We had two surprisingly good years in Jordan between Sep 2007 and Sep 2009. Surprising not least because of the hospitable people, great food and the many fascinating places to visit. A few of them are gathered on these pages
August in Amman is damned hot, so where do we go on holiday? To Aqaba where it's even hotter! Aqaba has one big advantage though. It's by the sea - the Red Sea which is fantastic for diving and that's why we went. We stayed three nights in Aqaba followed by a trip a few miles north and a night camping in the amazingly beautiful Wadi Rum, one of the most beautiful places in Jordan.
In August 2008 we took the opportunity of visiting one of the top natural attractions of Jordan. It's the northern tip of the great rift valley which stretches from Central Africa. On the west you’ve got the Dead Sea valley and the lowest place on Earth. On the East you’ve got the desert plateau stretching to Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Over millions of years, water flowed from the high plateau to the Dead Sea forming some huge gorges – or wadis. Here, there is an amazing diversity of life and beautiful landscapes including the Dana Nature Reserve. Except we didn’t go there. Just south of Dana the landscape is just as breathtaking and unspoiled but even more remote and that is where we headed.
Jordan is a great place for birdwatching especially in Spring and Autumn when many migrants are passing through on their way to and from Africa and Europe. Along the King's highway is a great spot for bird watching - especially in spring. We saw a number of migrants on their way to Europe for the summer. Another good spot is the Azraq wetlands reserve. Although it is no longer that wet, it does have the only drinking water available for hundreds of miles. And another good place is our garden - at least for Palestinian Sunbirds!
Wadi Mujib is one of the undiscovered gems of Jordan. If you are travelling along the King's Highway you will need to cross this huge canyon. There are some pictures on the King's Highway page, but for this trip we went to where the wadi reaches the Dead Sea. Here the canyon is sheer and narrow and there are some convenient cabins nearby, right on the Dead Sea, in which to spend the night. These photos are from a trip we took in June 2008.
The King's Highway is the name given to the modern incarnation of the ancient route which travels almost the entire length of Jordan from Amman in the north to Petra in the south. Giants throughout history have trodden its path from Moses through the great Roman Emperors to Richard the Lionheart. Not surprisingly it is therefore the site of many historical monuments and also not just a few natural ones including Jordan's 'Grand Canyon'.
I first visited Petra when I was living in Cairo in 2000 and so some of the photos on this page are from that trip. Pre-digital camera days for me meant that the scanned photos lack the sharpness of the other photos taken on a more recent trip in April 2008.Petra. But what an amazing place. Emerging from the canyon almost too narrow for a horse and cart and then to be confronted by the ancient treasury chiselled out of the sandstone cliff has got to be one of the most amazing sights in the world.
Northern ruins describes a number of disparate trips we did in the north of the country - to the famous ruins of Jerash, Umm Quais, Pella and Machaerus, mainly Roman in origin but also trips to Ajloun forest reserve and the town of Madaba, famous for its churches.
Jordan's deserts comprise 80% of the land area but hold only 5% of the population. The biggest desert starts as the suburbs of Amman peter out and continue East to the Iraqi, Syrian and Saudi borders. There is much of interest though: Although Azraq oasis is now tiny compared to years passed it is still an important stopover point for migrating birds. Man-made highlights of the region are the so-called 'desert castles', only one of which being a castle - Azraq - famous for sheltering Lawrence of Arabia during the arab revolt in 1917. Other so-called castles include Qasayr Amra, a former bath house complex built around 700AD and Qasr Kharana a building standing alone in the deep desert, its function and history almost completely unknown.
Think of Jordan and you generally think of desert. And you'd be right 90% of the time. However, in January 2008 we had a couple of days of quite heavy snow. Locals said they hadn't seen it like this for over 20 years and everything came to a complete standstill. If you are from colder climes you may think the following pictures are nothing special, except perhaps for photos of palm trees covered in snow, but for Jordanians it was a very strange sight. All the more strange for me was the fact that the streets were absolutely deserted. The government had told everyone to stay indoors because it was dangerous. This was a few inches of snow we were talking about.
We spent a memorable 2 years in our huge ground floor apartment on Mango Street in Amman. Here are a few photos of around the house and a few more of our feline friends as well.
Welcome to Jordan! We arrived in this land of contrasts at the end of August 2007. Some people told us it was boring and quiet, yet others told us it was dangerous – how could it not be nestled between Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Despite these contradictory warnings, in our first week we only find positives - the people are friendly and welcoming, the weather is great, the food is delicious, apparently crime is almost non existent and despite Amman not being one of the prettiest capitals in the world it is a fine place to live.