By Briana Seftel
A land of peace, hospitality and historic treasures, Jordan captivates all who visit. Before you put on your best Indiana Jones hat, here are some things you should know before visiting Jordan.
1. Wadi Rum has been used as the location for many films
Wadi Rum (also known as Valley of the Moon) has served as the location for countless blockbuster films including Lawrence of Arabia, Transformers, Red Planet, Prometheus, The Martian and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The red-pink sand, towering rock formations and sand dunes bring to mind that of another planet: Mars.
2. Jordanians are extremely hospitable
Hospitality is legendary in Jordan; the country has been called the “Switzerland of the Middle East.” You will likely hear “ahlan wa sahlan” (which means welcome in Arabic) a lot on your trip. While wandering the markets of Amman or the desert of Wadi Rum, you may be stopped by a local inviting you over for tea, coffee or a meal. Don’t be alarmed - Jordanians often invite travelers into their homes. Just embrace it and enjoy an authentic Jordanian experience! Keep in mind, it's considered polite to decline a few times before accepting an invitation.
3. Petra is a New Wonder of the World
Named one of the New Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, Petra is, without a doubt, the major reason travelers go to Jordan. The ancient city built by the Nabateans some 2,000 years ago is unbelievably carved into the pink sandstone (it’s also known as the Rose City). The sheer improbability of this city was also the secret to its success. For centuries, Petra flourished as a trading hub, hidden by natural gorges and mountains. Seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you'll feel like a real-life archaeologist in Petra!
Travel tip: Petra is four times the size of Manhattan. Spend at least one night in town to rise early and explore before the crowds arrive.
4. It shares the Dead Sea with Israel
Bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west, the Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, not to mention the lowest place on earth! Visitors from all over the world flock to this mystical lake to float in its super salty water and slather themselves in the dark brown, mineral-rich mud. The Dead Sea is just a 45-minute drive from Amman, making it an easy day trip from the capital city.
5. Bedouin culture is alive and thriving
A night under the stars in a Bedouin camp is truly a special experience you can have in Jordan. The nomadic Bedouin people have inhabited Jordan since the 14th century and are a big part of the cultural identity of Jordan. In the Wadi Rum area, there are six Bedouin tribes that live in villages. Stay a few hours or spend the night in a camp as you experience the warm hospitality and culture of the Bedouins.
6. Pack wisely
Jordan is 75% desert, which means days are hot and nights can be very cool. You’ll need to pack light, breathable clothing, sunglasses, a hat, sunblock and a shawl or sweater. Keep in mind Jordan is a predominantly Muslim country, so dressing modestly (no revealing clothing) is advised. Hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes are recommended for traversing Jordan’s desert terrain.
7. Amman is a culinary wonderland
Jordan’s capital of Amman may not grab you at first glance, but this modern city has plenty to offer travelers, including its food! Popular dishes include musakhan (chicken coated in sumac and onion), maqluba (rice with lamb and vegetables, served upside down on the table) and mezze (a collection of spreads and savory bites that are meant to be shared). Eating is usually not a quick or rushed affair in Jordan, so take your time and savor the flavors of Jordanian cuisine.
8. Aqaba is a diver’s paradise
If you’re looking for a diving location off the beaten path, look no further than Aqaba. Jordan's city on the Red Sea is home to 16 miles of sandy beaches and stunning coral reefs, making it one of the best dive spots in the world. It’s is also a wonderful place to get certified!
9. It has enough Roman ruins to rival Rome
The Romans conquered Jordan in 63 AD and gave the country its first capital, Philadelphia, later to be known as Amman. One of the most impressive Roman sites in Jordan is the ruined city of Jerash, where visitors can wander past stone colonnades, a Hippodrome, a forum and the Arch of Hadrian. In Amman, a visit to the Citadel is a must, where you can see the remains of the Roman Temple of Hercules and get great panoramic views of the city.
10. It’s home to many biblical sites
Jordan is renowned for its religious tolerance and is home to many religious sites referenced in the Bible. Many believe Bethany Beyond the Jordan (also known as Al-Maghtas) is the birthplace of Christianity and where Jesus was baptized. There are plenty of sites from the Old Testament, too, including Mount Nebo, where Moses showed his people the Promised Land.