| The Dead
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.
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
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
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).
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.