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The Middle East has a lot of baren, deserted lands, but that does not mean that there is nothing to see. In fact, the entire Old Testament of the Bible is based in the Middle East and thus you'll get some spectacular relics from the past, historically significant buildings, exotic sights, and so on as you explore the region- and Jordan is the perfect gateway into exploring the Middle East. You'll get to see some of the wonders of the world, coupled with some of the most hospitable, welcoming, and friendly crowd to make your trip a memorable one. You not only get to explore a slice of history, but Jordan has a plethora of modern amenities to offer. The capital city, Amman, set in the hills, has many cafes and restaurants that serve delectable Middle Eastern cuisine, impressive shopping areas to look for souvenirs, and fine art galleries to laze through and be amazed. Thus, if you are planning a trip to Jordan, you have to give this a read to find some of the most spectacular places to visit that you just cannot miss!
Represented as an ancient, mystical site in many movies throughout the world, Petra is a common site and is also included in the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World! This is one of the most stunning monumental places that you will ever see in your life- the magnanimity of which is entirely unmatched! The ancient city has left all the visitors awestruck since its rediscovery almost 200 years back by a Swiss explorer going by the name of Jean Louis Burckhardt.
A minimum of two days is required to explore the major attractions that the ancient ruins of Petra have to offer! If you can afford to spend more time here, you won't be disappointed and keep exploring the spectacularly well-preserved monuments from the past. There are above 800 sites that are registered that you can explore in Petra. This is a place that'll make you awestruck from the moment you set foot on the lands. The first thing to see would be the Djinn Blocks as you enter the city- the original purpose of these blocks is yet to be figured out! These are followed by the Obelisk Tomb which just gives a slight indication of all the amazing monumental features that you'll get to see.
The Siq is a labyrinthine, snaking pathway carved through a canyon and bounded long walls. As you take a closer look at these walls you will find the remnants of the channels that used to water this ancient city. You'll also see niches where sacred carvings are made, known as "baetyl" indicating that Petra not only used to be a grand city but also a holy one. The Siq will lead you on to Al-Khanneh or the Treasury. The Hellenistic façade of the Treasury is one of the most popular man-made features from the Middle East represented in all kinds of artwork throughout the world. The legends tell that this was the stronghold that hid away a glorious treasure from the pharaoh when Moses walked through the land.
These are the primary attractions that Petra has to offer. After looking through these, you could take a walk down the Street of Facades and check out the many tombs there. You would get an enticing view of the High Place of Sacrifice after climbing a set of several very steep stairs. The Colonnaded Street is also an impressive exploration point in the ruins of the city while the Theatre is awe-inspiring. The Monastery requires you to walk up 850 steps but it too is a magnificent sight to behold. During the night, the Petra Night Show comes alive when the Siq and the Treasury are alighted by over 1,500 candles!
The Dead Sea is a world-renowned attraction for quite a lot of reasons. Firstly, being 418 meters below sea level, it is the lowest area on earth that you could access through roadways. And then, the myths, legends, and scientific facts about the immense mineral deposits in the Dead Sea and the healing properties that the waters hold make it even more enticing. The bright aquamarine sheen of the Dead Sea makes it even more lucrative. In short, a visit to Jordan is incomplete if you do not visit the Dead Sea, a natural wonder of the world on to itself! The setting is also dramatic- the aquamarine waters dazzle under the beside rock ledges with salt deposits and against a backdrop of red mountains. It is accessible through the capital city, Amman, and is about an hour's ride away.
The mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea bring in an array of wellness devotees from all around the world. However, the water is very dense and you shouldn’t even try to swim in it. All you can do is float on the water- be sure to keep it out of your eyes since the intense salinity is going to sting in your eyes like nothing else. The Dead Sea mud is also much glorified and it is said that once you apply it on your skin and wash it off, you can instantly feel that it has become much softer.
Wadi Rum is situated towards the southern end of Jordan and is one of the most spectacular geographic features in the world. The place is also known as "Valley of the Moon" and the place will give you out-of-the-world experience! with special features. The rocky valley is composed of sandstone and granite rock formations coupled together with humongous sand dunes, caverns, and swirling archways. The 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia was mostly shot in this spectacular location and it has earned a listing in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2011.
This region is inhabited by the Zalabia Bedouin tribe and they have converted the place into an ecotourism hotspot. Of the many activities you can try in this place riding a camel or a wonderful Arabian horse is one of the most exciting things to do. You could also go on hiking expeditions through many trails carved in the rocky landscape. The region is also a haven for rock climbers, and if you are not into adventure sports you could simply dash through the sand on ATV tours. While in Wadi Rum make it a point to visit Khazali Canyon where there are numerous petroglyphs featuring humans and antelopes and dating back to the 8th century BC. Wadi Rum also has many glamorous camping or "glamping" options available for you to enjoy. Since there is negligible interference from light pollution, the barren lands of Wadi Rum offer an excellent opportunity for stargazers at night!
The Jerash Ruins is one of the best places in Jordan and visiting the place is one the closest things to sitting on a time machine and going on a tour into the past.it is a Roman City and of the best-preserved ruins in the world! There is everything in these ruins of a city that includes colonnaded avenues, beautiful temples, and an immense sports complex that can house almost 15,000 spectators. Hadrian’s Arch is the best place to start your exploration of the Jerash Ruins. A walk through this 11-meter structure is going to be one of the most memorable things that you ever do- just imagine how grand it originally looked like when the towering structure was almost double in height when it was functioning.
You should also visit the Hippodrome while you are in the ruins. It’s a sports complex dating back to the 2nd century and is famed to have hosted incredible chariot races as thousands of spectators cheered for their favorites. There are shows hosted in the Hippodrome which re-enacts the ancient games of gladiator fights and chariot races for your convenience. The Forum is another place of importance that you just have to see to believe. It is an oval-shaped plaza with tall columns that will give you a grand feeling. The Temple of Zeus is nearby and climbing up the steps to the top will open up a grand view into the colonnaded site. The ornate South Theatre is also going to captivate your imagination. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen as you walk through the many monumental features since there is no shade and the walks could get extremely hot and tiring!
Apart from the terrific man-made and natural features that Jordan has to offer, you would also get to enjoy the joys of a beach in Aqaba. The city is situated towards the southern fringes of Jordan and is washed by the vibrant waters of the Red Sea. Since there is a sea, all kinds of water activities are possible in this region such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The local hotels also offer cruise rides into the bright turquoise waters of the Red Sea and it is a beautiful journey in itself. While you are in Aqaba, you have to try the "sayadieh"- it is a flavourful fish dish made from local fish mixed with onions, tomatoes, chili pepper, and rice.
Amman’s Roman Ruins
The Middle East holds a plethora of archaeologically significant sites and Petra is not the only place to witness them. You’ll get a taste of the mystical Roman ruins while you are staying in the capital city, Amman- you have to come here as you enter Jordan through this impressive location. The ruins are easy to explore since they are a short walking distance away from one another.
The Amman Citadel is one of the most popular ruins to visit in the city and you have to have it in your Jordan itinerary! The artifacts that archaeologists have dug up from this impressive location suggest that the place has been inhabited since the bronze age- yes, it speaks of an ancient history! A few columns on the Temple of Hercules still stand tall today giving you an impression of a significant, yet incomplete Roman architecture. The place holds stone sculptures shaped in the form of fingers- it is believed to be part of a statue of Hercules that was supposed to be almost 12 meters tall giving you an idea of the majesty of this site.
The ruin of the Roman Theatre in Amman is also worth your time. The amphitheater has been restored and features a capacity of seating up to 6,000 spectators, dating back to the time of the Roman rule in Amman before the Christian era began. The Nymphaeum is a nearby site built around the same time as the theatre- it is an intricately designed Roman fountain. You should also visit the smaller Odeon theatre which had a seating capacity of 500.
Once you are done witnessing the ancient features in Amman, it is time for you to engross wholeheartedly into the modern culture that the pace has to offer. Walk through Rainbow Street where you will find many art galleries, shops to collect souvenir items, and many restaurants and cafes to satiate your hunger for Middle Eastern delicacies.
Madaba and the Ancient Mosaics
Madaba is an interesting place to visit in Jordan. While nearly all the locations in the world demand that you look up and about to see something spectacular, Madaba has intricate Mosaics that you have to look down upon. These are some of the finest mosaics in the world to be found in the location of their origin and are spread through the many churches and buildings in the region.
St. George’s Church in Madaba looks unassuming but it has one of the most significant mosaics in Jordan. The Madaba Mosaic Map dates back to the 6th century and illustrates what the holy land looked like during the reign of the Byzantine empire. Though some of the almost 2 million tiles are missing, you'd still get to see how the entire Middle East looked like in all its glory during that era.
Madaba also has two archaeological parks that display more of such mosaics. Archaeological Park I feature an open-air museum and has a display of geometric mosaics collected from the Church of Virgin Mary- a site that was rediscovered in someone’s basement in 1887. You’ll also find Jordan’s oldest mosaic work dating back to the 1st century BC. You might also visit Archaeological Park II, situated in a Byzantine Era mansion. Here too you’ll find some excellent examples of mosaic work.
Wadi Mujib is a canyon much like the Grand Canyon in America and is situated about 70 km away from the Dead Sea. The canyon has a width of 4 km and a depth of 1 km making it an immense natural feature in the area. Here, you'll get to witness some Middle Eastern wildlife firsthand such as the Egyptian vultures, striped hyena, Syrian wolf, and Nubian ibex. You could also go on hiking expeditions, especially through the Wadi Mujib gorge though you might get a little wet while doing so. The Mujib Reserve Biosphere is also a stunning location to visit to witness the tranquil, picturesque setting while you enjoy yourself in a hot spring!
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