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Oct
27

Trip to Amman-where beauty and history collide

Do you know why there are so many cheap flights to Amman? Because there is no sign of the Arab spring, or as I call it now the Arab fall/winter. And you want to know why?

Because they’re already living in their spring.

amman cafes

amman cafes

It’s strange really how different one neighboring country can be from the other. Jordan has always stood apart from its more radical neighbors. Its king and queen adopted a more western approach to rule, and  women were allowed to be educated.

girls uncovered

girls uncovered

For any of you out there-and I hope there are non reading this- counties that treat women like second-class citizens will never prosper. Their people will never break the yoke of despair. Women, strong and educated, are the key to raising a competent and competitive society. And this has been done in Jordan.

ad campains for new business

ad campains for new business

And is palpable. Here, there is money. Most of the young students who study abroad to learn more return and invest in the country. Young women and men open similar businesses to the ones  they have seen in London and Paris, Los Angeles and New York. They take flights to Amman back and forth to the States and Europe in search of ideas.

 using new models for start-ups

using new models for start-ups

Doctors and lawyers return. Students become teachers, youths are taught all the possibilities that abound in this world. In short Amman is a good place to live.

If you want to get an idea of what the middle east used to feel like before all the anti-American anger and hatred, hop on a flight to Amman. It’s an ideal place to visit to get the look and feel of a Middle Eastern country without feeling endangered. I’m not big on feeling endangered. No off-trail hikes for me.

Hailed as the “new Beirut” Amman was built on seven hills in north-western Jordan, but today spans over nineteen hills. It has Mediterranean weather, and it gets pretty hot in the summers but cold in the winters.

It is a relatively big city with 2.5 million inhabitants and is one of the oldest cities in the world and has  been ruled by the many different societies from the Ammonites to the Greeks. It was revived in modern history during the Ottoman Empire, when the sultan had a train built there to link Damascus and Medina, and it turned into a major stop and junction.

old amman

old amman

Amman has both a modern-day and historic feel. East Amman is the older part of the city, which has single-family houses built on hills and small, traditional markets. It is more traditional, with a stronger Islamic and Arabic culture preserved, but the people that live here are known to be friendly to foreigners. West Amman is more modern, and it’s densely populated but more scenic. Along with many high-rise apartment buildings and business towers, there are also many malls, shopping centers, nightclubs, hotels and more. It is gaining a hedonistic reputation of “sin city” for Jordan, since the rest of the country is more conservative.

amman's first skyscrapers

amman's first skyscrapers

There is a lot of money invested in the city today to expand and modernize its infrastructure. There are many projects and proposals, such as the American University of Jordan; residential towers; Amman financial tower, with 56 floors; Jordan Twin Towers, with 36 floors; Amman Gardens, a high-end residential suburb, and more. Its economy is centered in communication, transportation, medical tourism and tourism in general.

You will see that it is the most prosperous place in Jordan, and is one of the most liberal places in the Middle East. It is more Westernized than places like Cairo and Damascus. They exercise freedom of worship, and there are no laws for men or women to dress conservatively. There is even an artist and musician scene due to the relative lack of oppression to other places in the Middle East. Jordan also enjoys relatively free press, and Amman is a journalism hub for the Middle East.

the sign of culture

the sign of culture

Rainbow Street, just off First Circle, is the nexus of urban cool with art galleries, cafes and the fun Friday flea market called Jara Souk. Nearby is Wild Jordan, the showroom and lively cafe of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, selling products like olive oil soap and silver jewelry.

on rainbow street

on rainbow street

Or lucky-liscious ice cream shop

brad and angelina in jordan

brad and angelina in jordan

It’s fun to see King Hussein Park where the late king’s impressive car collection is on view, ranging from sleek Ferraris to the armored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost used by Lawrence of Arabia. If you’ve brought the kids, check out the Children’s Museum’s flight simulators and a sandbox filled with mock archaeological finds. (Both attractions are open on Fridays — a day of rest in mostly Muslim Jordan — when many other sites are not.)

And if you’re feeling adventurous and want to fill your home with photographs worthy of a National Geographic spread then hire a guide and see some of these places:

Wadi Mujib

arnon river

arnon river

Going south along the famous King’s Highway through the Jordanian hills, the landscape is suddenly cleft by a gigantic canyon, almost half a mile deep and two-and-a-half miles across. This is Wadi Mujib, dubbed “Jordan’s Grand Canyon” – and it will take your breath away. Literally.

wadi mujib

wadi mujib

The Red Sea

gulf of aqaba

gulf of aqaba

Jordan’s beach resort of Aqaba hosts some of the clearest waters and best-preserved coral formations anywhere on the Red Sea. The sea in the Gulf of Aqaba is almost invariably calm with temperature varying between 18 C in winter months to 24 C in summer. All diving is shore based as Aqaba offers fringing reef which commences at the shore line. There are no off-shore reefs to warrant boat diving. The soft and hard coral formations are spectacular and there are many species unique to this area.

days of old

days of old

The Gulf of Aqaba is created by seismic activity along the Afro-Syrian Rift, the Gulf of Aqaba is a deep narrow body of water, bordered by Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is one of the hinges connecting the Asian and African continents. The gulf extends 180 km from Eilat and Aqaba and joins the Red Sea at the Straits of Tiran, with its widest point spanning 28 km.

underwater acquarium

underwater acquarium

The Dead Sea

The Jordan Rift Valley is dramatic and unforgettable. Here you are over 400m (1,312 ft.) below sea level. In other words the lowest point on the face of the earth, this vast stretch of water comes from a number of  rivers, including the River Jordan. Once the waters reach the Dead Sea they are land-locked and have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind a dense, rich, cocktail of salts and minerals.

dead sea jordan

dead sea jordan

The Dead Sea is flanked by mountains to the east and the rolling hills of Jerusalem to the west.  Although sparsely populated now, the area is believed to have been home to five Biblical cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zebouin and Zoar (Bela).Down at the lowest point on Earth, some 1,312ft below sea level, the Dead Sea is hot, flat, still and silent.  Walk out from the beach and you’ll find your feet forced up from beneath you. Float your afternoon away, bobbing on the surface with views of the mountains all around.

dead sea sunset

dead sea sunset


Azraq wetlands

azraq wetlands reserve amman jordan

azraq wetlands reserve amman jordan

Feels like Marta’s Vineyard out here. Seriously, what a landscape change. Out in the eastern deserts of Jordan, the Azraq oasis includes a protected area of wetlands. Hole up in the isolated bird-hide here to see gigantic birds and other fine beasts.

other beasts

other beasts

The Citadel

amman citadel

amman citadel

The Amman Citadel’s history represents significant civilizations that stretched across continents and prospered for centuries, as one empire gave rise to the next. It also symbolizes the birth of the three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Settlement at the Citadel extends over 7,000 years. The site represents a passage in time with an astounding open-air museum to explore as a part of the heritage of mankind.

Though the fortification walls enclose the heart of the site, the ancient periods of occupation covered large areas. Historic structures, tombs, arches, walls and stairs have no modern borders, and therefore there is considerable archaeological potential at this site, as well as in surrounding lands, and throughout Amman.

view from citadel

view from citadel

The Amman Citadel is also the site of the first national Archaeological Museum, which is home to a collection of these artifacts as well as objects from other Jordanian historic sites.

A great part of the Citadel remains unexcavated.

temple of hercules

temple of hercules

Petra

If there’s one place worthy of an Amman flight it’s Petra.

petra

petra

Petra, the world wonder, is without a doubt Jordan’s most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

the entrance

the entrance

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colors and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).

Al Khazneh

Al Khazneh

This is an awe-inspiring experience. A massive façade, 30m wide and 43m high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people

the treasury

the treasury

There is no more dramatic sight in all of Jordan.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see beauty and history like this, hop on a flight to Amman.

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