome to Jordan&
The official currency is the Dinar (JOD), which is divided into
100 piastres or 1,000 fils. Foreign currency and travellers cheques
can be changed at any bank or moneychanger, although the latter
will usually give a better rate of exchange. Banks are closed on
Fridays. Better hotels will also exchange money. American Express,
Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are the most widely accepted
credit cards and can be used at major hotels, restaurants and
tourist shops; cash can be withdrawn from inside banks. ATMs are
available, though acceptance of foreign cards is limited.
|JOD 1 =||US$ 1.41||Â£ 0.92||C$ 1.44||A$ 1.37||R 11.89||EUR 1.11||NZ$ 1.77|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
Inoculations are not required unless travelling from an area infected with yellow fever, in which case a certificate will be requested on arrival. Although not necessary, it is recommended that a vaccination for typhoid be had before travel to Jordan, except for short-term business travellers who restrict their meals to major restaurants and hotels. It is advisable to drink bottled water, which is cheap and widely available, although better hotels have their own water filtering systems. An outbreak of bird flu was detected in poultry in the north of the country, but the risk to travellers is low. However, close contact with live birds should be avoided and all poultry and egg dishes should be well cooked as a precaution. Medical services are good throughout the country with clinics, hospitals and medical centres in every city or village, and many doctors in the larger towns or cities speak English. Most hospitals are privately owned. Travellers should carry their own prescription medicines and medical insurance is recommended.
All foreign passengers to Jordan must hold return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Furthermore, most nationalities require a visa to enter Jordan, which can be obtained on arrival, if arriving by air. A single-entry visa costs JOD 20, and is valid for one month. Note that the fee is payable in Jordanian Dinars only. This fee may be waived for registered tour groups of more than five people. Also note that all foreign nationals intending to stay in Jordan longer than 14 days will have to undergo an AIDS test, which must be carried out at the Directorate of Immigrant Health and Chest-Related Diseases. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Jordan Tourism Board, Amman: +962 (0)6 567 8294 or www.visitjordan.com
Foreign Embassies in Jordan
Originally spread over seven hills, or jabals, the capital of the Hashemite kingdom now sprawls over 19 hills and is home to over a million people, almost half of Jordan's population. Known as the White City, the hills are covered in a jumble of light-coloured stone houses, consistently box-like in shape with flat roofs characteristic of a typical desert city. Faded minarets, pavement markets, Arabian sweet shops and the crumbling remains of ancient civilisations contrast wonderfully with the contemporary edifices, fashionable boutiques and international restaurants. This blend of the old and the new combines in the noisy and chaotic downtown area where the city's extraordinarily friendly residents go about their business.
At the heart of downtown is the Ottoman-style King Hussein Mosque, around which the buzz and bustle is at its most interesting. Even busier at prayer times, the surrounding streets are filled with the essence of Arabia, exotic smells and rows of glittering treasures in the souq (market) amid the noise of frenetic haggling.
Just as overwhelming is Amman's sense of history, dating back 5,500 years to its position as the ancient capital of the Ammonites, Rabbath-Ammon of the Old Testament, and later as Philadelphia, the Roman city that became part of the Decapolis. Overlooking the city from atop Jabal al-Qala'a is the Citadel, the site of the ancient Rabbath-Ammon, and at its foot lies the impressive Roman amphitheatre that is the most remarkable remnant of ancient Philadelphia.
Amman is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world, and today functions as a thriving commercial and administrative centre with modern facilities, historical attractions and a longstanding tradition of hospitality. It is an excellent base from which to explore the surrounds, even the rest of the country, being no more than five hours drive from anywhere, and is surprisingly agreeable for a capital city.
As Jordan's only outlet to the sea, the tourist resort of Aqaba is known for its fantastic diving opportunities, mild winter climate and sandy beaches.
Situated on the tip of the Red Sea in southern Jordan on the Gulf of Aqaba, the town's greatest attraction lies offshore in the colourful coral reefs that are rated as the best in the world. These boast an incredible marine life and provide wonderful opportunities for divers and snorkellers in the clear waters year round. Besides underwater escapades, Aqaba is an ideal location for watersports and relaxation, whether it is swimming, waterskiing, parasailing, fishing or sunbathing.
For the history enthusiast, Aqaba contains sites dating back to 4000 BC, including the recent discovery of what is believed to be the world's oldest church from the 3rd century, the remains of the medieval walled city of Ayla and a Mamluke fort. These are proof of Aqaba's strategic position as the main port on the trading route to the Far East from Africa in ancient times, which made it a thriving town, and it is this same location today that makes it an important tourist centre. It is also conveniently situated for excursions to the spectacular desert scenery of Wadi Rum and the ancient rock city of Petra.
Carved into the rock and protected by rugged mountains on all sides is Jordan's most famous attraction, the ancient rose-red city of Petra, one of the world's most spectacular ruins set within a deep canyon near the town of Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa, or the Valley of Moses, was once the name of the whole valley and not just the small tourist town sprawled along the sides of the valley leading down to Petra. The town's existence is primarily to service the tourist industry as the gateway to Petra.
Over 2,000 years ago, a nomadic tribe from Arabia settled in the area and these Nabateans established Petra as their capital. It became a powerful fortress city that controlled the passage of traders, and grew prosperous from the caravans crossing their land carrying spices and riches from India and Arabia. From this wealth was created an astonishing city of monumental tombs, temples and decorative buildings carved from the solid rock, which still stands as a testament to the remarkable creativity and engineering prowess of the Nabateans.
Today's Petra is a staggering landscape of rock-hewn monuments, amphitheatres, palaces, arched gateways, water channels and detailed carvings spread over a vast area. Dramatic tombs and temples unfold with each step taken further into the winding canyon, and intricate facades cut into the soaring cliff faces dwarf the ubiquitous camel drivers, traders and tourists to insignificance. Where the uppermost layers of the rock have eroded away, fantastic surreal streaks of blue, red, yellow, purple and white cover the monuments in undulating patterns.
To enter the city, visitors must first pass through a long, narrow chasm in the rock, the Siq, that winds its way for almost a mile (1.5km) with steep inclining sides that come close to meeting 656 feet (200m) above. Suddenly the Siq opens out onto the canyon floor, dramatically revealing Petra's most famous monument: the Treasury, or Al-Khazneh, is intricately carved into the solid rock of the pink mountain face and stands 140 feet (43m) high. The towering faÃ§ade was used in the final moments of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.Petra's second most fabulous structure is the Monastery (El-Deir) situated among spectacular desert scenery high up on the mountain, and while it is bigger than the Treasury, it was never finished and is less ornate. A number of places require a bit of effort to reach, but climbing will be rewarded with enchanting views of the desert setting, an overwhelming sense of the size of the site and panoramic lookouts over the rose city of Petra, a certain highlight of any trip to Jordan.
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