Jordan enthrals people from around the world, and it certainly worked its appeal on a Jordan Small Group Tour I led on a tour through the kingdom, to delve into some of its well-known and not-so-well-known features.
Staying at the Intercontinental Amman, it was only a short drive to the site that would give us an overview of Amman and also insights into its history; Amman’s Citadel with its long history of occupation by many great civilizations.
Most of the buildings that can be seen here are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. Nader, our excellent guide, explained the history with the Temple of Hercules, The Jordan Archaeological Museum and the Umayyad Palace. As it was built on one of the legendary 7 hills of Amman, we had a great view of area below The Citadel including the Roman theatre and Al Hashami suq area, both of which we later visited.
Both our meals or lunch and dinner were probably the most memorable of our whole time in Jordan. Lunch was in the simple, well-known restaurant ‘Hashem Restaurant’ which gave us all a nice light meal, and a flavour of the country.
Dinner was a different experience, at Beit Sitti (‘my grandmother’s house’). The concept is simple, we, the guests, are hosted and enabled to prepare our own dinner, in Jordanian style. Wafaa (who would make a great Jordanian Bake Off presenter) was our host and she enabled each of our group to participate.
As one of our group has their own commercial vineyards I was especially delighted that we got Mario Junior Appiani to provide a tasting of local, Jordanian, wines, from the company who operates the Jordan River vineyards.
From Amman we plunged deeper into Jordan’s Roman history at Jerash, north of Amman, one of the places along the Kings Road. This is a large site, though only part of the original city is excavated & much lies under the modern town.
Jerash, a Seleucid city, was incorporated into the Roman Empire from 63BC and from AD 106 was incorporated into Arabia Petraea. We found this was in many respects a typical Roman city, with a Hippodrome, plaza, 3,000 seat theatre and various temples and churches spread along a long collonaded street.
Leaving Amman, we travelled south to Petra, pausing at a modern mosaic factory, which gave us an understanding of how the Byzantine mosaics were made.
Stopping at Mount Nebo we joined hundreds of pilgrims at this site said to have been visited by Moses and much more recently Pope John Paul II & Pope Benedict XVI . The location has extensive Byzantine-style mosaics and an active Church, the Moses Memorial Church.
After a quick lunch and walk through Dana village high above Wadi Feynan which we would visit a few days later. Our next stop was a nice one, for me especially, as it took us to Shobak Castle (Krak de Montreal), which I had never been to before. Its not as impressive as Krak des Chevaliers in Syria which I visited before the war there – but still a great fortress.
We stayed on the Mövenpick Resort Petra for a couple of nights.
This hotel is ideal for a visit to Petra as it’s immediately next to the site’s entrance, and museum, making access quick and easy.
We were among the first visitors of the day into Petra, so we reached The Treasury before it became crowded, except for a few camels waiting expectantly for visitors.
Much of Petra is along the watercourse of a wadi, making it a delightfully easy and very impressive place to visit as you can simply follow the route of the wadi. There are monuments reached by steep stair routes, however, we decided to focus on the key sites along the wadi.
Our target was lunch at the Crown Plaza’s Basin Restaurant where our visit was timed well, with a table available for our group, before a stroll back to the hotel.
This is named as the rooms have a passing resemblance to the accommodation in the ‘Martian’ film, which was partially shot in Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum also provided another memorable meal, in a beautiful location.
Our time in Wadi Rum gave the group a chance to ride Camels, take an open top 4×4 ride and most memorably a re-enactment of a Lawrence of Arabia style attack on our private Hejaz Rail train.
From Wadi Rum we swung farther south and then north along the Jordan Valley into Wadi Feynan.
Here the Feynan Ecolodge would offer us memorable star-watching, demonstrations of traditional bread making and coffee roasting.
Our final destination was the Red Sea, once again staying at a Mövenpick Dead Sea.
Naturally, I checked that I was still buoyed up by the water, & fortunately, I was.
The hotel offered us a marvellous farewell dinner at Luigi’s, chosen as one of the group hailed from Italy and was an expert on that cuisine. We stepped back in time and enjoyed Jordan River wine, from our first night, to toast the tour.