VISIT JORDAN: MUST NOT MISS THESE TRAVEL TIPS AND A 7 DAY ITINERARY!

Jordan Overview

Located in West Asia, Jordan is bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, and Israel and Palestine to the west. Tourists can access the Red Sea through the southern port city of Aqaba. Amman, capital of Jordan is located in the northwest part of the country. While the majority of Jordan is desert, the northwest area is quite fertile and is part of the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent, which has been referred to as the “cradle of civilization”.

Etiquette Tips For Jordan:

Etiquette is very important in Jordanian culture. While Jordanians graciously tolerate behaviors from visitors that may not necessarily conform to their own standards of etiquette, you can show respect for Jordanian customs by following a few basic rules:

  • Stand when someone important, or another guest, enters the room.
  • Shake hands with everyone, but only with a Jordanian woman if she offers her hand first.
  • Don’t engage in any conversation about sensitive or personal topics unless you know the person you’re talking to well.
  • Most women don’t like to be clicked. Ask permission or avoid altogether.
  • Remove your shoes when visiting a mosque or a private house (unless you’re specifically told to keep them on).
  • Never interrupt someone praying.

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What to wear in Jordan:

I found Jordan to be a liberal country. However some religious places may have clothes restrictions. Here are my packing tips based upon my trip in May:

  • Smart Casuals
  • Casual trousers / jeans and T-shirts.
  • A warm but light jacket/and or a shawl for nights.
  • Walking shoes – You will be walking a lot in Jordan. Comfortable shoes are recommended. Flip Flops advised for the nights and the beach.
  • Some places like Wadi Rum are remote. It is advised that the travelers must carry basic medications along. You might waste time finding the brand you need. Worse still, you may not be able to find the same brand in Jordan.
  • Jordan is a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Sunscreen and Sun glasses are must!
  • It is a picture perfect location. Do carry a good camera and enough memory cards!

Pics above: Mars Like Wadi Rum was my favourite in Jordan

More Soul Window Tips for Jordan:

  • The water is safe to drink here but if you are still unsure you can buy bottled water
  • Take these things back home– Dead Sea products, Local Souvenirs, Mugs, Mosaics from Madaba, Different kinds of nuts, olives, spices to name few.
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Click to read why I ran out of Dead Sea as soon as I entered it!

Food Tips For Jordan:

Healthy food is available all over Jordan. The cooking standards are good. Most restaurants and take away outlets maintain hygiene and quality. It is a paradise for vegans as most of the mezzes and deserts are 100 % vegetarian and healthy.

Time Zone : Jordan

From the beginning of October to the end of March, Jordan is two hours ahead of Greenwich

Mean Time (GMT) and seven hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Jordan switches to Daylight Saving Time in the summer, when it is three hours ahead of GMT between South Africa and its neighboring countries, or between the 9 provinces of South Africa.

Currency of Jordan:

The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, commonly called JD. 1 JD = $1.41 USD (as on January 2017)

Denominations– 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 JD notes are in circulation. The Dinar is equal to 100 piasters (pronounced “peeaster”) of 1,000 fils. The piaster is the unit most commonly used. If you see prices written as 4,750, it means the price is 4.75JD. Currency can be exchanged at major banks, exchange agencies, and most hotels. Indians can withdraw JD at ATMs with their Indian Debit cards. My advice: Withdraw whatever amount you want to withdraw in Amman. It has more numbers of ATMs.

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Aqaba : The only coastal city of Jordan which borders Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel!

Best Time To Go To Jordan:

Jordan boasts almost year-round sunshine with temperate weather.

  • The Spring and Fall seasons: Mild and temperatures range from 60-70°F/15-21°C, with rain being more common in the Spring.
  • Summers are sunny with temperatures averaging 90°F/32°C in the day with cool evenings.
  • July and August are the sunniest and driest months of the year, especially in Amman and the Jordan Valley. In the desert areas, temperatures can reach 100°F/38°C.
  • The winter months from November to April can be cold, but snow is rare. Aqaba is an especially pleasant wintertime resort with the colder temperatures staying in the north. About 75%of the country can be described as having a moderate climate with very little annual rainfall.

I went in May. It was a pleasant time to be in Jordan. The days were breezy and conducive to walking. The nights were cooler (Just a shawl or light sweater is fine). Below is a lowdown on what weather is like in May in Jordan:

– Amman – 26°C – 32°C

– Petra – 22° – 26°C

– Aqaba – 31° – 35°C

– Dead Sea – 23° – 26°C

– Wadi Rum- 26° – 30°C

Average temperatures in Jordan by season:

Month Lowest Highest

January 40°F/5°C 60°F/15°C

April 54°F/12°C 77°F/25°C

July 66°F/19°C 97°F/36°C

October 55°F/13°C 84°F/28°C

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Amman Citadel : Click the link to read why this place is the cradle of civilizations.

Immunizations advice for Jordan:

 No vaccinations are required to enter Jordan, although preventive shots for hepatitis, polio, tetanus, and typhoid are recommended. Travelers with personal health issues should consult their physicians before traveling. Medications should be carried in hand luggage along with passport, tickets, money, and other important belongings. Carry a small carry-on case with change and other essential for the layover in Sharjah. Don’t check this piece in.

Electric Outlets available in Jordan:

The electrical system in Jordan is based on 220 AC volts/50 cycles and requires two-pronged wall plugs, similar to ones found in parts of Europe.

Religion in Jordan:

The main religion in Jordan is Islam with 92% of the population being Muslim, but all religions are free to practice. 6% of the population is Christian, with the remaining 2% being a mix of other religions including Druze and Baha’i.

Smoking advice for Jordan:

Smoking is much more common in Jordan than in Europe or the United States, and smoke-free accommodation is relatively unusual (with the exception of larger hotels). Smoking the traditional water pipe or nargileh, also known as hubbly bubbly, is an interesting experience that visitors can try in any coffeehouse and many restaurants. The tobacco flavor is mild and mostly fruit-flavored. Most restaurants have smoking and non smoking areas. When smoking on road, pls drop the ash tray attached to the poles (Yes, it is for real!)

Tipping Tips for Jordan:

As a tourism based economy, Tipping is always appreciated. A 10% service charge is often added in hotels and restaurants, and extra tips are discretionary. In restaurants, for example, tipping an extra dinar for breakfast and two extra dinars for lunch and dinner is customary.

In general, you should plan to tip guides, drivers, and anyone else who performs a service for you in the amount you deem appropriate for the service rendered. Having small bills on hand makes tipping more convenient.

How To Reach: Air Arabia runs economic yet comfortable flights from India via U.A.E. Check my review of Air Arabia Flight.

TURKEY VISA REQUIREMENTSimg_3602

The view from the Amman Citadel in Jordan

Below is a 7 day itinerary for Jordan. It is more suitable for luxury but adaptable for budget too:

DAY 1

  • Arrive at Q.A.I. Airport on Air Arabia
  • Check in at hotel in Amman Crowne Plaza Amman Hotel
  • Lunch inside the hotel Al Halabi Restaurant
  • Visit the site of Jerash
  • Visit Citadel
  • Visit Down Town Local Markets
  • Rainbow Street
  • Dinner Sufra Restaurant
  • Overnight Crowne Plaza Amman Hotel

DAY 2

  • Visit Royal Automobile in the morning
  • Carry Shawerma & Falafel as take away lunch
  • Drive down South to Petra
  • 5:30 PM Early dinner with cooking class Petra Kitchen Rest.
  • 8:30 PM Petra by night event
  • Overnight Petra Guest House Hotel

DAY 3

  • Half day visit to the site of Petra
  • Lunch at Al Qantarah Restaurant near Petra
  • Visit Little Petra
  • Afternoon Drive to Wadi Rum
  • Jeep tour in the desert. Visit the sun set point.
  • Overnight Dinner and music program at Al Captain Camp

DAY 4

  • Morning drive to Aqaba
  • Lunch cruise with Yasmina Boat
  • Check in Moevenpick Resort &Residences Aqaba
  • Dinner Royal Yacht Club
  • Shopping in the streets near the hotel
  • Overnight Moevenpick Resort & residences Aqaba

DAY 5

  • Morning drive from Aqaba to Dead Sea
  • Check in Jordan Valley Marriott
  • Lunch in the in house restaurant
  • Time at Leisure
  • Floating in Dead Sea
  • Dinner inside hotel Italian Restaurant
  • Overnight Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa

DAY 6

  • Visit Baptism Site
  • Visit Mount Nebo
  • Lunch at Haret Jdoudna, Madaba
  • Continue the trip to visit Evason Mai’n Hot Springs
  • Time at Leisure
  • Dinner & overnight Evason Mai’n Hot Springs

DAY 7

  • Transfer to Q.A.I. Airport to depart

Jordan Tourism Details:

VISIT JORDAN WEBSITE

E-mail: info@visitjordan.com

P.O.Box 830688 Amman 11183 – Jordan Tel. (962 6) 5678294 Fax (962 6) 5678295

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Petra at Night is magical: Please click the link to read how it feels there at night. And of course for exclusive pictures!

YOU WILL LOVE READING THESE BLOGS ON JORDAN (EXCLUSIVE PICS AND TEXT):

DEAD SEA: WHY I RAN OUT SCREAMING AS SOON AS I ENTERED THE DEAD SEA

PETRA: THE SECRET OF THE CITY OF DEAD REVEALED

PETRA IN NIGHT: IS IT WORTH IT (EXCLUSIVE PICTURES)

AQABA- THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN WHICH BORDERS EGYPT, ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA

WADI RUM- MARS ON EARTH?

AMMAN CITADEL- THE CONTINUALLY HABITATED WALLED CITY

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

AIR ARABIA- HOW TO TRAVEL TO JORDAN ON A BUDGET AND IN STYLE

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Click on the link to know all that you wanted to know about Petra – a UNESCO World heritage site and one of the 7 wonders of the world.

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Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

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NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

 

DEAD SEA IN JORDAN – WHY I RAN OUT SCREAMING AS SOON AS I ENTERED IT?

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Dead Sea was towards the end of our 7 days journey in Jordan. As soon as I entered the Dead Sea, I ran out screaming, unable to open my eyes. My co-travelers, between guffaws and friendly teasing guided me towards an open air shower next to the beach. Before I could reach that, I needed water.

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Me at sunset in Dead Sea (Pic: Stuti Shrimali)

I needed water without even a gram of salt in it. My friend Stuti came to rescue and helped me wash my face with drinking water. Just to make sure, I still stood under the shower and rinsed of every bit of Dead Sea water from my face.

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Me floating in Dead Sea (Pic Stuti Shrimali)

My friends told me that in Dead Sea, you are not supposed to take a dip or submerge your head. The water is so saline that it causes burning sensations on skin; eyes and nose being the most vulnerable. Once bitten, twice shy, I entered the sea again this time with head held high (No pun intended here). The water was way too salty, dense and sticky. It felt heavy.

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I tasted a small amount only to be overwhelmed by its strong taste. As I gingerly lied down on my back in Dead Sea, I was amused to ‘discover’ that the ‘floating story’ is not someone’s fabricated story. I floated effortlessly, keeping my eyes open at all times, lest I drift deep into the Dead Sea like a tragic poem.

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The sun had started to melt far in the horizon as I floated eerily on the water, pebbles visible on my sides. It was a surreal moment. It was an unprecedented experience for me and easily one of my finest moments from not only Jordan but all my travels so far.

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One of the many pools which Marriott Resort boasts of!

I almost did not make it to the Dead Sea. After a comforting lunch of Pasta and Pizzas (mezzes are great, but I needed my comfort food) at the resort, we were instructed to check in our room and show up at the private beach of the resort before sundown when the beach closes. Tired, I decided to lie down in my comfortable room.

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Stuti Shrimali floating in the Dead Sea

I didn’t realize when I caught a sound sleep. God alone knows what woke me up after few hours and the first thing I did was check the time. Panicking, I ran towards the beach, not even bothering to carry any swimwear or towel. I jumped hurriedly in the sea with my shirts and pants on.

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The Lobby of Marriott!

When I emerged from the Dead Sea, it was already dark. As I passed the café of the hotel, someone announced a Belly Dance Performance. Scared that I might miss the show, I watched the entire show wearing my salty wet clothes.

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The Belly dancer at Marriott!

When the show ended, my clothes dried naturally by the warm Dead Sea air. The Belly Dance I saw was the best I had seen till date. The presence of Dead Sea made it even more atmospheric.

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Me not wanting to leave Dead Sea (Pic: Stuti Shrimali)

10 COOL FACTS ABOUT THE DEAD SEA

  1. It is world’s lowest point at 430 meters (1412 feet) below sea level.
  2. 7 % salinity makes it the world’s saltiest sea.
  3. It is called Dead Sea because no flora or fauna can survive.
  4. Asphalt for preserving Egyptian mummies was sourced from here.
  5. It served as the first health resort of the world.
  6. Potash sourced from Dead Sea is used for fertilizers.
  7. Thanks to its rich mineral content, many new age resorts have mushroomed across the Dead Sea in Jordan and Israel. They offer natural spa treatments. Dead Sea cosmetics made from its salt and minerals are quite popular and are available everywhere in Jordan.
  8. Swimming is not possible in Dead Sea due to heavy density of its water.
  9. It is 9 times saltier than the ocean.
  10. If you walk around the beach, you will see salt deposits on rock. The drive next to Dead Sea is scenic.
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Me next to Dead Sea posing on my way to the resort! (Pic: Stuti Shrimali)

RELATED BLOGS:

PETRA: THE SECRET OF THE CITY OF DEAD REVEALED

PETRA IN NIGHT: IS IT WORTH IT (EXCLUSIVE PICTURES)

AQABA- THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN WHICH BORDERS EGYPT, ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA

WADI RUM- MARS ON EARTH?

AMMAN CITADEL- THE CONTINUALLY HABITATED WALLED CITY

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

AIR ARABIA- HOW TO TRAVEL TO JORDAN ON A BUDGET AND IN STYLE

Pictures above: Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa

I stayed at:

Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa: It was my most luxurious experience in Jordan. My cozy room overlooked the sea. The bathtub helped me rinse off all the salt on my body post a dip in Dead Sea. Their restaurant serves good Italian. What I enjoyed was their buffet of a vast variety of mezze and Arabic sweets. Some so sinfully good that I was almost having a dessert dinner. They have a private secluded beach. They have many pools in the premises. A live belly dance performance combined with above factors made my stay memorable. My favourite part was of course the balcony of the room where I would sit and smoke in night, listening to music played far away.

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Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration: abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

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Facebook

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Me in Dead Sea (Pic- Stuti Shrimali)

NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

PETRA- THE SECRETS OF THE CITY OF THE DEAD EXPLAINED: ONE OF THE 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD!

After enjoying the Little Petra and Petra by night, I was curious to see the prehistoric Petra by the day. The rose red city of Petra was listed as the modern 7 wonders of the world in 2007. Petra, declared the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 was long on my radar. It is always more fun to see a destination at different times of the day. The place whispers different things to you. I passed the same rocks and boulders which looked like a monster in the night. First remarkable stop is the Bab el-Siq (Gateway to the Siq) as named by Petra’s Bedouin inhabitants. Siq means a passage. The rocks which I interpreted as monsters in the night are in fact called God Rocks. They stand tall, 6 to 8 metres high as if guarding the scarce water source for Petra’s inhabitants. The river bed that begins at Ain Musa and ends at Petra provided the water to its original inhabitants. The path follows the course of the Wadi Musa. Bedouin folklore has it that the spring gushed when Moses struck a rock in Biblical times.

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Me admiring the Siq (Pic: Arka Das)

Obelisk Tomb and Bab el-Siq Triclinium (25 to 75 A.D.)

I walked the pathway, neatly divided for the pedestrian and the horse carriages (Only these 2 modes are allowed) to discover more gems. In the opposite direction is Obelisk Tomb and Bab el-Siq Triclinium Two monuments carved into sandstone cliffs sit one upon the other, vying for my attention. The most striking feature of the upper one, Obelisk Tomb, are the 4 pyramid like structures representing Nephesh (A Biblical Hebrew word which refers to the soul of higher animals and human beings). It is a Nabataean sign commemorating the departed souls. Below the tomb is a triclinium (A dining room with a dining table and seats on 3 sides, prevalent in ancient Rome). In the funerary dining hall, wine was served in the banquet held in the honor of God or the ancestor. In the opposite cliff it is mentioned in Nabataean and Greek that the burial monument was built by Admanku. The Greek inscription indicates towards the influence of Hellenic culture in the polyglot Petra.

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Upper part- Obelisk Tomb; Lower part- Bab el-Siq Triclinium

Water Management by Nabataeans

We walked further admiring the awe inspiring valley. The credit for sculpting the dramatic lunar landscape goes to not only the floodwater erosion but also to the Nabataeans who carved water cisterns and water channels which diverted the water into Petra for everyday use.  The rugged desert canyon has a mysterious aura to it. A little ahead is Wadi Al Mudhlim, a dry gorge widened by the flow of water. These days, water flows here only during flash floods. In those times, to protect themselves from the flash floods, the Nabataeans built a dam in 1st century B.C. in the area. It also helped them secure water round the year.

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The Gorgeous Gorges!

An 82 meters long rock cut tunnel redirected water through Wadi Mudhlim to reservoirs, water cisterns and dams. Baetyls (Sacred stones/God blocks) were placed in niches towards the end of the Wadi Mudhlim. Nabataeans valued the water and it was their symbolic way to ensure that the Gods were keeping an eye on the water source. Today a modern dam (1964) stands on the same site, built for the same reason, i.e., to protect Petra’s Siqs from Flash Floods.

Sabinos Alexandros Station (2nd or 3rd Century A.D.)

I observe many of the remnants from the past are still intact such as the paved roads (1st century B.C.), Baetyls and Sabinos Alexandros Station. One of the famous niche in the Siq was carved by Sabinos Alexandros, a religious head from modern day Dara’a (Dusares at Adra’a), Syria. The station is notable for the many baetyls, the domed one depicting the God Dushara (the main Nabataean God) from Adra’a and the one on left is deity Atargatis on 2 lions. (See picture). It was carved by him when he visited Petra along with other masters to honor God Dushara in 2nd or 3rd Century A.D.

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Sabinos Alexandros Station. Deity Atargatis and her lions (left), God Dushara (Domed structure on left)

Camel Caravan Reliefs (100-50 B.C.).

A little ahead are Camel Caravan Reliefs. The colossal human forms are at least a third larger than life.  It depicts the life in those times, viz, a caravan of camels and men entering Petra. Ten meters above is an eroded carving showing the caravan leaving Petra. The economy of the place which was based on caravan trade saw much traffic in those times. The high hump on one of the camel suggests that the camel is carrying goods. Notice the pleated woolen garment worn by one of the men. In his left arm he is holding a stick.

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Remaining sculpture at the Camel Caravan Relief. Notice the dress of the man and the stick.

Treasury aka Al Khazneh (1st century A.D.)

Within minutes, I approach the end of the narrow Siq. It must be the most photographed part of the Siq as it offers a dramatic glimpse of the Treasury aka Al Khazneh. The most recognizable face of Petra, Treasury was built by Nabateans around 1st century A.D. Carved out of a sandstone rock face, it originally served as a mausoleum or crypt (Burial place).

What makes Treasury and other monument of Petra special is the fact that they were not built but carved out of rock with simple chisel. It was sculpted top down. 60,000 cubic feet of rock was chiseled out. Indeed a great feat! 2,000 years later, it is still in great shape today except the erosion of small details and the bullet marks near the urn. It is believed that the local Bedouins shot at the urn in early 20th century, assuming that the bandits have hidden treasure in the urn. It, of course, is just a solid sandstone embellishment.

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The first glimpse of Treasury!

Did You Know About The Mysterious Burial Chamber Under Treasury?

Historians have concluded that the rich carvings on Treasury’s façade depict mythological characters representing afterlife. During the recent excavations, a subterranean burial chamber (accessed by a staircase) was found right under the treasury. The archeologists found the treasure of a different kind. 13 skeletons along with pottery were found in one of the chambers. It is believed that the skeletons belonged to the Royal Nabataean family. The treasury was possibly built to honor the Royal family and was a mausoleum.  Visitors are not allowed to enter the underground chamber. In fact mausoleums of many size and shape dominate the landscape of Petra. Their size depended upon the stature of the person in Nabataean society. Ground penetrating radar is used to find many more such gems.

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The most photographed face of Petra- The Treasury!

Thanks to the Hellenistic and Roman influence, the architecture of Treasury reflects Greek styles. Corinthian style pillars, eagles and Statues of Castor and Pollux grab the attention. The entire campus of Petra is dominated by tombs and other structures built in Nabataean, Assyrian, Helenistic and Greco-Roman style, indicating the cosmopolitan nature of the ancient city. The overlapping and merging of different styles speaks volumes about those times.

Street of Façades (50 BC- 50 A.D.)

I passed an old man playing Arabic tunes for the amusement of the tourists and reached the Street of Façades. The many rock cut tombs arranged neatly in street like rows grabbed my attention. Built one stop the other, the homogeneous tombs stand out due to their concentration and visually pleasing pattern. The Assyrian architecture style makes the tombs of Petra identical to the stepped design of Mesopotamium architecture (6th and 7th B.C.). Much of the outstanding labyrinth of tombs, burial niches and Tricliniums (funerary dining halls) has been plundered over time. The tomb of Unayshu (1st century A.D.) is remarkable here.

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The visually delightful Street of facades!

Roman style amphitheater (1st century A.D.)

Opposite the Street of Façades is an impressive Roman style amphitheater. Surrounded by huge mountains on 3 sides, it indicates the Roman influence on the area even before the Romans annexed Petra in A.D. 106. Built in classical Hellenistic style, it seated approximately 8500 people at a time. Carved out of the rock face, the existing tombs were destroyed to create the amphitheater, the evidences of which are still visible at places.

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Tombs, small and large dot the landscape. Seen here is the street of facades. Notice the large tomb!

Roman colonnaded street and Nymphaeum (100-200 A.D.)

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Just as I entered the colonnaded street I came across the remains of a Nymphaeum. A common feature of most Graeco-Roman cities, it was a public drinking fountain named after the nymphs (female nature spirits). Not much of it remains today. However, it once served as a lively place for socializing for the people who frequented Petra.  The source of the water was the water tunnels which began at the Siq (See beginning of the story)

The remains of the colonnaded street will transport you to the Roman Era. Built upon an existing dirt and gravel Nabataean street, it ran through the main city center of Petra. The Romans narrowed, paved and straightened the road. It is concluded by the historians that the street may have served as a market place for trading spices, semi precious stones and textiles from India, frankincense from Southern Arabia and East Africa. The colonnades and buildings were destroyed in the severe earthquake of 363 A.D. At present, only 9 columns are standing, thanks to the restoration work. It was a socializing nerve centre of the city, like any other Roman city. There was even a tavern nearby which people frequented for dining and recreation.

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The ruins of the Colonnaded Street. See how it looked like in the picture above (Sourced from a signboard at the actual site)

The ‘Great Temple’ Complex (25 B.C.- 100 A.D.)

The largest building in Petra yet uncovered is the ‘Great Temple’ Complex. I climbed a propylaeum (entrance) to arrive at the wide lower precinct of the temple. Everything else except the floor has been destroyed. I imagined a paved courtyard sandwiched by triple colonnades (column/pillar) on either side. 60 columns were lined in each row. Built of carved domes, each column had carved elephant heads, a power of symbol.

The upper precincts, was accessed through a stairway. It had a small open air theater. The semi circular theater was used as a council chamber or judicial assembly hall or perhaps for the entertainment of the elite. A workshop for construction work, subterranean drainage system and bath were some of its other features.

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The Great Temple Complex!

Qasr al- Bint Temple Complex (25 B.C.- 25 A.D.)

The presence of Qasr al- Bint Temple Complex few meters away from the Great temple Complex suggests the secular nature of Petra. It was built around the same time. Possibly a pilgrim destination, it is Petra’s oldest temple complex. There is an interesting story behind Qasr Bint Far’un (Palace of the Pharaoh’s daughter) Legend has it that the Pharaoh promised that any engineer who is successful in building a water channel emptying in the temple will be married to his daughter. During excavations, many water channels were unearthed near the temple complex. Said to be dedicated to God Dushara, it stands out due to its sheer size (23 m tall) and unusual square shape. It is a Hellenistic temple which means that only priests were allowed to go inside while the commoners worshipped from open air termenos. The stairs lead upto the stucco covered Corinthian columns which marked the entrance.

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Qasr al- Bint Temple Complex

Monastery aka Ad Deir/El Deir (85 B.C. to 110 A.D.)

After exploring the plains at my pace, it was time for me to hike upto the mysterious Monastery aka Ad Deir/El Deir on higher grounds. We passed a board which indicated The Lion Triclinium was nearby. Short on time, we skipped it only to end up indulging in long conversation with a Bedouin woman Firouz Mousa who served us Jordanian Tea as we sat on stairs and talk to her. Small interactions like these are as important as seeing the important edifices. Due to an elevated height and twists and turns, the landscapes were even more dramatic as we kept hiking. Donkeys jostled for space throughout the stairs. One hour later (includes stops), we arrived at the Monastery. Archeologists from western countries were busy in excavating more remains. Much of Petra is still unexcavated. Over the next few decades, I hope to see some exciting new additions in the Petra landscape.

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The Monastery as seen from Wadi Araba Viewpoint.

Wadi Araba Viewpoint (As old as time)

We hiked further up to the Wadi Araba Viewpoint. Wadi Araba Crossing is popular with tourists who want to cross the border. (Aqaba in Jordan to Eilat in Israel). As I reached on top of the view point, I was treated with incredible views of Monastery on one side and the mammoth mineral mountains on the other. Miles of colorful (due to minerals) mountains dominated the landscape. Many people return from Monastery. I suggest burn some calories more and see the views from the top. A Jack Sparrow (Pirates Of Caribbean) lookalike sold us tea at the only shop on the top.

We descended to study the Monastery in detail. One of the largest monument in Petra, at first glance it looks identical to the Treasury. However, on close inspection, you realize that instead of the bas reliefs, there are niches to display sculptors. An Alter and the two side benches inside the edifice suggests that it was probably a biclinium and used for holding religious meeting and performing certain rituals. There was a columned portico in front to the façade. It is popularly known as Monastery because it was later used as a Christian Chapel as suggested by the crosses marked in the rear wall.

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The mineral mountains as seen from Wadi Araba Viewpoint.

The Decline Of Petra:

What was once a center of power and wealth, started showing signs of decay once the Romans took over. Nabataean paid a heavy price by establishing trade links with Romans.  The Romans annexed Petra in 106 A.D. triggering its downfall. The popularity of trade via sea and severe earthquakes thinned Petra’s fortunes further. Eventually the Byzantine empire took over resulting in doom for Petra. There is also a Byzantine Church in the premises. The only documentation from Petra was found in this Church in the form of burnt scrolls written in Greek. It is under analysis right now. It is believed that the Nabataean co existed with Romans and once all was lost they left the place with whatever fortunes they still possessed. The rest was looted. In its heydays, it is believed that upto 30,000 Nabataeans lived in the protected canyon. 5,00,000 foreign travelers lived outside the Petra in tents. That explains the sophisticated cisterns, tunnels and fountains built to meet the demand for water. Once a powerful kingdom, it is an uninhabited land, visited only by tourists and local sellers.

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The remains just before the Colonnaded Street begins. Notice the local men dressed as ancient warriors.

Soul Window Tips:

  • Keep at least 2 days to see the monuments. Though one day is also OK, but if you want a deeper experience 2 days are good. That includes time for Little Petra nearby.
  • Carry water bottles at all times. The region is dry.
  • Hiking upto the monastery is not advised for the elderly or if you have knee or joint issues. Judge for yourself once you are there.
  • Beware of the shopkeepers. They will sweet talk you into buying overpriced artefacts.
  • Hiking to monastery takes 1 hour with detours and tea stops. Don’t forget water bottles in case you are starting early. Most shops will be shut.
  • Clean loos are available throughout.

READ: THINGS TO DO IN RAS AL KHAIMAH

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This was the tunnel which supplied water to the Roman Fountain (Please read text above)

MY MORAL POLICING:

  • I personally don’t take animal rides due to ethical reasons. Also Petra is meant to be savoured at slow pace. You will MISS A LOT if you chose to take a horse carriage ride instead of walking.
  • If you are fit, please do not hire a donkey to reach the Monastery. The steps are uneven and it will not be a pleasant experience for either you or the poor donkey.
  • Please don’t touch the monuments, especially the Treasury and Monastery. Every time you do that you erode the façade.
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The man who regaled the tourists with local music!

RELATED BLOGS:

PETRA IN NIGHT: IS IT WORTH IT (EXCLUSIVE PICTURES)

AQABA- THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN WHICH BORDERS EGYPT, ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA

WADI RUM- MARS ON EARTH?

AMMAN CITADEL- THE CONTINUALLY HABITATED WALLED CITY

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

AIR ARABIA- HOW TO TRAVEL TO JORDAN ON A BUDGET AND IN STYLE

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Me at the Street of Facades (Pic: Arka Das)

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NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

IS PETRA BY NIGHT WORTH IT? ONE OF THE 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD!

It was pitch dark! Me and my co travelers walked towards the Al Khazneh Treasury guided by the thousands of lamps lit in the pathway. I had yet not seen Petra in the daylight so it was even more exciting for me to see a Petra, veiled by darkness.  The huge boulders and mountains seemed like monsters who would swallow you alive at the slightest of provocation. I imagined the life in 4th century B.C. when it became the capital of the Nabataeans. I imagined the caravans of camels which plied on these ‘roads’, bereft of fancy lamps. I imagined the sounds and smells of those times. I imagined what would it be like to walk the uneven path in the daylight the next day? The lamps gave a magical touch to the sometimes narrow, sometimes broad siq (passage). The natural gorges or siq lend a mysterious aura to the place.

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When the siq finally ended at the treasury, the most recognizable feature of Petra, it made for an awe inspiring sight! Hundreds of lamps were lit in front of the treasury. The collective glow from the lamps bathed the treasury in yellow. We were made to sit on the mats on ground.  Hot Jordanian tea warmed our palms as we sit with bated breath anticipating the next event.

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Suddenly for me the novelty of the moment wore off. I decided to lie down on the mat for few minutes admiring the dark sky and the gorgeous head of the Treasury. The whispers of other tourists filled my ear. In the crowd, I found my ‘me time’. A soft feathery touch on my arm made me jolt out of my stupor. A cat had decided to make friends with me. I am not too fond of cats and have hardly touched any cats. But I liked the touch, soft as a fur ball, lighter than air, the cat won’t leave me. For me that moment was even more precious than viewing Petra by the night.

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As soon as everybody settled on the mat, a man started playing Arabic music from behind a rock. He would do that for few minutes, sending the crowd in deep meditative silence. Then he emerged dramatically and continued playing the tunes, this time negotiating the narrow passages between the lamps. The act lasted for few more minutes and ended with the man narrating in imperfect English. It was followed by selfie sessions.

During the night, visitors are not allowed to move beyond this point. I spent some more time and decided to leave alone for my hotel, walking distance from Treasury. It was eerie and at times scary to walk in those dark pathways alone. I started to replay the ‘Petra by Night’ in my mind to distract myself from imagining the monsters who would eat me alive.

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IS PETRA BY NIGHT WORTH IT?

It is no doubt that Petra By Night is a touristy frill. However, it might appeal to some and might not appeal to others. I would suggest if you have the money and time, do give a chance to Petra by Night. In case you have to choose (due to money or time issues) between Petra by Night and Petra in Day, go for the latter. Daylight gives you a better understanding of the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also, you can walk to the famous monastery and explore other tombs and ruins in the day time. Personally, I preferred Petra in daytime but if I had not seen Petra by night, it would have bothered me for a long time.

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RELATED BLOGS:

PETRA BY DAY- THE SECRETS OF THE CITY OF THE DEAD EXPLAINED

AQABA- THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN WHICH BORDERS EGYPT, ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA

WADI RUM- MARS ON EARTH?

AMMAN CITADEL- THE CONTINUALLY HABITATED WALLED CITY

AIR ARABIA- HOW TO TRAVEL TO JORDAN ON A BUDGET AND IN STYLE

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

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NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

BLOGGING HAS GIVEN ME opportunity to stay in some of the finest hotels and resorts. But often many luxury properties fail to touch your heart and forge a personal bond with you. The smaller properties and home stays are often the better bet.

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View from some of the rooms be like….

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba is a rarity. Despite its huge size and a large number of staff, everything this resort does exudes warmth and friendliness. I interacted with many of the staff members and each one of them has attended to the guests with utmost care, willingness and a broad genuine smile.

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Its secluded pool!

One of the front office staff Naser Herzallah chatted with us for a long time even after his duty hours was over. When we asked him if we can visit his home for a deeper immersive cultural experience, he did not take even a second to invite us to his home. We could not visit his home due to lack of time.

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The friendly Filipino host Jonalyn Lagaspi at the restaurant.

The next morning, the many Filipino girls at the Palm Court Restaurant & Terrace won our hearts with their attentive and friendly service. They anticipated our need and would leave no stones unturned to give us a memorable experience. The vibrant restaurant has an indoor dining option as well as an outdoor section.

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The al fresco restaurant

It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sampled only breakfast which comprised of a wide array of Middle Eastern and European cuisine. The live cooking made the ambiance lively.

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The friendly people who willingly posed for us at the al fresco dining!

Apart from the buffet, the restaurant also offers à la carte dining menu. The second day, I dined in the private dining room which was quieter and less packed. I particularly liked the youthful décor of the restaurant.

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Palm Court Restaurant and Terrace

My suite was huge and airy. Its windows and 2 terraces opened to sweeping views of the Aqaba city. Some of my co travelers got even better views of the ocean. Balcony was my favorite part where I would spend all my leisure time watching the city over a smoke. The bathtub helped me fight the tiredness, thanks to a busy day of travel. The sitting area was huge, none of which I could use due to lack of time. The suite even had a kitchen and a large refrigerator.

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The living room of my suite!

Where Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba wins is its attention to detail. It sure knows how to delight its guests. I was delighted to see a local craft on my bed. It was a gift to me from the resort along with the cookies and delicious dry fruits. Even the bathroom slippers in the hotel were not a bland white. It was colorful and depicted local art.

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My room. Notice the complimentary gift so thoughtfully presented!

The resort is so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist saving some time in the early morning for a property round. There is a bridge which connects the main building to another. This bridge is on the top of the road called King Hussein Street. It was very creatively used for an al fresco Jacuzzi pool. We arrived at the private beach of the hotel from where it offered many water sports. Ala’a Salman, one of the jovial staff took us on a tour. Though he knew little English but we communicated well between smiles and wallahs.

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Ala’a Salman with my co traveler and friend Arka Das.

He even showed us the border of neighboring countries from the hotel. He was another staff member who touched our heart and exceeded our expectations. I like the way people from different countries work here as a team. A co traveler told me his room was serviced by a very friendly attendant from Patna, Bihar! Who would have thought?

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Naser Herzallah was a delightful company. He talked to us for a long time even after his duty hours were over. Picture Credit: Naser Herzallah

Ms. Layali Nashashibi, Director of Communications and PR, herself showed us some of the ethnic decor of the resort and educated us about the history of Mövenpick chain and its core values.A brilliant and vivacious lady, she patiently answered all our questions and offered us the famous Mövenpick ice cream.

I have always valued human interactions more than the material comforts in a luxury property. Not all of them do it well. Very small percentage of luxury hotels get that right. Fortunately, Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba is one of them.

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The private beach of the hotel

And oh, Don’t forget to eat the famous Mövenpick Ice Cream if you go there!

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Don’t forget to check out the ruins of an ancient city Ayla in front of the resort.

RELATED BLOGS:

AQABA- THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN WHICH BORDERS EGYPT, ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA

WADI RUM- MARS ON EARTH?

AMMAN CITADEL- THE CONTINUALLY HABITATED WALLED CITY

AIR ARABIA- HOW TO TRAVEL TO JORDAN ON A BUDGET AND IN STYLE

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Me posing at the resort in Aqaba, Jordan. Behind me is Israel!

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The Palm Court & Terrace- All day dining!

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Me, faking it in the lobby of Movenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba! (Pic: Arka Das)

NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

AQABA: THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN SHARES BORDER WITH EGYPT & ISRAEL

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My co-traveler Sambhavna in the cruise!

AS WE BID ADIEU TO the mystical Wadi Rum, we stuffed our faces with fresh watermelons from the fields. Within an hour, I and other travel bloggers reached Aqaba, the only coastal city in Jordan. It was different from everything else in Jordan. We headed straight away to the cruise for what turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our vacation in Jordan. Located at the north east tip of the Red sea, its beauty is characterized by Gulf of Aqaba.

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My co-travelers Nandita and Sambhavna enjoying the cruise!

Being a border town junkie, what made it most exciting for me was the discovery that Aqaba lies at a crucial crossroad of Asia and Africa. As our cruise moved, we were excited when our guide pointed to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel within few minutes. We were shown an impressive white building in the distance. It was Taba Hilton, Egypt. On 7th October, 2004 a terrorist attack killed 34 people in the hotel. Ten floors of the hotel collapsed when a truck drove in its lobby and exploded. Since then, the hotel has been rebuilt. Formerly called Sonesta Hotel, this hotel was a bone of contention between Israel and Egypt. After many negotiations and intervention by UN, it was granted to Egypt. The Hilton group took over consequently. 6 kilometers away from Eilat, Israel, a visit to this hotel is tax free for the Israelis. However, post the terror attack, the hotel has seen lesser number of tourists from Israel.

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Taba Hilton, Egypt as seen from Aqaba,Jordan. A terrorist attack claimed many lives here.

I sat on the floor of the cruise, my legs dangling and flirting with the cold water of red sea. I was so absorbed with the views that I didn’t even realize when my co-travelers jumped in the water for a session of snorkeling. Never mind, I concentrated on tasting the refreshing sea air. I have seen many beaches in India but this was the bluest sea I have seen in my life till date. In fact, I noticed many shades of blue. The barren brown coastline complimented the azure water. A live barbeque at the rear of the cruise hung precariously over the sea.

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Snorkeling is a must in the beaches of Aqaba!

I was dying to see Eilat in Israel up close and personal. Due to lack of time, I settled for its view from the comfort of Movenpick Hotel. Later in the evening, I was again close to the border when we settled for a dinner at the upmarket Royal Yacht Club.

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Eilat in Israel, as seen from Movenpick resort, Aqaba.

Overlooking the marina, it was a perfect place to end the day. The small boats and yachts moored to the harbor made for a picturesque foreground for a setting sun. Many water related activities can be booked from here. We were pleasantly surprised to see a Bangladeshi steward serving us dishes, mostly Mediterranean. It was an unhurried evening spent leisurely in good company. The place was ideal for my ‘Me Time’ and as everyone was engrossed in conversations, I veered off surreptitiously to soak in the silent beauty of the place.  I sampled only the vegetarian fare. The food was good but not extraordinary. What was more satisfying was the ambiance of the place.

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Sunset at the Royal Yacht Club, Aqaba.

Post dinner, my group decided to take a post prandial walk in the markets of Aqaba. Aqaba is the kind of place which grows on you slowly. We passed many touristy shops, spice markets, even a Mc Donalds etc. The al fresco cafes at Raghadan Street were full of burqa clad women smoking sheesha with their male friends dressed in western clothes.

Pics above: Mohamed and his musical Ice Cream

We were walking casually in the Pizza Street in main market area when groovy music pulled us in. At Bakdash Ice Cream parlour, young Mohamed single handedly pounded ice cream with a long wooden log. The churning made a quirky upbeat music fit for energetic dance steps! It was the first time I tasted ‘Musical Ice Cream’. What makes the ice cream different (for me) here is the Arabic flavor. Try, Toot Shami, for instance. Mastic (plant based resin), Sahlab, fresh cream are some of the ingredients used. We asked Mohamed to repeat the ‘game’. It was one of my best moments in Aqaba.

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Aqaba from the cruise window!

To my great luck, I got separated from my group and ended up wandering alone on the streets of Aqaba. As I pretended to find my hotel, I kept my eyes peeled for anything fancy or interesting. I stopped for a moment at Al Sharif Hussein bin Ali mosque dedicated to Hussein Bin Ali, the leader of great Arab revolt.

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Al Sharif Hussein bin Ali mosque is white beauty.

I was dispassionately asking the address of my hotel to the strangers on the road. Not so much to get back to my hotel but to steal an opportunity to interact with locals. Little did I know 3 strangers will bite my bait which I did not even aim at them. Al-Hussein Bin Ali Square is a lively space in the middle of a crossroads. Families and friends sit here and while away their time eating ice creams, clicking selfies and rescuing their kids’ promiscuous balloons.

Pics above: The Syrians who asked me to click their pictures and send them on Facebook

Just as I was about to sit on a bench, a Syrian boy and his friend Sozi Hamdoun approached me. They looked at the DSLR dangling from my neck. “Photo Photo? How much?” They were taken aback when I said I would take many pictures and will inbox them on Facebook without any charge. I dropped the last bit of my pretense of finding my way to MovenPick hotel. I was rather feeling happy to get lost in an alien country. They had happy go lucky personalities for an apparently conflicted Syria. The boy was expressionless while the lively girls giggled, pouted and flirted with the lens. It was the first time I was clicking a stranger in a far away country.

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My Syrian friends(briefly though!)

Small interactions like these make a visit to any destination memorable. They had the same mannerisms and perhaps similar issues in life which an urban person of their age has in my country, India. Yes, we are all the same, yet different. When they learnt that I collect currencies, they offered me notes from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I accepted the Egyptian 5 pounds. Its value is not much. But it is my prized possession now. Every time I will see it, I will remember them.

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Marsa Zayed Mosque as seen from the rooftop of Movenpick resort, Aqaba!

I finally did find my hotel. The night was spent staring at the Aqaba city from my balcony. Late night, with special permission, some of us spent some time at the rooftop of the hotel. The views helped us understand the landscape of Aqaba. The next morning, I repeated the same, this time getting a better view of Marsa Zayed mosque. It is a redevelopement project undertaken by U.A.E.

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Aqaba cityscapes!

The ancient ruins of Ayla were visible from the balcony of the hotel. Built in 7th century A.D., it was one of the first Islamic cities. It is a recent discovery and still in a state of restoration. Other points of interest in Aqaba are: The Aqaba Archeological Museum, Souk By The Sea (Street market open on Friday evenings), Aqaba Fort and the ancient Church.

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Me on the cruise! Pic by Stuti Shrimali

How To Reach: Air Arabia runs economic yet comfortable flights from India via U.A.E. Check my review of the flight in previous blog.

Skyscanner offers cheap rates and you can even turn on a price alert for the same. Book using this link

You can download the Skyscanner app. Links below:

IOS app Download

Android App Download

When: I went in the month of May and the weather was pleasant.

Where to stay:  I stayed in the luxurious Movenpick Resort. It’s review will be up soon.

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The beach at Aqaba

Related Blogs:

15 REASONS TO VISIT JORDAN

WHY AIR ARABIA – ECONOMY CLASS IS GREAT TO REACH JORDAN

WADI RUM – MARS ON EARTH

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I enjoyed every minute on this cruise!

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Dining area of cruise!

NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

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Aqaba

AMMAN CITADEL,JORDAN: THE HOME TO MANY ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS!

Amman Citadel aka Jabal al-Qal’a (Hill of The Citadel)

A Brief History

THANKS TO MY PRE TRAVEL RESEARCH, I had obsessed about the hand of Hercules even before I had stepped foot in Jordan. It looked eerie in pictures. The fact that only a hand is all that which remains from a tall marble statue built centuries ago, made me curious. As soon as I entered the Amman Citadel, the first thing I asked is “Where can I find the Hand of Hercules?” The size of the hand left me a little disappointed because the pictures made it look much larger than it is! It was lying unceremoniously, belying its importance, in front of the little museum. The statue was 13 meters high, which makes it one of the largest statues from Greco Roman times.

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The hand of Hercules and the city of Amman as seen from Citadel.

In the background were gloomy looking refugee colonies of Amman, all of them painted in a sad, monochromatic pastel hue! As if mourning their refugee status! As if mourning the loss of the Statue of Hercules! I learnt it is a Government mandate and what I mistook as paint was actually local stone which is compulsory in the construction of buildings in Amman.

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The hand of Hercules. Not as big as it seems in this picture though!

In far distance was a 6000 seater Roman amphitheatre, making its presence felt amongst modern construction. It is still used for cultural programs. In its opposite direction Jordanian flag flew with aplomb! Amman Citadel is one of those rare gems which have been continually inhabited by different civilizations at different times. Humans have lived here since Neolithic age (10,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C.). Bronze Age (1800 BCE) onwards the citadel was fortified.  Ever since, the place has seen reconstruction by different empires. No wonder it boasts of a Roman temple, a Byzantine Church, an Umayyad Palace amongst other gems. The ruins are a result of an 8th century earthquake, looting and reuse of materials from existing buildings to create new ones. Let’s explore Citadel’s main attractions in the chronological order of the age:

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The new and the old co exist in Amman. This ancient amphitheater is still in use.

1) The Mysterious Cave (2250 BC):

Just as we were leaving Citadel in a hurry, I ran to check out a mysterious looking cave. It is a tomb cave from the Bronze era. The sheer age of the cave gives you some perspective about the place along with some goose bumps.

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The exterior of the cave.

Such tombs are found across Amman. These are meant for multiple burials. It was dark and sunlight from limestone cavities helped me observe the insides of the cave. During middle bronze age (1700-1550 BC), it was modified for communal burial. The cave at Citadel like many others of its kind was used for purposes other than burial too. During the Umayyad period it was cleared and re used by stone cutters who carved the stones for the construction of other buildings on a large scale.

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The interior of the cave

2) Fortification Walls: 150 A.D.

The walled city has been fortified many times by different empires. Towards the end of Middle Bronze Age (1700-1550 BC), a sloping wall called ‘glacis’ was erected around the Citadel. It was slippery and discouraged invaders to climb the wall. Not much of such walls from Middle Bronze Age and Iron Age are found during excavation though. Later Roman (161-166 A.D.) and thereafter Umayyads (730 A.D.) improved the walls. The Umayyads rebuilt the walls completely, even incorporating the sections of Roman wall in the new plan. The 1680 meter long wall covered the entire Citadel. The Abbasids (800 AD) restored much of the fallen wall post earthquake of 749 A.D.

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The temple of Hercules

3) The Temple Of Hercules: 161-166 AD

Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, is known to have supernatural physical strength.  In those times, Amman was called Philadelphia (It was called Rabbath Ammon during Iron Age) and coins minted in the city depicted Hercules. The importance of Hercules can be ascertained from the ruins of a massive Temple of Hercules (161-166 AD) aka Roman Temple. A colonnaded temenos (sacred precincts) supports the temple. It is said that the temenos was once connected to the Roman City below via staircase. Not much has remained from the original structure though. Much of its treasures were looted long as long ago as 8th century. Since new construction came up in the Citadel in subsequent years, much of its material was used to new construction. The four columns of the temple were ruined by an earthquake in January, 749 AD. The column you see today is restoration work. New columned drums were carved to support the ancient structures. It is said that a temple dedicated to Ammonite God Milkom once stood here.

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This is how the temple looked like originally. Notice the absence of columns in the background. Pic Credit: Artandarcheology.com

 

An ancient inscription at the top of the façade of the temple says that it was built when Geminius Marcianos was governor of Provincia Arabia (161- 166 A.D.) According to inscription, it was dedicated to the co-emperors of Rome. In fact, another Roman Temple (built before mid 2nd century A.D.) stood nearby. It stood at the highest point of acropolis, North of Citadel. However, the temple was dismantled and its material was used in the construction of Umayyad Complex in 730 A.D. On the basis of absence of columns in the rear of the temple, historians have concluded that it was an incomplete temple.

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One of the better preserved remains of Umayyad palace

4) Byzantine Church: 550 A.D.

The Byzantine Empire aka Eastern Roman Empire left its traces in Citadel as well. This basilica was constructed during 6th century. Not much of what must have been an impressive building is left today. What I saw was a nave (central part of a Church), flanked by some Corinthian columns. The columns were decorated with acanthus leaves. Two side aisles, paved with flagstones, ran behind the columns.

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Corinthian columns at Byzantine Church. Notice the acanthus leaves

These columns were once a part of Temple of Hercules, few steps away. Towards the end of the nave (Eastern side) is a semi circular apse, separated from the Church by a choir/chancel screen.  I joined the dots and I could visualize how the real thing must have looked like. Greek inscription near apse says, “….was paved with mosaics by the zeal and labor…” I could not see mosaic (common in Byzantine period) on the floor of the nave. A placard said it was covered for conservation. During the Umayyad period, the cisterns inside the basilica walls were much in use.

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Byzantine Church 1)Corinthian columns 2)Nave 3)Apse 4)Aisle

5) Water Systems: 730 A.D.

Even today harvesting of water is a major issue in Amman. In those times, water cisterns and channels were built and rebuilt by different empires. Sophisticated underground water channels helped recycle the water. Thanks to the lack of a natural spring, collection and storage of water was practiced.

6) Al Qasr aka Umayyad Palace: 730 A.D.

Not far away is the colossal Umayyad Palace. The Umayyad caliphate (aka Omayyad), controlled by the Umayyad dynasty (AD 661-750) from Mecca, was one of the 4 Arab caliphates established post the death of Prophet Muhammad.  It was one of the largest empires in human history ever. As I entered the building, I discovered much of it was in ruins except the entrance hall. A Dome and a semi circular archway marked its entrance. The Greek Cross plan of the entrance chamber suggests that it was built in Byzantine style or perhaps it was built on a Byzantine building which originally existed there. Remains of a large water reservoir and a Byzantine Church are nearby.

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Umayyad Palace: front

The mosque, built at the highest point of Citadel is a simple building though not scoring any low points on grandeur either. Towards the south of the palace, the mosque has the unique vaulted roof also seen in the ancient mosques of Tunisia and Afghanistan. The use of the palace is unclear. Most historians agree, however, that it was used as the residence of Governor of Amman as well as for administrative offices. The earthquake in 8th century destroyed much of it. It was never rebuilt except the dome, which was added to it during restoration. The existence of a dome in the original edifice is still argued upon by the purists.

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Umayyad Palace: Back

I took the exit from the vestibule of the domed building to discover a large open space, every inch of which was scattered with ruins and history. A colonnaded street (series of columns) indicates that an entire Roman street (which originally existed here) was incorporated in the Umayyad Palace. This was the administration hub. Remains of official/residential units built in Umayyad style bayt flanked the streets. These were small rooms which facilitated a view of the central courtyard.

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The Roman colonnaded street in the Umayyad Palace campus. The Roman era feature was integrated into the plan of the palace.

7) Jordan Archeological Museum: 1951 A.D.

Citadel is an open air museum what with pathways lined with carved stones excavated from Citadel. In anyhow houses a formal museum too. The first public museum of Jordan, it houses some very valuable artifacts, much of which was unearthed at the Citadel. Interestingly the architecture of the museum building blends in with neighbouring ruins. Its plan and construction mimics the ruin just behind it.

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The skeleton of the child

My interest in all things macabre/morbid/bizzare draws me to a small skeleton encased in glass. It turned out to be the skeleton of a child. The placard told me that “in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine, it was a regular practice to bury infants in a jar. The jar was mostly kept under the floor of the living room, perhaps to keep the child within the family circle.” Yes, I read the placard twice!

Pics above: Coffins and head of a nymph

The museum also displays 5 anthropoid coffins. Discovered in the grounds of Raghadan Palace (Amman) in 1966 in a cistern like tomb, these were made up of baked clay. Crushed pieces of pottery were used as grits. Each coffin came with 4 handles. One of them even has 16 handles arranged in 2 rows. It was perhaps used to elevate the coffin when laid horizontally. A lid was cut out towards the end where the head of the deceased would rest. The handles on the lid and body of the coffin were tied together. On two of the lids, portrait of the deceased was placed. Each coffin carried 2 or 3 skeletons. Such burial practice (13th to 7th century B.C.) is rare in Jordan and Palestine. Sahab (South Amman), Lachish, Tell al-Far’ah, Besan and Deir al-Balah in Palestine are some of the sites where such discoveries are made. Strange indeed!

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This person underwent trephening. Notice the small hole in the front.

Another skull found in Jericho from the early Bronze era drew my attention. The 4 holes in the skulls intrigued me. It was a scary sounding practice of Trephining. Trephining is an ancient surgical practice where hole is drilled in the skull. The person whose skull was displayed underwent multiple operations. The first operation was a success as indicated by the complete healing. (See pic carefully: The smallest hole). The 3 operations thereafter failed and he died subsequently. Interesting!

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One of the oldest statue in the world made by humans.

The ‘Ain Ghazal statues are one of the oldest surviving statues in the world. Dating back to 6000-8000 BCE, These statues were found in ‘Ain Ghazal, a Neolithic archeological site in Amman. These were used in rituals and were found in a special building used for rituals. Another statue found in Jericho from the pre pottery Neolithic period is one of the earliest statues made by humans. Other interesting pieces in the museum were Pottery figurines from Jerash, bowls, animal figurines, huge storage jars, a large lion figure (Lions are extinct in this region now),  an impressive life size marble statue of Daedalus (Roman, 2nd-3rd century A.D.)

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Marble statue of Daedalus was in very good condition

The view from my #SoulWindow is eye opening!

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The city of Amman as seen from Citadel. Notice the bowl shaped ancient amphitheater.

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The monochromatic buildings of Jordan and the Jordanian flag.

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Our vivacious and erudite local Guide Salah. He had relatives in my hometown Lucknow, India

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

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Me at Temple of Hercules
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Beware of the sinister looking though harmless lizards at Citadel