Aqaba

Attractions   >   AQABA
The Red Sea resort of Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city famed for its remarkably rich marine life and renowned for its palm- fringed beach resorts and luxury hotels which offer a relaxing atmosphere and a great range of water sports activities.

Aqaba’s sparkling crystal clear warm waters offers a breathtaking snorkeling experience and an unsurpassed scuba diving adventure amongst the vast array of beautifully colored coral reefs.

Aqaba which had great significance in ancient times has interesting historical sites. The Roman ruins of Aqaba port city, Ayla were unearthed along with mud brick remains of what is believed to be one of the world’s earliest known churches, dating back to the late 3rd century AD, but the resort’s main attraction is the 12th century AD Crusader fortress of Helim, known as Aqaba Fort, which was rebuilt by the Mamluks in the 14th century AD and remains relatively well-preserved.

Behind the fortress are Aqaba’s modest museum and the house of Sharif Hussein Bein Ali, the great grandfather of King Abdullah II. Of interest also is Aqaba’s Aquarium which reveals the treasures of the Red Sea.

Underwater enthusiasts may enjoy snorkeling and diving at Berenice Beach Club which is distinguished by its location since it’s situated along the rich and bio diverse south coast region of Aqaba at the heart of the 7 km long protected Marine Park -which was created to conserve the thriving near shore underwater marine life where extensive coral communities (over 300 species of hard & soft coral) dominate the coast-line and provide habitat for a multitude of reef fish.

More than 20 stunning snorkeling and diving sites are located at the Marine Park, two of which are most famous and within easy reach -just off the Beach Club- the Cedar Pride Wreck (Shipwreck) and the Black Rock, suitable for both advanced and beginner divers. Nearby is also one of the popular dive sites in Aqaba, the colorful reef of the Japanese Garden.

The beach club houses the outstanding Sindbad Dive Club which is an Aqua Lung Partner Centre offering up-to-date scuba and snorkelling rental equipments, along with state-of-the-art PADI diving courses for all levels (introductory, beginner & advanced) under the guidance of professional PADI instructors. Snorkelling and packaged diving trips (day/night – shore/boat) for certified and advanced divers are also available. A wide range of water sport activities are available at Berenice Beach Club including water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing, banana boat & inner tube rides and also a variety of yachting cruises are offered at the club including a Coral Viewing Cruise aboard a glass-bottomed yacht with the option to snorkel, a sunset cruise with the option to dine & a full day sea excursion to explore the Crusader’s island of Ile de Grave (known as Pharaoh’s Island) in the Red Sea, near the shores of Sinai-Egypt, where one may enjoy snorkeling among the pristine reefs.

Sea excursions are also available to St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai-Egypt which was constructed over 1,400 years ago on the site where Moses encountered the burning bush at the foot of Mount Sinai.

One may also explore the wonders of the Red Sea on the Semi-submersible Submarine which is available at Tala Bay.

 

Wadi Rum

Attractions   >   WADI RUM

Wadi Rum best described by Lawrence of Arabia as ‘vast, echoing and God-like’ for its stunning natural beauty, and known by the Arabs as the Valley of the Moon for its moonscape terrain of ancient riverbeds, soaring wind carved rocks and smooth golden dunes, offering the most spectacular desert scenery in the world.

Many intriguing inscriptions and drawings, depicting animals and hunting scenes, engraved on rock and inside natural caves suggest that this remarkable valley has been inhabited in prehistoric times by hunters and traversed by Bedouin nomads and camel caravans for thousands of years, leaving behind traces of their passage as seen by the ancient 7th century BC Thamudic rock inscriptions and drawings.

Travelers may explore its stunning landscape on camel back or on horses and may venture far into the magnificent desert by Bedouin four-wheel drive vehicles while marveling at the massive mountains, beautiful canyons, and awe-inspiring rock formations and bridges and they may experience the renowned warm hospitality of the Bedouins by staying overnight.

 

 

Little Petra

Attractions   >   LITTLE PETRA ( SIQ EL-BARID & BEIDHA )

About 14 km north of the ancient city of Petra is Little Petra, a miniature Petra with a modest gorge ( Siq el-Barid ) that leads into the area of carved tombs and monuments. Of interest is the Painted Cave which is believed to have been a shelter for a sect focused on Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, as it contains remains of Greek-style plaster artwork, quite unique for Petra, displaying tangled vines and flowers with brightly colored birds and Cupid-like figures.

A kilometer further to the southwest of Siq el-Barid is one of the region’s most important archaeological sites, the 6,800 BC Neolithic village of Beidha which was inhabited, long before the Nabateans, by the New Stone Age people where over 60 stone-built structures have been discovered among the ruins of this early farming community.

Petra

Attractions   >   PETRA

The legendary city of Petra is Jordan’s most famous attraction and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, carved by the Nabatean Arabs more than 2,000 years ago, entirely out of solid sandstone rock.

It was initially inhabited, around 1000 BC by the Edomites at their capital Sela (Biblical name of Petra), but it wasn’t till the 4th century BC, that the city was carved out of rock by the nomadic Nabateans, who arrived from the Arabian Peninsula in the 6th century BC, and built their remarkable empire, around 167 BC stretching from northern Arabia in the south to Bosra (nowadays in Syria) in the north.

The Nabateans had rock-carved remarkable sepulchral monuments, temples and tombs out of solid sandstone rock and having been greatly influenced by the Hellenistic culture, named their magnificent capital city Petra; derived from the Greek word meaning “rock”.

They built their kingdom in the arid desert canyons and mountains which obliged them to excel in water conservation, building dams and rock-carving canals, cisterns and reservoirs.

The Nabateans often referred to as “the Lords of the desert”, excelled in trading and controlled the area’s major trade routes. Their caravans, heavily-laden with valuable incense and expensive spices brought from the Far East and southern Arabia, traversed the vast deserts towards the Mediterranean Sea ports, where rich consumers enjoyed Hellenistic lifestyles and hence their civilization flourished and became very wealthy and powerful through trading, sheltering caravans and levying taxes for passage through their lands.

The Nabatean kingdom was eventually captured by the Romans in 106 AD. It was a beautiful and large thriving city at the time but following the devastating AD 363 earthquake and the trade route diversions towards Bosra (in present-day Syria) and the sea, its decline was inevitable.

The city remained inhabited during the Byzantine period but gradually dwindled in importance and for over 1000 years, mysteriously lost to the world but not to the local Bedouins.

In AD 1812, a young Swiss explorer named John Louis Burckhardt, disguised as a Muslim Indian, ventured into the long lost city and rediscovered the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra.

The breathtaking ancient city is accessed by foot through the magnificent 1.2 km narrow Siq (gorge), which leads to Petra’s most

famous 1st century BC monument, the spectacularly carved Treasury which appears dramatically as you enter the hidden city at the end of the Siq.

The numerous stunning ruins of tombs, known as the Street of Facades, lead your way into the remarkable 3,000 seat rock carved Theatre, and the impressive collection of Royal Tombs.

The once bustling colonnaded market street, leads to the Great Temple, the beautiful 5th century AD Byzantine Church and to the mighty Qasr el-Bint Faroun.

A flight of about 900 steps cut into the colorful rock, takes you up to the gigantic 1sth century AD monument of the Monastery, with its stunning views over Wadi Araba.

Petra has many sacred sites chosen for devotion and sacrifice most significant is the High Place of Sacrifice where animal offerings were made at the rock carved sacrificial alters.

Shobak

Attractions   >   SHOBAK

The Crusader castle at Shobak was known as “Crak de Montreal” or “Mont Realis” –the fortress of the royal mount– built in AD 1115 on a remote hill to keep the route that connected Syria and Egypt under control. It was the first of a string of similar strongholds in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The fortress was captured by Salah el-Din in (AD 1189) after an 18-month siege, and then by the Mamluks who completely restored it during the 14th century AD, as witnessed by the numerous Arabic inscriptions adorning its walls and towers.

A visitor today can see the remains of the enclosing wall, archways, arrow slits, Crusader chapel, and most fascinating of all, the ancient well shaft cut deep into the rock, with 375 steps leading down to the water supply at the bottom. The shaft is one of the deepest ever created by Crusader forces.

Dana Nature Reserve

Attractions   >   DANA NATURE RESERVE 

Dana is one of the largest and most beautiful protected areas in the kingdom, famed for its spectacular scenery and commanding views.

The reserve stretches from the peaks of the Sharaa Mountains in the east, with an elevation of around 1,800 meters above sea level, descending across gorges with sheer rock walls, down to the beautiful dunes in the Rift Valley of Wadi Araba at sea level.

With Dana’s natural and diverse ecosystem, it is perfect for supporting wildlife. More than 45 species of mammals were spotted at the reserve including the ibex, the mountain gazelle and the caracal, which inhabits the lower rocky areas, and a variety of other animals roam the sheltered valleys, such as the red fox, the badger, the wolf, the wild cat, the jackal and the striped hyena.

The wide variety of plants and tree cover including juniper, citrus, desert acacias and palm trees, makes Dana home to more than 180 species of birds including the crested lark, chukar, partridge, great grey shrike, Sinai rosefinch and pale crag martin.

The reserve offers numerous hiking trails, a guesthouse located at the charming 15th century stone Village with fantastic views of the valley below, a campsite at the Rummana area; in the upper parts of the reserve overlooking Wadi Dana and a lodge at Feynan in the lower valley below.

Lot’s Cave

Attractions   >   LOT’S CAVE

Known as the world’s most sinful cities, “The five Cities of the Plain”, mentioned in the Bible as Sodom, Gomorrah, Zoar, Admah and Zeboim were unearthed along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. According to the Bible these Bronze-Age cities were destroyed by the Lord with a rain of brimstone and fire to put an end to the perversions and wickedness of its people. Genesis 19 describes how God sent his two angels to Sodom, to lead Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family outside the city before its destruction. Lot and his two daughters sought refuge in a cave overlooking the southeastern part of the Dead Sea near the ancient city of Zoar (modern Safi) while his wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she had defied God’s orders and looked back to watch the destruction of Sodom.

The cave where Lot and his two daughters dwelt in has been recently discovered in the barren hills overlooking Safi, along with ruins of a small Byzantine church with mosaic floors and burial chambers. At the base of the hill is Lot’s Museum, “The Lowest Museum on Earth” where about 400 archaeological finds from the area and across the Jordan Valley, representing history from 8000BC, are exhibited.

Kerak Castle

Attractions   >   KERAK CASTLE

The imposing Crusader stronghold of Kerak with its commanding position overlooking the town of Kerak was one of the most famous Crusader castles strategically situated on the Kings’ Highway and dominating the ancient caravan routes between Egypt and Syria. The fortified castle was built in AD 1142 and had witnessed many battles between the Crusaders and Saladin’s Muslim armies until its surrender to the Arabs after more than a one year of siege.

Visitors will be amazed by the network of the dimly lit vaulted rooms and long winding corridors, which lead into each other through heavy arches and doorways. Also of interest, are the narrow arrow slits in the walls, to prevent invaders from climbing up the steep rocky slope to the castle and the spacious underground dining rooms, the giant oven, and the millstone used for pressing olives.

Mujib Nature Reserve

Attractions   >   MUJIB NATURE RESERVE

The wonderful Mujib Reserve is one of the most enchanting nature reserves in Jordan offering delightful adventurous hikes of different grades along its water filled canyons, crystal-clear pools and waterfalls.

The reserve is located in the Dead Sea area, at 418 meters below sea level, and extends up to the mountains of Madaba and Kerak, at 900 meters above sea level.

The variation in elevations and permanent water flow creates a magnificent bio-diversity which represents a typical habitat for the different species of plants and animals in particular the elusive mountain goat, the Ibex which inhabit the upper sandstone cliffs.

The wet trails, which include wading through the pools and scrambling over boulders, are open between 1st of April and 31st of October for fear of flash floods during winter, while the dry trails are open between 1st of November and 31st of March.

Umm el-Rassas

Attractions   >   UMM EL-RASSAS

About 32 km southeast of Madaba lie the ruins of Umm el-Rassas, which is an ancient complex of four Byzantine churches, once surrounded by a stone wall.

Although it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site nevertheless Umm el-Rassas has not been well maintained except for the 7th century AD mosaics found on the floor of one of the four churches, the ruined church of St. Stephen, depicting scenes of hunting, fishing and daily life activities along with a magnificent mosaic panel representing Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian city plans. Among the ruins is a mysterious 15 m stone tower, with a chamber at the top probably used by early Christian hermits as a retreat, as there are no obvious means to ascend to it.