13 Reasons to Visit Jordan, the Middle East's 'Oasis of Calm'

Petra Monastery, Jordan
Photo by FedevPhoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Gail Simmons, The Telegraph, April 30 2018

After years of instability Jordan is wooing tourists back in their droves as the Middle Eastern country looks to welcome 7 million a year by 2020. Here's why it's your turn to be enraptured by a country that offers sun, sea, sand dunes, the wonders of Petra and delicious lamb and yoghurt.

1. Forts and resorts

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Aqaba was little more than a dusty desert fort when TE Lawrence pitched up here in 1917, playing a leading role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Now there’s luxury to boot at this Red Sea resort, with the forthcoming Ayla development showcasing Hyatt’s first five-star hotel in Jordan. ayla.com.jo

2. Mensaf

When in Jordan... eat as the Jordanians do. Mensaf, a traditional dish of lamb and yoghurt served with rice, is best enjoyed in traditional surroundings. Head for the Sufra Restaurant in Amman’s trendy Rainbow Street. romero-jordan.com

3. Crusader castles

Think Jordan, and you probably won’t think crusader castles. Our favourite is Shobak, built in the twelfth century to guard the King’s Highway from Damascus to Egypt. More atmospheric and less touristy than nearby Kerak. visitjordan.com

4. Thrills and spills

Feeling a little jaded after all that sight-seeing? Clear away the cobwebs canyoning in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, a dramatic sandstone wadi where you can hike, rappel, scramble, abseil and swim through 50-metre high canyon walls. wildjordan.com

5. Bar hopping

Amman was built on seven hills and one of them, Jabal al-Weibdeh, is now a magnet for the city’s hipsters who peruse its bookshops, galleries and bars. Join them for a session at Maestro Music Bar. locandahotel.com

6. Camel riding

Lawrence wouldn’t have got anywhere without his trusty camel. Learn to ride one like a Bedouin, following Wadi Rum’s ancient trade routes and secret trails. Then gather round the campfire sharing tales of desert adventures. jordantracks.com

7. Petra Kitchen

Exploring Petra is hungry work, so why not complete your visit of the rose-red city with an evening at the Petra Kitchen? Here you’ll learn to cook like a Jordanian, then tuck into your efforts. petrakitchen.com

8. Hejaz railway

Remember the train ambush scene in Lawrence of Arabia? Don your dishdasha and take a steam train deep into the desert where you can partake in a re-enactment of the attack. Not for the faint hearted. jhr.gov.jo

At a glance | Jordan 

9. Shaumari

Rub shoulders with some of the rarest species in the Middle East including ostrich, wolf, jackal, gazelle, hyena and the endangered Arabian oryx. After a five-year refurbishment programme Shaumari, Jordan’s premier wildlife reserve, has now reopened. rscn.org.jo

10. Championship golf

Anyone for golf? Practise that swing amongst the palm trees on Jordan’s first 18-hole par 72 championship course, designed by Aussie supremo Greg Norman. Finish off your round with a dip in the Red Sea. ayla.com.jo/golf-hills

11. Hot springs

Take a dip 264 metres below sea level, where the mineral-rich waters of these hyper-thermal waterfalls near the Dead Sea reach temperatures of 63° Celsius. Afterwards, chill out at the Ma’in Hot Springs & Spa. mainhotsprings.com

12. Star-gazing

There’s no better place to stargaze than the desert. And there’s no better desert inn than Feynan Ecolodge, where after a candle-lit supper the rooftop telescope offers the finest views in the universe. ecohotels.me

13. Lawrence's footsteps

Lawrence's involvement in the Arab Revolt, during which he fully dressed the part, will be at the forefront of many a visitor's mind. You may not be leading a troop of galloping Bedouin but you can walk with them across Jordan rom North to South on the recently opened Jordan Trail, following many of their traditional routes and ending, like Lawrence, at Aqaba. jordantrail.org

 

This article was written by Gail Simmons from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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