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Jordan

Photo © Mikey B

Travel Guide Middle East Jordan

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Introduction

Sur la route de Zarqa Ma'in

Sur la route de Zarqa Ma'in

© All Rights Reserved Alain13

The Middle East doesn't exactly come across as the most stable area on earth these days, but Jordan has managed to remain a reasonably safe nation. Moreover, Jordan's progressive leadership is playing an important role in encouraging peaceful Middle Eastern relations, as it moves internally towards greater female equality, freedom of press and democratic governance.

But tourists, they don't really come to a nation because of its great leadership do they? It's a good thing, then, that Jordan packs a variety of fantastic attractions into its borders. Best known is Petra, an ancient Arab city which was rediscovered in the 19th century, given airtime in "Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade" and is now the most impressive ruins site in all of the Middle East, with visitor numbers proving it. In Jordan's far southwest corner is Aqaba, which lies along the Gulf of Aqaba and provides what is said to be some of the best diving in the world.

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Brief History

The most prominent early roots of Jordan, as an independent state, can be traced to the Kingdom of Petra, which was founded by the Nabataeans an ancient Semitic people from Arabia who developed the North Arabic Script that evolved into the Modern Arabic script. As a result of the control of regional trade routes between Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, Petra enjoyed independence, prosperity and wealth for hundreds of years until it was absorbed by the Persian Empire and later the Roman Empire which was still expanding in 100 AD. During the Greco-Roman period of influence, a number of semi-independent city-states also developed in Jordan under the umbrella of the Decapolis including: Gerasa (Jerash), Philadelphia (Amman), Raphana (Abila), Dion (Capitolias), Gadara (Umm Qays), and Pella (Irbid).
Later, Jordan became part of the Islamic Empire across its different Caliphates stages including Rashidun Empire, Umayyad Empire and Abbasid Empire. After the decline of the Abbasid, Jordan was ruled by several conflicting powers including the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids and the Mamluks until it became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516.
The country was under British supervision until after World War II. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Jordan occupied the area of Cisjordan now called the West Bank, which it continued to control in accordance with the 1949 Armistice Agreements and a political union formed in December 1948. A political union was legally established by the series of proclamations, decrees, and parliamentary acts in December 1948. Abdullah thereupon took the title King of Jordan, and he officially changed the country's name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in April 1949.
Jordan and Iraq united in 1958 to form the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan under the Hashemite crowns in Amman and Baghdad. A coup later that year would end the union with the execution of the Hashemite crown in Baghdad. The United Arab Republic consisting of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen quickly moved to antagonize Jordan's young King Hussein with Soviet support. King Hussein asked for British and American assistance. The RAF and the USAF was sent to patrol Jordanian airspace and British troops were deployed in Amman. The UAR backed off but then turned to Lebanon. The Americans would later be deployed in Beirut to support Lebanon's pro-Western government.
In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.
Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt in May 1967, and following an Israeli air attack on Egypt in June 1967, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq continued the Six Day War against Israel. During the war, Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the territory now occupied by Israel but its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.
King Abdullah II succeeded his father King Hussein in 1999.
Jordan's rapid reinstitution of political and civil liberty continued throughout the 1990s and the 2000s. Economic liberalization policies were especially introduced by King Abdullah II creating one of the freest economies in the Middle East. Political liberalization is occurring but at a slower pace than 1989 and the early 1990s. Liberal policies continue to be predominate in King Abdullah II's reign with economic reforms being the dominate.
On 9 November 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous terrorist bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq", a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility.

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Geography

Jordan shares international borders with Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Jordan lies between 29° and 34° N latitude, and 35° and 40° E longitude (a small area lies west of 35°). It's a mostly arid country with fantastic desert sceneries, wadis (dry river beds), rocks, sand and of course there is also the lowest point on earth in the west of the country: the Dead Sea at 420 metres below sea level. The northwestern corner of the country is the highest area in the country, gradually descending in the direction of the Red Sea and Iraq/Saudi Arabia. The Great Rift Valley of the Jordan River separates Jordan, the west bank and Israel. The highest point in the country is Jabal Umm al Dami at 1,854 metres above sea level. Jordan is part of a region considered to be "the cradle of civilization", the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent.

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Regions

Jordan is divided into 12 governorates. From north to south these are:

  • Irbid
  • Ajloun
  • Jarash
  • Mafraq
  • Balqa
  • Zarqa
  • Amman
  • Madaba
  • Karak
  • Tafilah
  • Ma'an
  • Aqaba

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Cities

  • Amman
  • Irbid
  • Jerash features ancient Roman ruins, about an hour's drive from Amman.
  • Aqaba is a Red Sea resort town offering some excellent snorkeling and diving.
  • Karak is a fortified town with a castle dating back to the 12th century.
  • Madaba is known as the “City of Mosaics". It is home to a 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
  • Ma'an

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Sights and Activities

Petra

The Monastery

The Monastery

© All Rights Reserved krissy

Petra is Jordan's most famous tourist attraction. A city hewn by the Nabateans into the rose-coloured rock hidden behind the surrounding mountains the site became famous after reports by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. It probably is one of the most Famous Ruins in the world and therefore is on the Unesco World Heritage List. For more detailed information about visiting this fantastic highlight of Jordan, read the Petra article. The village of Wadi Musa, about 2 kilometres uphill from the main site, is the base for visiting Petra.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is a valley in the Jordanian desert known for its sand dunes. Parts of the Lawrence of Arabia movie were recorded here. The area is very isolated but can easily be visited as it is not to far from the main Amman to Aqaba road. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads who sometimes function as guides in the area.

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is located in the west of the country and shares part of it with its neighbouring country Israel. This is the lowest point in the world at almost 400 metres below sea level and the water is the most salty in the world as well. In summer it can get very hot here and it is best avoided during this time. The Dead Sea is easily visited in a day or so but some more time deserves to be spent here, as nearby attractions like Madaba (known for its Madaba Mosaic Map, a 6th century mosaic depiction of Jerusalem and parts of the Holy Land on the floor of St. George's church), Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan (Jesus' baptism site) and Mount Nebo are highlights of the country as well. Madaba, a relaxed small town about a 45-minute drive from Amman, can be a good base for exploring the sites around the Dead Sea. Alternatively, backpacker hotels in Amman organise day trips, and you can also rent a car.

Diving and snorkeling

The Red Sea borders a small portion of southern Jordan at and near the city of Aqaba and the waters are known amongst divers all over the world for its tremendous variety of marine life. Aqaba itself has some fine hotels to stay at, both upmarket as more modest places, several of which offer snorkeling and diving just offshore.

Ancient Ruins

Roman Ruins

Roman Ruins

© All Rights Reserved Ilyas

Jordan has several magnificent ancient ruins other then Petra, especially in the northwest of the country including the ones at Jerash (famous for its roman ruins) and at Umm Qais in the far northwest with great views offered towards Lake Tiberias in Israel and the Golan Heights in Syria. Another one is at Kerak, located on the King's Highway with its magnificently-situated Crusader castle. Amman itself has some fine roman ruins as well, including the ones at citadell hill. Finally, Ajlun in the north of Jordan is famous for its impressive ruins of the 12th century Ajlun castle.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Azraq Wetland Reserve
  • Shawmari Reserve
  • Dana Nature Reserve
  • Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

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Weather

Jordan has a hot, dry and sunny climate, although winters in the north can be quite cold sometimes. The east and south has the warmest weather, with average temperatures during the summermonths of May to September over 35 °C, sometimes hitting 45 °C or more! Nights are still warm. The Dead Sea area can be extremely hot and as it is the lowest point in the world, temperatures can rise to over 50 degrees Celcius in the shade. Winters here are pleasantly warm, around 20 °C or a little more during the day, nights can be relatively chilly.
More inland, winter nights can be downright cold, with temperatures below zero being a real possibility. The northwest is located at higher altitude and its proximity to the Mediterranean make this the wettest and most fertile part of Jordan. Here the annual rainfall can be as much as 800 mm in the highest parts. Temperatures are more pleasant but hot days in summer are possible, averaging around 32 °C. Most of the rain falls in winter, from November to March, while summers are generally quite dry and sunny. Frost and snow in winter is possible in places like Amman.

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Getting There

By Plane

Royal Jordanian Airlines is the national airline with many destinations served from Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), 32 kilometres south of Amman. Destinations are as far away as New York, but most flights are to major cities in the Middle East and Europe. Asian destinations include Bangkok and Hong Kong. Dozens of other airlines (mostly regional) fly to the airport as well. Buses and taxis serve the airport all day, with buses operating every half hour to Amman. A new rail line is being constructed that will link Queen Alia International Airport with central and downtown Amman. Domestic flights are an option you don't really need with travelling times overland just a matter of several hours, but travelling between Amman and Aqaba could be done with Royal Jordanian Airlines.

Amman Civil Airport (ADJ) in the east of Amman has flights to Dalaman (Turkey), Cairo, Baghdad, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Baku, Sharjah and even Stockholm, though some are seasonal.

There are also international flights to/from Aqaba Airport in the south of the country, mainly including charter flights from European countries.

By Train

A twice weekly train travel between the capital of Syria, Damascus, and Amman. The train leaves both places on Mondays and Thursdays at 8:00am in the morning and take 9 hours to complete the schedule. Although slower than buses and shared taxis, this train ride comes as a welcome alternative for train fanatics.

By Car

From Syria there are plenty of shared taxis leaving Damascus for Amman, taking about 4 hours including time to clear immigrations. It costs around US$15 for a seat.
With your own car you can also cross the border without major hassles but when travelling to Syria be sure to have a visa before entering. You can also cross into Israel to not at the King Hussein Bridge.

By Bus

Although buses and minibuses travel to Saudi Arabia and Iraq it is either almost impossible (SA) or not advisable (Iraq) to cross these borders. Instead, most travellers take overland routes to and from Israel and the Palestinian Territories or Syria. Buses travel between Amman and Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Haifa. Buses to Syria go to Damascus (daily) and Aleppo (weekly). There are also numerous minibuses that ply the route between the two capitals.
Minibuses between Amman and Damascus sometimes also stop in Jerash (Jordan) and Bosra (Syria).

By Boat

There are ferries between Aqaba, Jordan and Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. There is a daily fast ferry (US$90 for First class and US$70 for economy seat) leaving at 11:00am from Jordan and 3:00pm from Egypt. It takes 1 to 2 hours travelling depending on sea conditions, but much longer in reality as a result of the time needed for everyone to clear customs and immigrations - up to 7 hours of mostly waiting. The slow ferry leaves daily as well but costs almost the same and is much less comfortable and much slower indeed. These ferries are operated by AB Maritime, do check their website for more details. Citizens of most European countries, North America and Australia and New Zealand can get a visa for free when entering Aqaba.

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Getting Around

By Plane

The country is small, so you don't really need a domestic flight although travelling between Amman and Aqaba could be an option with Royal Jordanian Airlines.

By Train

Although the train from Syria travels through Jordan to Amman, there are no other convenient points to break your journey.

By Car

Jordanian roads and roadsigns are of good quality and apart from the chaotic roads in and near Amman, it is also very easy to drive around this country. Just be careful of other local drivers. You can hire cars at the main airports, some resorts and bigger cities. Traffic drives on the right. It is best to bring an international driving permit, which is valid in all circumstances. Hiring a car with a driver is also popular and saves you the hassle on the road.

By Bus

There are many bus companies offering direct services to most major cities and towns, like Amman, Aqaba, Petra, Jerash and Irbid. Companies include Alphadt, JETT and Rum Tourist Transport. There are also minibuses.

Smaller service taxis ply the same routes and often are more expensive but also faster and more convenient.

By Boat

Other than taking a leisurely boat tour on the Red Sea (and occasionally the Dead Sea), there are no regular passenger services within Jordan.

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Red Tape

Citizens from Bahrain, Egypt, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City and Yemen do not require a visa when visiting Jordan.

Most citizens from western countries need a visa when entering Jordan. Usually, these are available upon arrival at airport, ports and land borders, and cost 10 Jordanian dinars (around US$15) that must be paid in local currency - there are exchange counters around the immigration offices.

When entering through the port of Aqaba, there is no visa fee for travellers from most European countries, the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand due to the special economic zone (ASEZA) status of the area. However, travellers with a free ASEZA visa will have to register at the ASEZA office in town if they plan to stay more than 2 weeks.

The following nationals need a visa beforehand:

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d'lvoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iran, Laos, Lebanon, Mangolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Belize, Colombia and Cuba.

Note that getting a visa at the border at the Allenby/King Hussein bridge crossing with Israel is not possible, so get one beforehand. Though if you leave Jordan at the Allenby/King Hussein bridge crossing with Israel and return the same way while the visa is still valid you do not need to buy a new one and you can enter Jordan again.

For more information about getting a visa beforehand, check the nearest embassy or consulate of Jordan.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The national currency is the Jordanian dinar (JD), divided into 1,000 fils and 100 piastres (or qirsh). Coins come in denominations of ¼, ½, 1, 5 and 10 piastres and banknotes in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 dinar denominations. The currency rate is fixed at 0.71 JD per US$ (or 1.41 dollars per dinar).

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Language

The national language of Jordan is Arabic. Most Jordanians speak English, especially in urban area such as Amman and in and around tourist centres like Aqaba, Petra, Jerash and Wadi Rum.

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Eat

Hummus, pita, olive oil, ouzi (lamb with spiced rice), kobbeh (Jordan dumplings), baklavas and moutabal are just several of the different sorts of food you should definately try.

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Drink

Black thea with mint is one of the drinks in Jordan which are worth a try.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Jordan. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Jordan) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Jordan. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, typhoid and rabies are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

In general, Jordan is a very safe country and unlike many other Arabian countries, it has almost not been affected by the recent uprises like in Syria, Egypt or Tunisia. Traffic is most likely going to be the main hazzard, so watch out on the roads if you are driving yourself. And always watch out when crossing streets, especially in Amman and other big cities.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Jordan is relatively well connected to the internet compared to many other countries in the Middle East. Internet cafes are all around Jordan and range from 1- 2 JD for half an hour. Wifi is getting more and more popular in Jordan, but is not very common everywhere. In larger places, you find free wifi and some coffee places and restaurants. Hotels tend to charge for wifi, but not always, so check beforehand.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Jordan's international country code is 962. The emergency numbers include 112 and 911, you can use them both.

Most of Jordan has mobile coverage. There are three mobile operators: Zain - the first and largest mobile provider, Orange and Umniah. You can buy SIM cards at any of these providers and if you are planning to make international calls, use Umniah as they are the cheapeast. Otherwise Zain is the better choice of mostly domestic calls. Using your own SIM in Jordan can be expensive, especially for internet.

Card-based temporary numbers can be purchased at the airport or any mobile shop for JOD5. These numbers can be subsequently recharged with a prepaid card starting at only JOD1. Temporary "throw away" phones can be bought at many mobile phone shops across the country for around JOD20-30, but a Jordanian must buy the phone before possession can be transferred to you.

Post

Jordan Post runs the postal services in the country. It has fairly reliable and cheap services and international post usually takes several days up to a week or more for countries further away. Opening hours of post offices are mostly between 7:00am and 5:00pm Saturday to Thursday and 7:00am to 1:00pm on Friday, although this depends whether it's a main city or smaller villages. In summer, there might be slighty longer opening hours. For larger packages, it might work out cheaper and certainly faster to use international courier services, including DHL, FedEx, TNT or UPS for example.

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Quick Facts

Jordan flag

Map of Jordan

[edit]

Local name
Al-Urdunn (Arabic: الأردنّ‎)
Capital
Amman
Government
Constitutional Monarchy
Nationality
Jordanian
Population
5,460,000
Languages
Arabic, English
Religions
Islam (Sunni), Christianity
Currency
Jordanian Dinar (JOD)
Calling Code
+962
Time Zone
UTC+2
Daylight Saving
UTC+3

Contributors

as well as Peter (5%), Hien (4%), dr.pepper (3%), Budai (3%), arif_kool (<1%), Lavafalls (<1%), Sander (<1%)

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Jordan Travel Helpers

  • omran67

    I am a Jordanian man who lives in Jordan and I work as
    a taxi driver. I like to make friends with all
    customers whether they be international or local,
    whether they travel short distances or come from any
    part of the world.
    For the latter, if you plan to visit Jordan, I will be
    happy to be your driver.
    I am extremely flexible and can fit in with any
    programme you devise .

    Ask omran67 a question about Jordan
  • kichikacha

    Travelled shoestring in Jordan

    Ask kichikacha a question about Jordan
  • Beidas

    heey, I live in jordan since 1990, and i know all the tourist palces here ,
    for any help , you contact me on my Email
    ah.beidas@gmail.com

    Ask Beidas a question about Jordan
  • Petra-Jordan

    Hi everyone. I'm living in Jordan since more than 25 years; as expat I had to understand everything around me. Now I can say to know this country mostly through its traditions and everyday habits. That is why I think that i can answer any question about this beautiful, fascinated region and very welcoming people. In there, there are too much to explore and to learn.

    Ask Petra-Jordan a question about Jordan
  • M-C

    As a Jordanian who love this amazing country and who know exactly how and where to go especially i'm the kind who love camping and adventure beside my addiction to historical places which Jordan full of it.

    also i can help and advice of ways for cheep trveling :)

    all you have to is to ask
    bye for now

    Ask M-C a question about Jordan

Accommodation in Jordan

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