Arrive in Amman. There are many choices to fly to Amman. I usually choose Royal Jordanian. With direct flights from New York and Chicago, and the absolute best check-in facilities at Queen Alia airport, it just seems the right choice.
The Club Floor at the Grand Hyatt Amman is my current hotel of choice. There are great rooms, wi-fi and a fabulous club lounge for all-day munching. The others I love are the Four Seasons, which is more western to me, and the Amman Marriott, which of all three seems the most “Arab” influenced in design, food and ambiance.
Rest up and acclimate. Relax over a typical evening mezze of wonderful food.
Four Seasons Amman
The Citadel of Amman is a must for your first stop. It is an archaeological park that carefully and clearly shows the visitor all ears of Amman’s history through actual finds from the site. The museum is small but interesting, and walking through history while looking over all of Amman will give you an immediate sense of place and time.
Stop by the Gold Market on your way down and be dazzled. The designs might not please every western taste, but remember they are made primarily for bridal dowries.
The afternoon is good for the Roman Amphitheater and a walk around this very approachable city. One additional stop that I love is the Jordan River Foundation’s shop that has some of the finest handicrafts in the Arab world – all made by and supporting the work of Her Majesty Queen Rania’s Foundation.
Visit Jerash. You will be amazed. One of the finest Greco-Roman cities in the world today is just 35 minutes outside of Amman. Beautifully preserved, you can walk the cobblestone streets (watch out for the chariot ruts in the stones!) and really see how this ancient trading city appeared in its heyday. If you don’t arrive with the Jordanian school children, you might almost have it to yourself, unless it is the day they reenact the chariot races – weekly in the summer months.
Take a car and driver (so you can enjoy the trip) and head south down the King’s Highway, an ancient trading route which began in Egypt and ends in the port city of Aqaba.
Your first stop should be the city of Madaba and nearby site of Mount Nebo. Madaba is famous as the city of mosaics – past and present. The real highlight in the visit is the Byzantine church of St. George in the center of the city. This church houses the oldest known map of the Holy Land. This detailed mosaic map was dedicated in 542 AD and is so specific it has been used recently in a land dispute case at the International court at The Hague.
Mount Nebo is reported to be the site from which Moses looked over at Jerusalem and on a clear day you can, too. The church is currently under extensive restoration, but the stop is not to be missed.
Drive on and tonight you will check into the Mövenpick Resort Petra.
Do I need to say much here? Indiana Jones has done it all for me, but know you will need a full day here and all your energy to go beyond the iconic Treasury and stroll past the sites of Roman and Byzantine times. My favorite is a current dig at the Byzantine church, near the back of the site, where there are also exquisite mosaics. Go all the way to the end of the street and visit the small museum. Have a tea or lunch and gather your energy for the long climb back through Petra and out the siq – it is all uphill.
And then on to the Dead Sea. The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea here is fabulous. It has one of the best spas I have ever been to (and why not, since the Dead Sea must have been the original spa town). Enjoy swimming, floating and eating here – and you will not want to leave. Be sure to have drinks out on the terrace at sunset – preferably after a great massage – and watch the lights come on on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Everything in this part of the world is so close, but as we know so far in many more ways.
Back on the King’s Highway you will pass the newest archaeological site in Jordan – “Bethany Beyond the Jordan,” which claims to be the baptismal site of Jesus. The Israelis claim the site on their side of the Jordan River, and both claim biblical evidence. I must note here that at this spot the Jordan River is only about six feet wide and you will see tourists on the other side also gathering water from the river to take home. Archaeologically, there is so much to see here as the digs have uncovered early first century AD baptismal pools and other significant historical artifacts. Pope John Paul II visited and sanctified this as the actual site. So visit quickly as many churches of all nationalities are now being built. President Putin of Russia visited to open the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in 2012.
Time to head home, all the while wishing you had planned longer in Jordan. Plan to return soon – Inshallah.
Jean Newman Glock is the owner of JNG Worldwide.