Jordan is exotic, yet also so close to Europe.
Just imagine yourself wandering through the red sandstone city of Petra, where temples and sculpted into natural rock.
Picture yourself in Wadi Rum, living a Lawrence of Arabia fable, where sand dunes meet the sunset and you can feel the silence, serenity and empty space.
Find yourself in the urban capital Amman, in a food market where phrases are shouted in Arabic over and over, each one different, but never ending. They flow off the tongue with a rhythmical grace and the intonation fills the air with a melodic chorus.
Let’s find ourselves at a cafe, perhaps smoking a shisha with the locals, maybe just tea and fruit juice.
Then let’s go north and witness how Jordan moves from the brown colors of the desert to fertile green hills and forests.
Here we find Jerash, an ancient Roman city impeccably preserved, with three amphitheaters, hundreds of columns, and ancient roads filled with flamboyantly carved history.
Even further north we find a medieval castle, along with further impressive ruins.
Jordan does have this incredible variety of destinations. There’s also the Dead Sea and some great five-star resorts along the shore.
It also has incredibly warm and welcoming people. The warmth of their greetings is palpable – the handshake, the eye contact, the cheek kiss. There is a profound sense of affection. And for many, that is their number one memory of Jordan.
Jordan of course is famous for Petra, a destination that was now voted one of the top seven Wonders of the World.
It’s incredible. But there’s more, without doubt. Wadi Rum is really spectacular. It’s an accessible desert where you can camp out in the dunes amid these incredible sandstone formations, and spend a night beneath the stars.
You can literally just roll out a sleeping mat and sleep under the stars. I did that and as I was drifting off this Bedouin guy came over asking questions. We somehow got over the language barrier and the Bedouin wanted to know if I’d seen his wife and his four goats. He’d lost them four hours ago in the desert. And he couldn’t find them.
Amman has got a big international airport and there’s actually great transport connections, with flight routes from many cities in Europe. Even budget airlines now fly to Amman. Amman to Petra is about three hours by road.
From Amman you can easily do a day trip to see places in the north, such as Al Karak castle and the Roman ruins of Jarash.
Jerash is among the most spectacular Roman ruins anywhere, including Rome. In most countries, Roman ruins are either restored, or incredibly touristic and crowded, sometimes even both.
In Jerash you’ll probably be the only person wandering an entire city, walking through these amphitheaters and columns.
Jordan is a country that’s off the beaten path, even though it’s starting to become known, even though it’s so close to Europe. And despite being so well-connected, it’s rarely visited. Perhaps people are put off because it’s an Islamic country and it is very difficult to go and find a drink of alcohol there, but it is very possible to get involved with the local culture.
So instead of going to a bar, you go to a cafe to drink minty sweet tea. Perhaps you go to eat, drink, eat more and smoke a shisha. You can really get involved with the local way.
The hospitality of the Jordanians is on a different level. Older men in that traditional dress ooze in decorum, commanding enormous respect from everyone, younger men in, in sharp suits and wax hair, but still with this equally polite etiquette.
Here’s a country that is appreciative, optimistic, open and interested in its visitors. Whether you spend some time in the desert, whether it’s with Bedouin people or recreating Lawrence of Arabia, or lounding at the Dead Sea, there’s a lot to do in a very neatly connected package.
This is a small country with great transport connections and an exotic culture. A country that’s very close and very accessible from Europe. And this great Jordanian hospitality is always going to be part of your travel experience.