It was always a dream of mine to visit Jordan. Mainly because as a young child (owing to my name) my dad had always told me I was a Princess in Jordan and that the River Jordan was my swimming pool! I believed this until I was about 11 when geography and history thought me better but, it was then that this belief sank away and my interest changed and I became hooked on the idea of visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra. So, when the opportunity to run an Insight Vacations trip for some of Ireland’s top travel editors it was Jordan that was top of my list as a destination who could host us. And oh boy, the country didn’t disappoint.
We arrived late in the evening on the first day of our tour and checked in to the 5* Marriot Amman Hotel. A plush hotel which offered an impressive reception and excellent sports bar. After check in we went down for the welcome reception and it was here that we met our amazing tour director Elias and here that the tone of the trip was set. From the get go it was clear we were in for an amazing time.
The next morning we met to begin our journey to Jerash, a Greco-Roman city, which was vast and impressive. It even had onsite local entertainment in the Amphitheatre which allows you to get a feel for the acoustics in the arena and which had our whole group up dancing around the old ruins – which was an experience in itself. That evening we continued South to Petra where onboard the coach we sat back and relaxed and watched the movie Indiana Jones just to get us in the mood for the sites of Petra. Arriving late afternoon we checked into the 5* Marriott Petra and enjoyed a hotel dinner followed by some Jordanian wine out on the terrace which overlooked vast mountainous canyons. Simply breathtaking (When in Jordan make sure to sample the local wines. They really are of excellent quality)
After breakfast we make our way to Petra – The reason we were here!
Words can’t describe how breath-taking Petra is, and while the Indiana Jones movie has had its influence – hats and whips are on sale outside the entrance – they simply add to the excitement and fun! It’s when you pass all the novelty shops and stalls that this area opens up to simply dumbfound. The ancient city of Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. It is a city that the Nabataea’s (an ancient Arabic tribe) carved temples, tombs, palaces, storerooms and stables from the rocky cliffs of sandstone. The architecture is spectacular with the tinted shades of rose, salmon and pink caused by the mineral content of the rock. We entered Petra through the main entrance called the Siq. It is a 1200m long, deep and narrow gorge with bizarre-looking geological formations, colourful rocks, agricultural terraces, water channels cut into the cliffs, dams, and native-niches carved into the rock. The highlight of Petra is said to be the Treasury. Which is astonishing but, in my view only a small part of this unbelievable area.
The Monastery is not to be missed either. It is the largest tomb in Petra that lays perched high in the mountains. Some of us braved the 1 hour trek and it was endearing to be offered tea from the local traders (the Bedouin people, who once lived in Petra, but were relocated to a modern city a few kilometres away when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site). At the bottom of the long walk we sat for a lunch al fresco located at the bottom of Petra and spoke for hours about our own personal experience of this beautiful region. It was nearly two hours later when we decided we should make it back to the hotel.
That evening we went out for an authentic night at Taybet Zaman Village, Petra, where we each tried “Mansaf” which is the famous Jordanian main dish. This is a dish that you eat with your hands, and we had great fun trying it out. The night finished off with Shishas and a good old fashioned sing-song. Our Tour Director Elias joined in and shared some Jordanian songs with us. What a way to end a day in Petra!
After breakfast we travelled to the Kings highway, passing Shobak an Authentic 12c Crusader fortress and carried on to Madaba to visit Saint George’s Church where the Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor. The mosaic is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. After visiting Madaba, we carried on to Mount Nebo, one of the most revered holy sites of Jordan and the place where Moses was buried. A large replica of Moses staff stands on the top of Mount Nebo and this really drives home the significance of this holy land. We enjoyed a lovely traditional lunch at the Mazayen Nebo restaurant, where we learned how to tie and fold traditional head scarves.
Our final dinner was a feast fit for a king…or 10! It was course after course of some of the best foods I’ve ever tasted. Jordanian food is absolutely delicious mixing Mediterranean and spicy together perfectly.
Depart for onward journeys. We said goodbye to some of the group while a few of us were lucky enough to extend our stay with a dead sea extension which took us to the Marriot 5* Dead Sea resort which was superbly located. Here we slept at the lowest spot on earth, covered ourselves in mood and lay afloat in the dead sea! At night we sat outside and ate more delicious food and took in stunning views across the dead sea to Jerusalem.