Jordan may be well known for the diversity of its people, its food and its culture but little is known internationally about its rich cultural and historical heritage beyond the rose-red city of Petra. The Kingdom of Jordan remains unexplored by international travellers, from canyons to forests, mountains to deserts, cities and villages, adventure, culture and spirituality. Visit Jordan and create new unforgettable memories.
Bordered by the Dead Sea and the Red sea, Jordan has become a leading cultural destination. From Petra, the Nabataean city, to the beaches of the Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan is about sports, relaxation and culture. Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and the Bedouins and discover the crossroads of the Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilisations.
Our Editorial team's advice
The enthralling beauty of Jordan's landscapes and ancient sites will win you over. Our advice is to take your time. Petra, for example, can easily take three days. Another site worth visiting is Wadi Rum. A tour in this mythical desert is worth taking, but do not go there unaccompanied; you can rent a chauffeur-guide driven jeep from Aqada or at the Rest House at the entrance to the desert. Unless you prefer hiking on a camel's back, it is a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the hospitality of Bedouins who welcome you in their tent and give you a taste of the cardamom-coffee ritual.
Another quintessential experience is a visit to Jesus Christ's baptism site on the River Jordan. Walk in his footsteps and immerse yourself in the waters of the Jordan River at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Truly a unique spiritual experience, the site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan/the Baptism Site paints a picture of the time of Jesus Christ at the birthplace of Christianity.
Wildlife lovers shouldn't miss the opportunity to visit the Dana Reserve, Jordan's largest nature reserve and home to over 25 endangered species of mammals. Visitor can hike along the red sandstone cliffs and stay in the the refurbished 15th-century stone village overlooking the valley below.
+Jordanian hospitality (notably Bedouins).
+Amazing natural diversity (wooded hills, terrace cultivation and the fertile valley of the Jordan in the northwest, the Aqaba seaside resort on the Red Sea, desert in the east, turbulent relief in the south...)
-Lodging: the hotel classification is not easily determined and quality varies. Petra and Aqada face lodging problems in peak seasons, spring and beginning autumn.
-Handicraft: buying souvenirs won't ruin you but most articles are imported from Syria (marquetry), Jerusalem (Hebron glassworks and coloured earthenware from the West Bank), Egypt (perfumes, copper), Iran (miniatures) or Afghanistan (jewels).
Do not hesitate if a Jordanian invites you for tea, it is part of their hospitality. Just bear in mind that your visit might be long. Remove your shoes at the door, and if you are served food with no cutlery, kindly use your right hand only to eat the mezze (the left hand is impure). Do not hesitate to serve yourself again, it is an honour to the housewife. During the month of Ramadan, avoid drinking, eating or smoking openly before the sun sets. When visiting a mosque, do not forget these two courtesies: remove your shoes (and not leave them on the floor during the visit) and be properly dressed (women must wear a headscarf).
Jordanian cuisine, Lebanese-inspired, mixes eastern and Mediterranean flavours. Starters often consist of the standard mezze (assorted cold dishes eaten with hot flat bread), beureks (cheese, parsley or meat pasties), koftehs (cracked wheat, minced meat and parsley fried balls) or falafels (fried chickpea puree croquettes). Then you have mutton (shish kebabs), chicken or beef kebabs. In Aqada, the fish from the Red Sea is served with tahina, sesame and salty cheese sauce. If you want a quick bite, have an eastern sandwich, the famous shawarma (bread stuffed with spit-roasted mutton or chicken with tomatoes, onions and sauce). You can also have mensaf, a traditional Bedouin dish, a spiced mutton stew, with curdled ewe's milk, almonds and pine nut, served with rice and yoghurt sauce. For desserts, you have essentially eastern pastries like the delicious baklavas with honey and pistachio. For drinks, wine is served in restaurants (often Lebanese or Syrian). As an aperitif, get arak (aniseed grape liquor). Tea is very sweet and Bedouins mix it with sage or thyme. Finally, do not miss the traditional ?Turkish coffee' (or ?Arab coffee') and cardamom-flavoured brewed coffee, a little bitter but an easily acquired taste.
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Jordanian handicraft is quite limited. Go for traditional Bedouin objects like tapestries and woven carpets (check the quality), cushions, bags and embroidered satin dresses, copper or brass coffee machines with pointed mouths. Another good purchase would be some gold, which is about three times cheaper than in Europe. The gold souk in Amman has varied choices (18 or 24 carats). To enjoy the healing values of the Dead Sea at home, return with a jug of black mud to apply as a mask or for hair treatment, and salt to dilute in the bath. Finally, do not forget to bargain with shopkeepers. Shops and markets are open from Sunday to Thursday 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm. Some open on Saturday.