The following day I met the tour guide and my small group travel mates. Our group consisted of 17 Americans from various states. Overall, the group meshed very well throughout the journey across Jordan.
Al-Salt and Amman City
The first day of touring began with an Amman City tour and Al-Salt, a historical old city. We took a short bus ride to Al-Salt. It is a historical city that was an important trading hub from the late 19th century until early 20th century. Our group visited the Historical Old Salt Museum, an Arabic souk, and some city streets to view heritage buildings made of yellow sandstone.
Continuing to experience the journey through Jordan, the next stop was to embark on a city tour of Amman. It is the capital of Jordan and sometimes referred to as the White City. Many houses were built using white stone, thus the name White City. The tour through Amman took us to the Citadel, an archaeological site that includes the Temple of Hercules and Umayyad. The Citadel is located on the highest hill in Amman, and the view is impressive. The Archaeological Museum is available to visitors to see artifacts that date back from prehistoric times to the 15th Century. Other sites during our visit include a Roman amphitheater, Jordan Museum. Souks, and Amman’s modern district. Later that same night, our small group and tour manager enjoyed a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Jerash and Ajlun Castle
On the fourth day, the journey through Jordan led to Jerash, Ajlun Castle, and Ajlun Nature Reserve. Jerash is north of Amman and houses a well-preserved example of Roman civilization in Jordan. According to history, Jerash was part of the Decapolis (10 large Roman cities of the East). The ruins are a fantastic sight to see and feature churches, an amphitheater, a Nymphaeum, the temples of Zeus and Artemis, plus a colonnaded street. One marvels at the ruins when thinking about how long ago they were built and with minimum technology.
After Jerash, our tour group continues to Ajlun Castle. It was built in 1184 AD and stands atop Mount Auf. The castle commands views of the Jordan Valley and three wadis (valleys). The Ajlun castle was an essential strategic link and defensive chain against the Crusaders. It still stands today, and nearby is the Ajlun Nature Reserve. We had an opportunity to walk through the reserve to observe the beauty of natural plants and wildlife. Afterward, we experienced a delicious lunch, visited a soap house and a house of calligraphy before our return to Amman.
The journey through Jordan headed south towards Petra from Amman. However, we had a couple of stops along the way. En route our bus headed to Mount Nebo. This place has important biblical significance because it is the reputed burial site for Moses. Mount Nebo overlooks the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. We were in part of the Holy Land and what an experience!
Leaving Mount Nebo, we toured a mosaic school and saw incredible creations by local artists. Then we continued on to Madaba to view the floor of the St. George Church. An ancient map of the Holy Land is set in the floor of the church. Also, the church is filled with beautiful works of mosaic art. From there we boarded our bus and began the drive to Petra.
Petra, Wonder of the World
The day I waited for was to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Petra. It did not disappoint. So far, my journey through Jordan was magnificent, but I could not contain my excitement. Petra is often called the “rose red” city. It is hand-sculpted from a mountain range by the Nabateans in the 3rd century BC. Can you imagine carving buildings in the stone mountain walls?
We began our walk through the “Siq,” a winding canyon road. Tourist can also ride donkeys, camels, or horses through the Siq. I chose to walk and climb pathways through the canyon. In photographs, you often see the magnificent Treasury building, but there are so much more to view in amazement. I and some tour mates climbed over 700 uneven stairs up to the Monastery building which is as magnificent as the Treasury. Tourists also see the remnants of the Nabatean culture including soaring temples, royal tombs, burial chambers, and more.
To conclude a wonderful and tiring day, our tour group went to the Petra Kitchen for a fun cooking lesson and dinner. We chopped vegetables, mixed seasonings, cooked, and ate traditional Jordanian food. Our meal included homemade lentil soup, cucumber and tomato salad, Baba Ganuj, Tahina salad, Tabbouleh, Galayat Bandura, Mana’eesh, and Jordanian wine. It was an exciting night. Finishing up our delicious meal, we left for our hotel, Old Village Hotel after a long, full day.
Leaving Petra, we drove to Aqaba, Jordan’s only port city on the Red Sea. We started with a city tour and visited the Mamluk Fort and the Aqaba Museum. It houses artifacts dating back to 4000 BC. Afterward, we walked through city streets and visited one of the oldest churches in the Middle East. We ate a delicious lunch at a local eatery and then headed to the Movenpick Resort Aqaba.
That evening, we sailed on the Red Sea to watch the sunset and enjoy dinner. The sea breeze was relaxing as we floated on the calm sea. The ship’s captain gave a geography lesson and pointed out the different coast of Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Then, we chatted, sipped wine, and snapped photos of the sun going down. The next day we had some downtime to relax on the beach, at the spa, or poolside.
Wadi Rum Desert
So far, the journey through Jordan has been extraordinary. However, visiting the Wadi Rum Desert kicked it up a notch. It is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is spectacular! Wadi Rum Desert is described as the Valley of the Moon. The desert is known as the site of filming for Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O’Toole.
Seeing this place in person is a like viewing a natural masterpiece. My tour mates and I road in 4×4 trucks to view the rock formations and desert vistas. We visited a Bedouin camp, ate lunch, and sipped tea. During sundown, we rode across the desert on camels led by Bedouin trainers, sipped wine, and marveled at the Valley of the Moon. Later we returned to our camp, Wadi Rum Sun City Camp to experience a Bedouin dinner and to stare at the star-filled sky.
For nine days my tour mates and I have been on the go! The journey through Jordan is exhilarating and exhausting. Too bad, I didn’t have my FitBit. My step counts would have been off the charts. On day 10 we traveled to Kerak to visit its Crusader Kerak Castle. It dates back to the 12th century. The castle is filled with exciting passageways and stone-vaulted halls. Sitting on a hill, the view from the Kerak Castle is spectacular.
After walking up many stairs and inclines, we left the Kerak Castle to have a traditional meal with a local family. Eating with the local family gave us insight into local traditions and Jordanian family life. Later we boarded our bus and traveled to our hotel, Holiday Inn Dead Sea on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Bethany and the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. The water is so salty that one floats with ease. You can literally read a book while floating in the Dead Sea. The water is believed to have medicinal properties, and the area is known for rejuvenating skin treatments.
During the morning, we traveled to the religious site of Bethany. It is located on the east bank of the Jordan River. On the west bank is the country, Israel. Bethany is where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The area of Bethany is also known as part of the early Christian pilgrimage route between Jerusalem, the Jordan River, and Mount Nebo. The religious history surrounding Bethany is astounding.
The last day of my journey through Jordan ended with relaxing in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea. Also, I smoothed and dried mineral-rich mud on my skin. Then I rinsed my skin to a new softness. Then I waded into the Dead Sea and laid back. At first, it was hard to relinquish control to the automatic flotation properties of the water. Finally, I let go and laid back to feel the sun warm my face. It was time to say farewell to Jordan.
End of the Journey
The 12th day ended with a drive back to Amman. My flight back to the United States started on British Airways to London Heathrow for a three-hour layover before the next flight to Chicago on American Airlines. Fortunately, I used my Priority Pass and American Express Platinum membership to relax in one of the few lounges at the airport. I ate a small meal and sipped wine before my next flight. It was also an excellent time to reflect on my journey through Jordan.
My journey was solo but being on a small group tour allowed me to meet some great people. The people of Jordan were friendly and accommodating throughout the trip. Gate 1 Travel did an excellent job of planning tours, providing nice hotels, and being affordable.
Royal Jordanian, British Airways, and American Airlines provided on-point service. A special kudos and thanks to an American Airlines flight attendant for locating a new seat for me because a seatmate needed his own space. All of the flights were smooth and on-time.
Visiting Jordan is an extraordinary experience. In 12 days, I covered much ground on the trip, but there’s still much to see. Perhaps, there is another journey through Jordan soon for you and me.
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