Jordan – Way More Than Petra!

By John and Doreen Berg
The ancient city of Petra was the catalyst that motivated us to visit Jordan. However, it didn’t take much research to learn that Jordan has many worthy sites of interest for the intrepid traveller.

Even though Jordan is surrounded by countries that are in conflict, we found it to be a safe and peaceful tourist oasis. The Jordanian people made us feel welcome with their spontaneous wishes to enjoy their country. A fantastic tourist destination!

Our use of a driver and car in Romania (see our blog for details) was so successful and rewarding that we decided to adopt a similar format for Jordan.

Our local tour operator choice was Jordan Beauty Tours. This small independent company located in Petra, custom constructed an eighteen day tour for us that met our desires and fit our budget. Ali, the manager, provided excellent service right from our airport arrival to our airport departure.

Petra – Treasury crowd late afternoon

Amman, Jerash and the Desert Castles:
Bustling City to Barren Desert

The centrally located Amman Pasha Hotel was to be our hub for city visits and trips to nearby destinations. We didn’t waste any time – our first day found us across the street from our hotel investigating the Roman Theatre.

Here, we clambered the steps of the beautifully preserved amphitheatre that seemed to stretch indefinitely up the hillside. Near the top we looked down to marvel at the beautifully sculptured Roman columns and newly re-built plaza.

After a chance to soak it all in, our driver whisked us away to visit the impressive King Abdullah Mosque. The mosque is dedicated to the late King Hussein’s grandfather. The gigantic prayer hall is able to accommodate 7,000 worshippers at one time, and the large blue dome is a landmark in Amman’s modern section.

The route to our third morning destination found us navigating the busy city streets to finally arrive at the entrance to the citadel that sits atop the highest hill in Amman. Artefacts found at the site indicate that the hill was a fortress and agora as far back as the Bronze Age. The most interesting attractions are two giant pillars as remains of the Roman Temple of Hercules. The viewpoint also provided a panoramic view of downtown Amman far below.

Wadi Rum at Sunset

We had a quick lunch of chicken shwarma (flatbread rolled sandwich) before heading back to the hotel for a brief, well-deserved nap in preparation for our early evening city stroll.

Our first stop was at the legendary Hashem Restaurant. The eatery is located in a narrow alley and has cement pillars for stools.

Judging by the long line of locals waiting to be served we anticipated the felafel (savoury deep fried balls made from chickpea flour) to be delicious – and they were.

As part of their many ancient attractions, Tourism Jordan includes the first post office as a choice for visitors. The post office contains interesting early implements and memorabilia. Once the curator’s tour was finished, tea was offered – we enjoyed it while sitting on a balcony chatting and viewing the passing parade of vehicles and pedestrians below us.

At the bottom of the street is the restored King Hussein Mosque, also known as al-Husseini Mosque. Its outside courtyard is a busy meeting spot. Following our brief visit, we walked through the gold souq, past the medicine stalls, finally gravitating to the many souvenir shops.

While they all appeared to contain the same tourist souvenirs our guide/driver, Fawaz, suggested Orientals Quasaybate Shop. After much viewing and trying a variety of items, Doreen selected a fancy fuchsia pashmina and quickly learned to weave it about her head and face.

Petra – The Treasury (in the morning!)

I tried on a red and white keffiyeh, but decided that it was too complicated and time consuming to tie so decided to stick with my floppy hat. We couldn’t resist buying one souvenir: a small mosaic.