It’s easy to see why Lawrence of Arabia was so taken with Jordan. Probably the most appealing destination in the Middle East, this ancient Arab kingdom is a hospitable land packed with epic scenery and momentous relics.
Many travellers visit Jordan with its history in mind, and understandably so. The country is steeped in stories from the distant past, with the ruins to prove it. There’s the 2,000-year-old “lost city” of Petra, carved from rose-red sandstone cliffs by the Nabateans, and the legendary Lawrence of Arabia trail, which takes visitors from his crumbling fort at Azraq to the magnificent deserts of Wadi Rum.
Important biblical sites abound; visitors can trek along pilgrimage routes mentioned in the Old Testament, take in views of the Promised Land revealed to Moses and visit Bethany-by-the-Jordan where John baptised Jesus.
When Jordan’s ubiquitous historical sites begin to wear you out – and they will – take a restorative dip in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea, go scuba diving over coral reefs in the Red Sea or stay in the desert with Bedouins, who offer travellers a glimpse into their traditional way of life.
For all its history and natural beauty, though, Jordan looks forward. Its relatively stable economic and political position in the Middle East has fuelled modernisation, particularly in the capital Amman. With new upmarket hotels, restaurants and bars, the city is no longer just a base from which to explore the ancient sites, but a destination in its own right.
In Jordan, hospitality is king. Everywhere you visit, you will hear heartfelt words of welcome, and will often be invited into shops or people’s homes for a glass of sweet tea and a conversation. In other places this might prelude a hard-sell campaign of carpet-flogging, but in Jordan, it’s almost always borne simply of an interest to engage with a visitor. As the Jordanians say; “Ahlan wa sahlan” – come in and make yourself at home.
89,342 sq km (34,495 sq miles).
7,747,800 (UN estimate 2016).
90.9 per sq km.
King Abdullah II since 1999.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour since 2012.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Both round European-style plugs with two round pins and British-style plugs with three square pins are used.