A well-travelled bridge between sea and desert, east and west, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a land of mesmerizing beauty and contrasts, from the Jordan Valley, fertile, ever changing, to the remote desert canyons, immense and still. Visitors can explore splendid desert castles, gaze in awe at the haunting wilderness of Wadi Rum, or bathe in the restful waters of the Red Sea.
The new stream of luxury hotels emerging in Amman,Petra,Aqaba and the Dead Sea is just adding quality to a refined product that is distinct, accessible and friendly. A product that is home to a new display of modern meeting facilities and unique venues for incentive travel.
Official name: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Population: The population of Jordan has grown rapidly over the last fifty years or so to more than 5 million people.
Location: Jordan is located in the heart of the Middle East, Northwest of Saudi Arabia, South of Syria, Southwest of Iraq, and East of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. Jordan has access to the Red Sea via the port city of Aqaba, located at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Monetary Unit: The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, symbol JD, which is often called the "jaydee". There are 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 JD notes. The dinar is divided in to 100 piasters
Language: The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken – especially in the cities.
Religion: 92% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims and approximately 6% are Christians. The majority of Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, but there are also Greek Catholics, a small Roman Catholic community, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and a few Protestant denominations. Several small Shi'a and Druze populations can also be found in Jordan.
Time difference: October – March: Greenwich Mean Time plus 2 hours (G.M.T. + 2) April – September: Greenwich Mean Time plus 3 hours (G.M.T. + 3)
Electricity: 220 AC volts, 50 cycles, requiring rounded two-prong wall plugs. Visitors from the US will need a transformer which most hotels can provide.
Tipping: Many of the best hotels and restaurants will add a gratuity of about 10% to your bill. However, smaller establishments usually expect you to leave a tip in line with the service you received. Taxi drivers are generally not tipped, but it is customary to pay the nearest round figure to the price on the meter. It may be difficult to get change for a large bill, so carry plenty of small denominations and coins for taxis.
Clothing: Jordan is primarily a Muslim country, although the freedom of all religions is protected. Muslim women's clothing often covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, but very revealing clothing is never appropriate and conservative dress is advisable for both men and women in the old part of Amman (Downtown), and outside the cities. Shorts are rarely worn by either sex, and would be out of place in the downtown Amman area. Topless sunbathing is prohibited and one-piece swimsuits are preferred, although two-piece swimsuits are acceptable at hotel pools.
Opening hours: Friday is the weekly holiday. Banks, government offices and most businesses are closed on Saturdays as well. Many businesses, including airline offices, travel agencies and some shops also close on Thursday afternoon, although department stores and supermarkets remain open. A few businesses and shops close for some of Sunday.
Climate: Jordan has a combination of Mediterranean and arid desert climates, with Mediterranean prevailing in the North and West of the country, while the majority of the country is desert. Generally, the country has warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters, with annual average temperatures ranging from 12 to 25 C (54 to 77 F) and summertime highs reaching the 40 C (105-115 F) in the desert regions. Rainfall averages vary from 50 mm (1.97 inches) annually in the desert to 800 mm (31.5 inches) in the northern hills, some of which falls as snow in some years.
Driving: Driving in Jordan presents few problems. While an international driving license is preferred, generally a national driving license is sufficient as long as it has a photograph of the holder. Foreigners who plan to live in Jordan must obtain a Jordanian driving license, but this is not necessary for tourists. Local vehicle insurance is also required.
Jordanians drive on the right-hand side of the road. Road signs are in Arabic and often English as well, so this should pose no problem.
Jordan has an excellent road system, and can be crossed by car in approximately four hours.Be careful while driving in cities, as roundabouts are common and potentially dangerous. If you choose to drive in the desert, be sure to take a four-wheel drive with the appropriate tires and an extra container of gasoline. It is wise to bring extra water, as well.There are numerous gasoline (petrol) stations in Amman and in major towns, but take care if you are driving to southern Jordan, as they are more sparsely spaced there. Gasoline or petrol is called benzene, and super is called khas.
Taxi: Regular yellow private taxis are a fast and relatively inexpensive way of getting around Amman, Aqaba and other cities. They are found in abundance in most areas, and you will rarely have to wait long to get one. A cheaper option to a private taxi is known as a servees, or a communal taxi. These are usually white Mercedes or Peugeot 504s which take preordained routes around Amman. Servees taxis will stop to let you out anywhere along their route, although there are registered points where they begin and end their circuit.
Buses: There are several types of bus service operating in Jordan. The enormous blue-and-white buses belonging to the JETT bus company which connects Amman to Aqaba, the King Hussein Bridge, Petra, and Hammamat Ma'een. There are two main bus stations in Amman: Abdali and Wahdat. All smaller towns are connected by 20-seat minibuses. These leave when full and on some routes operate infrequently. The Dead Sea is one destination that is difficult to get to without private transport, as there are no JETT or public buses operating there.
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a fascinating city of contrasts , a unique blend of old and new, ideally situated on a hilly area between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley.
Karak, an ancient Crusader stronghold, which sits 900m above sea level and lies inside the walls of the old city. The city today is home to around 170,000 people and continues to boast a number of restored 19th century Ottoman buildings, restaurants, places to stay, and the like. But it is undoubtedly Karak Castle which dominates.
Petra the world wonder, is without doubt Jordan's most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago. Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1 kilometre in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 metres high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling.
As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).The Treasury is just the first of the many wonders that make up Petra. As you enter the Petra valley you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of this place and its outstanding architectural achievements. Roman-style theatre, which could seat 3,000 people. There are obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets, and high above, overlooking the valley, is the impressive Ad-Deir. It is not permitted for motorized vehicles to enter the site. But if you don't want to walk, you can hire a horse or a horse-drawn carriage to take you through the one kilometre Siq. For the elderly and/or handicapped, the Visitors' Centre, close to the entrance of the Siq, will issue a special permit (at an extra fee),for the carriage to go inside Petra to visit the main attractions.
Once inside the site, you can hire a donkey, or for the more adventurous, a camel - both come with handlers and take designated routes throughout the site.
The ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. Laying on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
The modern city of Jerash can be found to the east of the ruins.
The Jordan Rift Valley is a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 400 metres (1,312 ft.) below sea level. The leading attraction at the Dead Sea is the warm, soothing, super salty water itself – some ten times saltier than sea water, and rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine and several others. The unusually warm, incredibly buoyant and mineral-rich waters have attracted visitors since ancient times.
Wadi Rum,also known as ‘The Valley of the Moon' is a maze of monolithic rockscapes rising up from the desert floor to heights of 1,750 metres creating a natural challenge for serious mountaineers.
Visitors can hire a 4x4 vehicle, together with driver/guide, and then drive for two or three hours into the Wadi system to explore some of the best known sites. Alternatively they can hire a camel and guide. The duration of the trip can be arranged beforehand through the Visitors Centre, as can a stay under the stars in a Bedouin tent, where visitors can enjoy a traditional campfire meal accompanied by Arabic music.
Aqaba is a delightful place for discerning holidaymakers, plenty of water-sports activities available and actually is a great base from which to explore various places of interest in southern Jordan.
Madaba, known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics,is home to the famous 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.
The Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George,which is located northwest of the city centre.
Also within the area is Mount Nebo, one of the most revered holy sites of Jordan and the place where Moses was buried. A small Byzantine church was built there by early Christians, which has been expanded into a vast complex.
Southwest of Madaba is Hammamat Ma'in, the thermal mineral springs that for centuries have attracted people to come and immerse themselves in the sites'warm therapeutic waters.
To the east of Madaba, is Umm Ar-Rasas, a very ancient site that is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The rectangular walled city is mostly in ruins but does still include several buildings,as well as four churches and some beautiful stone arches.The main attraction is outside the city walls within the Church of St. Stephen, which contains a very large, perfectly preserved mosaic floor laid down in 718 AD,which is second only to Madaba's world famous mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
The Jordan Valley is a great place for thrill-seekers of all ages and abilities.The hills, valleys and waterways that lead down to the Dead Sea, provide a natural playground for a multitude of outdoor activities, from leisurely walks to exhilarating horseback rides and challenging climbs.
There are over thirty main diving sites in Aqaba, most of them suitable for all levels of competence. Aqaba is all fringing reef stretching for a distance of over 25kms right down to the Saudi Arabian border, there are no off-shore reefs. The reef starts literally at the waters edge and extends like the fingers of your hands into canyons leading to pinnacles and drop offs.
The Shawmari Reserve is a breeding centre for some of the most endangered and rare wildlife in the Middle East. In this small reserve there is a large herd of magnificent Arabian Oryx, a species that was once on the verge of extinction. There are also ostriches, onagers and graceful desert gazelles. These animals are all rebuilding their populations in this safe haven, where they are protected from the hunting and habitat destruction that once threatened their existence.
The unusual attributes of the Dead Sea have been known for centuries. It is the only place in the world where this particular combination of spa benefits exists. Peculiar sun radiation and climatic conditions, enriched oxygen atmosphere, mineral-rich sea salt,thermo-mineral springs, and mineral-rich mud, all offer effective medical treatment and therapeutic benefits that attract visitors from all over the world. The plants that grow at the lakeside, particularly the balsam tree, produce highly valuable and sought-after cosmetics, perfumes and medical substances.
Although a common way to explore Wadi Rum is by Jeep safari, many of the more secluded areas are inaccessible to vehicles. Camels offer a more authentic and eco-friendly mode of transport as does horse-riding. Camel and Horse Caravans can be arranged through the Visitors Centre and include trips between Aqaba, Wadi Rum and Petra.
Because of its unique ecosystem, Wadi Rum is a great place for bird watchers as it is a route for bird migration, the spring and autumn being the best times of the year for this activity.
This is also an unforgettable way to view Wadi Rum. Ballooning trips are available during April to June and September to December. The balloons carry up to eight passengers and lift off early in the early mornings, when the winds and thermals are right.
Luxuriate in the hot thermal springs at Hammamat Zarqa Ma'in and Al-Himma and take time out to visit some of the historic architecture of the area.
If you want an alternative to the ordinary, spend a night at the Ammarin Bedouin Camp.The Ammarin are a local tribe that settled near Petra, in Beidha, during the early nineteenth century. With an objective to nurture the local Bedouin culture while raising awareness on the surrounding environment, the Ammarin Bedouin Camp promises to be a magnificent experience filled with entertainment that includes authentic Bedouin music, dance, and delicious local cuisine.
Any non-Arab visitor to Jordan, whether for business or tourism, needs an entry visa. The required fee for a visa in addition to the granted stay duration depends on the visitor's nationality.
Although entrance visas are obtainable at the airport for visitors arriving by airplane, those arriving by land must get a visa prior to arrival. These are obtainable from any Jordanian diplomatic mission abroad, where they generally take a day to be received. Visas cannot be obtained at Jordan's land border crossings.
Visas obtained in Jordanian consulates are valid for 3-4 months from the date of issue, and can be issued for multiple entries. Tourist visas allow a stay of up to one month initially. However, this period can easily be extended for up to another two months.
After that date you must exit and re-enter the country, or undergo immigration procedures.If your visa has not been renewed properly by the time you leave Jordan you will have to pay a fine at the border. If you plan to stay for more than two weeks in Jordan, you will need to register at the nearest police station.
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