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Last updated : Nov 2009
South Jordan
The South Jordan - TravelPuppy.com
The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea, 392 metres (1286 feet) below sea level and the lowest point on earth, glistens by day and night in an eerie, dry landscape. The Biblical cities of Gomorrah and Sodom are thought to be beneath its waters.

Supporting no life and having no outlet, even the non swimmer can float freely and easily in the rich salt water. The Dead Sea at the end of the River Jordan is the environmental barrier between Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority Region.

The King’s Highway

There are 3 routes from Amman to Aqaba, the most picturesque being the King’s Highway, the whole length of which is dotted with places of interest. Madaba and nearby Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have struck the rock, were both beautiful Byzantine towns and have churches and well preserved mosaics.

In Madaba, there are also ancient maps of 6th century Palestine, a museum and an old family carpet making industry which uses ancient looms. Off the Highway is Mukawir, a small village near the ruins of Machaerus of Herod Antipas, where Salome achieved her fateful dance.

From the summit of nearby Qasr al-Meshneque, where St John was beheaded, is a stunning view of the Dead Sea, and sometimes even of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Close by, Zarqa Main has hot mineral water springs.

Rugged scenery characterises this area, waterfalls, deep gorges, white rocks, small oases, birds and wild flowers. Further south on the Highway is Kerak, a magnificent medieval town surrounded by high walls and with a castle. Other places of historical, scenic or religious interest along the route before Petra include Edomite Qasr Buseirah, Mazar and Mutah, Tafila and the amazing crusader hill fortress, Shaubek Castle.

Petra

Petra is 1 of the wonders of the Middle Eastern world, a gigantic natural amphitheatre hidden in the rocks out of which a gracefully coloured city with immense facades has been carved, it was lost for 100's of years and only rediscovered in 1812.

The temples and caves of Petra rest high up above a gorge, with huge white rocks forming the Bab, or gate, of the Siq, the narrow entrance which towers over 21 metres (70 feet) high. Until recently, the rock caves were still populated by Bedouins.

Most of this exceptional city was built by the Nabatean Arabs in the 5th and 6th centuries BC as an important link in the caravan routes. It was added to by the Romans who carved out a huge theatre and, possibly, the magnificent classical facade of the Khazneh (treasury).

Away from the road, it is only achievable to reach Petra on horseback. This city of rock streets, rock stairs, rock carved tombs and dwellings and temples has among its other attractions the Qasr al-Bint castle shrine and the Al-Habis caves and museums, while a short distance away from the more commercialised site of Petra is Al-Barid where several tombs lie in solitude and tranquility among the rocks.

There is a rest house in Petra built against the rock wall near the beginning of the Siq, where it is advisable to book early in season, however it is bitterly cold in winter. Many hotels also offer accommodation. The last stop south before Aqaba is Wadi Rum, about 5 hours from Amman by road.

A Beau Geste type fort run by the colourful Desert Patrol (Camel Corps), it was built to defend the valley in a great plain of escarpments and desert wilderness, and is a place strongly connected with TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

Many Bedouins, of a tribe thought to be descended from Muhammad, still live in the valley in tents. Some tours will arrange trips into the desert to stay with a Bedouin tribe or camping in the valley, a round-trip entailing 97 kilometres (60 miles).

Aqaba

At the north east end of the Gulf of Aqaba is Jordan’s only port, which can be reached from Amman by road or air. It has grown significantly over the past few years, both as a port and as a tourist centre, due in part to its brilliant beach and water sports facilities, and its low humidity and hot climate.

The town has numerous small shops and several good restaurants, and it leaves most of the other tourist facilities to be provided for by the hotels. These include scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing and fishing. Most hotels provide swimming pools, and will offer continental and some traditional cuisine.

Some also provide business and conference facilities and excursions to Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum. Aqaba’s Church, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 363 AD, was recently excavated and is 1 of the oldest buildings in the world.