Traveling often sets us off to search for a certain grand thing; it might be a food craving on the other side of the globe; or to view an antiquated object once used by the kings and queens of a bygone era.
Maybe we seek stories that have never been heard and documented before, or stories that are too crazy to be true so we have to see it for ourselves. Whatever you seek will surely be found in Jordan.
The Roman Influence
Jordan is an Arab state of the Middle East, landlocked by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Israel. The Emirate of Transjordan, as it was known by during British rule, obtained independence in the year 1946. Jordan’s name was then changed to Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, and was eventually simplified to Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or simply Jordan in 1949, along with the establishment of its capital: Amman City.
Amman was known as “Philadelphia” back in the day, named after the Macedonian King Ptolemy II. The name Amman came up having originated from the phrase “Rabbath Ammon”, meaning “Capital of the Ammonites.”
Visiting the metropolis is divided into two ways: the eastern side which houses the region’s historical sites, and the western side that showcases the more contemporary side of Jordan.
A quick tour around Amman brings you to the Roman Amphitheater. A favorite stop among tourists, the 2nd century CE Roman infrastructure has the capacity to seat almost six thousand individuals.
Adjacent to the theatre is a much smaller Odeon that seats over five hundred people, the well-preserved Roman Nymphaeum that contains a large three-meter deep pool, and the wide Hashemite Plaza named after the country’s royal family. Now, the theater and the adjoining attractions host many events such as the Al-Balad Music Festival, the Amman International Book Fair, and other national concerts and events.
Another must-see sight is the Raghadan Flagpole at the Raghadan Palace complex. Considered the tallest standing flagpole in the word, the steel structure hoists a 200 by 100 feet flag on top. It stands at a height of 416 feet from the ground and illuminates at night to prevent aerial accidents.
Outside the Amman metropolis is another Roman-influenced structure called Cardo Maximus. The colonnaded walkway is found in Jerash City, Jordan. The site is eight hundred-meters long and was constructed during the 1st Century AD.
It is flanked by over a thousand columns on each side, manholes, and a man-made drainage system. What makes Cardo Maximus a sight to behold are the chariot marks still visible on the walkway, along with the site’s straightness despite the uneven and curvy lay of the land.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 1985, and a part of the highly esteemed New 7 Wonders of the World, Petra in Jordan is the country’s most famous landmark. It has been estimated that the land was established during the 4th Century BC, but it was only in the year 1812 that it was discovered by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
The ancient city has since been studied and explored, valued for its major historical and archaeological significance. Petra is affectionately called by the locals as “Raqmu” or the “Rose City” for its red-colored sandstone.
When you enter the Nabataean Kingdom of Petra, travelers must walk through the Siq, a 1.2 km long narrow gorge. The Siq once had running water, and was a result of a tectonic force that created a walkway through the earth. Accessed from the valley of Bab as-Siq, the uneven wall stands at over 597 feet tall with underground chambers and sacred stone adornments called the baetylus.
As you reach the end of the Siq, the temple of Al-Khazneh will come into view. Carved out of sandstone during the 1st century AD, the structure served as a mausoleum for King Aretas IV Philopatris, and is now called “The Treasury” because of tall tales of treasures hidden in urns by pirates.
At present, the Al-Khazneh is now abandoned, but the temple’s façade is still intact, like a status of twins Castor and Pollux, four eagles, and double-axed Amazons, along with well-preserved columns and a few other wall carvings inside.
A few steps outside the temple will take you to the Royal Tombs, with the most famous tomb being the Urn Tomb of Malchus II, a Nabataean King who died in 70 AD. The entrance is flanked by three burial chambers and intricately designed columns.
Upon entering the main chamber, visitors can see three altars elaborately inscribed with the tomb’s consecration as a cathedral. Meanwhile, the adjacent Urn Tomb is the largest mountain-carved Palace Tomb, complete with a front stage and courtyard, as well as a smaller Silk Tomb and the Corinthian Tomb. The majestic beauty of Ad Deir, known as The Monastery, is also a structure carved out of a mountain and is red in color. It rises up to 148 feet and is the second most visited after Al-Khazneh.
The Jordanian Wadis
The term “Wadi” in Hebrew and Arabic simply translates to “valley,” which is representative of Jordan’s rough terrain and desert-like climate is filled with wadis that offer breathtaking panoramic landscapes. The most famous wadis are the Wadi Dana and the Wadi Rum.
Dana Village is a small and humble village with Jordanian charm. Lined with stone cottages and paved walkways, the area is undergoing conservation. Visitors looking to stay for a night can book a room at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature’s guesthouse, which also happens to be the conservation team’s main office.
Activities in the area include guided walking trails that take you on a tour of the best sights and landscapes, a village tour, birdwatching, and camping at the Rummana Campsite.
Relive your favorite Jedi scenes from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or imagine yourself stepping on Mars like in The Martian when your visit Wadi Rum. Roughly translated as roman valley in English, Wadi Rum is considered the largest valley in Jordan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its most prominent features are the Jabal al-Mamzar rock formation, known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Jabal Umm Fruth Rock Bridge, Lawrence’s Spring which offers an overlooking view of the entire desert, and the rock carvings of the Khaz’ali Canyon.
Recreational activities in the area include ATV eco-adventure tours, Arabian horse riding, rock climbing, walking trails, and hiking. To experience the desert at night, desert campsites are available for any individual, and it should be noted that Wadi Rum is affectionately known as the Valley of the Moon.
It’s best to book in advance whether you want to visit Dana Village and/or Wadi Rum to avoid any headaches and especially because walk-in visitors will not be accommodated.
Tanning it up in Aqaba
Drive up to Aqaba, Jordan’s sole coastal city located near Petra and the Wadi Rum. Known for its interminable beaches, hotels, and resorts, Aqaba City is a shortened version of the name Al-‘aqaba Aylah meaning “The mountain-pass of Ayla.”
Go for a swim at Al-Hafayer, a beach that offers snorkeling and scuba diving adventures. The beach also has facilities like clean toilets and shower rooms, as well as a selection of cafés and restaurants that serve delicious local cuisine. If you want to opt for a more private beach day, head over to Tala Bay Resort which offers the same amenities and facilities but with the comforting addition of spa services, water skiing, diving, gym facilities and an exclusive yacht ride along the Red Sea.
Looking back at when I had just started earning for a living, I had always dreamt of going to far places and revel in landscapes that capture the beauty of the past.
Fast forward three years later, I finally found it in the ruins of the Roman Empire and the Nabataean Kingdom of Jordan. The places are endowed with a rich history within its walls and in every site I’ve visited, screaming for people to listen. I encourage everyone to visit Jordan and let its captivating beauty enchant and transport you to the past and back.