BETA: Jordan

30.5852° N, 36.2384° E


This Middle Eastern country is home to a lot more than just Petra. In fact, it is surprisingly diverse - the northern region is quite lush, and is even home to some wetlands. Jordan has always been a popular location for movies - most recently it was used as the planet Arrakis in the new film, "Dune". In another vein, Jordan recently opened The Jordan Trail, a 650-kilometer long trail that crosses the country and takes you past some of the most famous and beautiful parts of the country (including the ruins of Petra). Here are some interesting, and exciting things to know about Jordan - and the adventures you can have there.



Fast Facts

  • Officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the country is ruled by a Constitutional Monarchy, with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh leading the government

  • Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, and Israel and Palestine (West Bank) to the west.

  • The Dead Sea is located along its western borders, while the country also has 26 kilometers or 16 miles of coastline along the Red Sea.

  • Jordan is a founding member of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Co-operation.

  • Sunni Islam, practiced by around 95% of the population, is the dominant religion and coexists with an indigenous Christian minority. Jordan has been repeatedly referred to as an "oasis of stability" in the turbulent region.

  • The country is a major tourist destination (it is home to some pretty famous ruins in the form of Petra), while it also attracts medical tourism due to its well-developed health sector.

  • The capital city, Amman, is also the most populated in the country.

  • Jordan sits strategically at the crossroads of the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, in the Levant area of the Fertile Crescent, a cradle of civilization.

  • The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature was set up in 1966 to protect and manage Jordan's natural resources. Nature reserves in Jordan include the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the Azraq Wetland Reserve, the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, and the Mujib Nature Reserve.

All facts from here.



Fun Facts

  • You probably already know this, but Jordan borders the Dead Sea - the saltiest body of water in the world (20x saltier than the ocean). That saltiness allows you to float (indefinitely). Jordan capitalizes on the water, and the different minerals you can find in the region, by setting up a thriving pampering and spa sector.

  • They might have the best hummus in the world - at least at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant named Hashim. This tiny, open air spot serves the basics - but with flavor that good who needs anything fancy? Even the King popped in for a bite a couple of years ago.

  • The capital has archeological ruins that could rival Athens. The ancient Citadel of Amman (Jabal al-Qal’a) towers over the busy downtown area. At the foot of the hill on which the citadel sits is a restored Roman amphitheater where they still offer open-air concerts and plays in the summer. The Temple of Hercules, a Roman religious site with giant marble fingers (believed to be the remains of a statue of Hercules) lies near the top of the hill. This is one of the best spots to catch the sunset in the capital.

  • The country has been the setting for many (many) movies. Including, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lawrence of Arabia, Red Planet, and The Martian. While you will probably recognize Petra popping up in a number of films - many of the aforementioned movies actually were shot in Wadi Rum, a dry, empty desert area that many describe as “god-like.”

  • Jordan’s Desert Castles are 7th-century Umayyad-era ruins once used as rural retreats for Damascus’s ruling classes, and they showcase some of the most impressive examples of early Islamic art and architecture anywhere. One of the must-see spots is Qasr Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While it doesn’t look like much from the outside, head inside where you’ll be met with incredible floor-to-ceiling frescoes.

More fun facts here.



Adventures


| The Jordan Trail: the Jordan Trail is a long-distance hiking trail connecting the length of Jordan from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south. The hike offers 40 days of hiking, along 650 kilometers of trail. Along the way, you hit some of the most famous spots in the country (including Petra) as well as 52 traditional villages and towns. The Jordan Trail becomes a journey through the history of Jordan and an encounter with its diverse culture. It also gives you an amazing up-close view of its various biomes. Including, the rolling wooded hills of the north, the rugged wadis, and cliffs overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley, the rose rock of Petra, the dramatic sands and towering mountains in Wadi Rum, and finally the crystal waters of the Red Sea (its ending point). Learn more about the trail (and how to do it) here.


| Exploring Wadi Rum: in the words of National Geographic, “Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) lies in the far south of Jordan, set on a high plateau at the western edge of the Arabian desert. Gargantuan rock formations, rippled sand dunes, and clear night skies create an almost fairy-tale setting across an unpopulated area the size of New York City. This is truly the “reddest” part of Jordan, colored by iron oxide, and by far the most dramatic in terms of landscape.” This is an amazing place to spend some time exploring, checking out the stars, maybe getting on a rope or two, and just marveling in the silence and emptiness. Wadi Rum is full of massive sandstone rock formations, with a near-limitless number of climbing routes, many yet to be discovered. While there is climbing right near Wadi Rum Village, the real reason to visit Wadi Rum is to go deep into the desert to experience the vastness. About 85% of the climbing in Wadi Rum is trad - with the majority being rated between 5.8 and 5.10. Check out all of the climbs on Mountain Project.


| Explore the Countries Forest Reserves: The Ajloun Forest Reserve is located in the Ajloun highlands north of Amman, Ajloun Forest Reserve covers 13 square kilometers and is home to open woodlands dominated by Evergreen Oak, Pine, Carob, Wild Pistachio, and Wild Strawberry trees. Besides many trees and plants, you might also be able to spot unusual animals such as the Striped Hyena, Crested Porcupine, and Stone Marten (similar to a weasel). You can stay in one of the various cabins located in the reserve, many of which are close to hiking trails - including the Roe Deer Trail. Many of the hikes are guided - though because most pass through historic villages, it might be a good idea to have someone with local knowledge.


| Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve - it covers around 320 square kilometers and is home to spectacular mountains and Wadis along the face of the Great Rift Valley. Dana is a melting pot of species from three continents: Europe, Africa, and Asia. This combination of natural communities in a single area is unique in Jordan, and because of that, many of Dana’s animals and plants are very rare (25 species are known to be endangered). Besides the natural beauty and adventure, it is also worth checking out the Dana village area (an almost abandoned village that has recently been restored) and the Feynan area, some believe Feynan has one of the longest sequences of human settlement in the world. Similarly, Feynan is home to some of humanity’s first communities and is one of the oldest and most important centers of sustained copper exploitation in the ancient world. Similar to Aljoun, many of the trails in the reserve need a guide. But one, the Dana Wadi Trail (14 kilometers) can be done unguided - a great way to explore the wadi at your own pace.


| Now for a real adventure. The Mujib Biosphere Reserve is the lowest nature reserve on Earth. Its rugged and spectacular mountains border the Dead Sea and are dissected by several river-filled canyons, offering some of the best river and adventure hikes in Jordan. Join a trip along the Siq Trail, a great spot for canyoning, rappelling, hiking, and scrambling.


| Check out the other ruins in the country. While Petra is definitely the most popular (and for good reason) the country is old - like really old. And with that long history comes a lot of amazing historical sites. One area that is truly worth checking out is Jerash, a historic Roman city that was decimated by an earthquake long ago. Jerash was hidden for hundreds of years under the shifting sands of Jordan, the picturesque ruins all that remains of a once-great ancient city that saw the likes of Alexander the Great, the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, and the mathematician Nichomachas. Today, you can explore Hadrian's Arch, the Temple of Artemis, the Nymphaeum, and the Jerash Archaeological Museum.



More Information

Learn more about Jordan’s outdoor adventures and natural reserves: https://www.wildjordan.com/

More in-depth history of Jordan: https://www.britannica.com/place/Jordan

More off-the-beaten-path adventures in Jordan: https://www.worldnomads.com/explore/middle-east/jordan/off-the-beaten-path-jordan