Jordan

 

I had been to Jordan for 5 days in September and stayed at Amman, Petra, Dead Sea. We covered a lot of ground and saw the fantastic Roman ruins of Jerash (1 hr from Amman, the capital), We did sightseeing in Amman (Citadel- from where we saw the Old City and the massive Palestinian refugee settlement on a hill side. Though, we didnt go into the settlement, its possible to organise the same for clients who have time and interest to walk through the labyrinthine lanes of the settlement with a guide), visited Mt Nebo (from where Moses pointed out where the Holyland lay to his followers before being killed) and Madaba (with its famous church with the mosaic floor map showing the places of Biblical interest). Both places are of tremendous Biblical importance. Visited 2 lovely castles: the Ajloun castle and the Kerak castle. Then to majestic Petra, a spectacular site that is one of the 7 wonders of the world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New7Wonders_of_the_World). Ventured into the desert landscape of Wadi Rum (made famous by the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” that was shot here), drove past Aqaba on the Red Sea (famous as the Red Sea resort), floated on the Dead Sea.

 

Map of Jordan: Officially its called the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” it is bordered by Israel to the West (and shares the Dead Sea with them), Saudi Arabia to the East, Iraq to the North East, Syria to the North.  It now shares a friendly rapport with Israel. Important to remember that Israel defeated Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War (https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/850855/Six-Day-War) when Jerusalem was wrested from Jordan and made part of Israel. To the extreme South, it has its only Sea port of Aqaba which is on the Red Sea. The lights of Eilat on the Red Sea (in Israel), can be seen across the border. Another link: 

https://uk.visitjordan.com/portals/0/Jordan_map_English.jpg

 

My notes and observations: The tourist info part of it is already available on the comprehensive and detailed Jordan tourism website, so I will limit my points to some basic observations. 

 

Stability: It is a largely peaceful state with a stable monarchy in place. It is considered one of the most peaceful states in the Arab World and has not seen any uprising that choked the monarch led states of the Arab world (Egypt, Libya, Syria etc) during the Arab Spring uprising. It is largely backed by Western allies like US and UK much like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah II is the current Monarch taking over the throne from his father King Hussein upon the formers death in 1999. He is seen to be a very progressive ruler having studied in the US and is a member of the Jordanian Special Forces as are his brothers. He is an outdoors person and often goes out trekking and camping. Here’s a link to  lovely video where King Abdullah II shows Jordan as a tourist destination. Its recommended viewing and can be sent to clients as well. 

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSHWd2N0XfI

 

Immigration on arrival at Amman: VIP welcome for guests available. Travco met us inside, took our ppts and asked us to go straight to baggage belt. By the time, we got the baggage, the person came back with the visa stamp on our ppts and handed it over. Super fast. For Indians visa is available on arrival. It costs US$ 56 pp if 4 or less. Groups of five persons or more arriving through a designated Jordanian tour operator with a government certified tour guide are exempt from all visa charges, provided the group arrives and departs together as well as stay a minimum of 3 nights in Jordan. Names needed 2 weeks in advance. – See more at: https://in.visitjordan.com/generalinformation/entryintojordan.aspx#sthash.ZjMQkjBU.dpuf 

 

Airlines: We flew Air Arabia. 2 hrs to Sharjah. 2 hrs halt there and another 3 hrs to Amman. Most Gulf airlines fly there. Royal Jordanian has withdrawn direct flights to Amman from India.

 

Airport: Queen Alia Intl Apt. Very modern. One yr old. It was very quiet with hardly any traffic in the airport. Immigration was a breeze. 45mins from city. Dont exchange currency at apt. Very expensive. Change in the city. 

Currency: 50 $= 35.4 JOD. Jordanian dinar. 1 dinar=100 Jordanian cents. Very strong currency. Expensive country. 

Water: 500 ml water costs 30cents in supermarket. Upto 2 dinars in tourist area. 1 bottle pp in htl room. Water is scarce. Its the 4th poorest nation in the world in terms of water resources.

Climate: Sep to nov and mar to may is best season. Mild climate. Winter rains in Dec, Jan and cold in the north. Avoid amman, jerash, ajloun. But south is a different story. Wadi rum, aqaba have great weather with sprinkling of rain. Petra can get very cold. Sometimes it even snows.

Smoking: very common. Men and women both smoke openly in public, restaurants etc. Sheesha is a big past time in the coffee bars. Its not an orthodox country at all. Its ruled by King Hussein

Population: 7 million in jordan. 2.8 mil in amman. 92 % Muslims, 8% christians. Large number of refugees have taken shelter in jordan over many yrs incl palestinians, chechnyans, syrians, iraqis. 

 

Roads: Mostly excellent. The highway from Amman to Dead Sea to Petra to Wadi Rum and Aqaba is wide and pothole free. State of the art modern coaches are available. Our coach (pic below) is used for normal groups. But VIP coaches will free wifi on board, toilet on board, luxury reclining seats, small table also available but is very expensive. 

 

Logistics: Jordan is a small country. Distances are not much at all. See the map. Amman is in the North of the country. The airport is near Madaba, 45 mins away. Dead Sea is 45mins/1hr from the airport. Petra is 90mins-2hrs from Dead Sea. Wadi Rum is 2hrs south of Petra. Aqaba is 45mins south of Wadi Rum. So, from Amman, you can reach Aqaba, the southern most point of Jordan in only 6hrs with a short 15min halt for lunch. Jerash is about an hour North of Amman and will usually be the Northernmost tip that a client will visit. 

 

Border crossing rules: A large number of groups, specially those doing the Holyland circuit (referring to a tour that traces the places of Biblical importance in both Israel and Jordan), cross over between Israel and Jordan. usually they use the border crossing gate at King Husein gate at Allenby. Once they have crossed, jerusalem is less than an hours drive. rules here:

https://www.amman2jerusalem.com/#!crossing-allenby-king-hussein/c1jtx

Some groups enter and exit from Amman to get the low fares of Air arabia and other gulf airlines many of which dont fly into Tel Aviv. So, they see Jordan, go to Israel and return to Jordan. But note that 2 nights stay in Jordan is compulsory if they want to avail of visa on arrival free of cost. Otherwise, pay US$ 56 pp. Currently, no single airline offers entry Amman, exit Tel Aviv option without going through a European hub.

The 2nd crossing also takes place at Aqaba. Here many tourists enter from Eilat in Israel or Sharm al shaikh in Egypt for a day trip to Petra. Its pretty popular as a day excursion for cruise line passengers too.  

 

More factshttps://in.visitjordan.com/GeneralInformation/Justthefacts.aspx (what to wear, credit card, weather etc)

Amman: A quiet city, nowhere as modern as Dubai, but could well be a distant cousin of Cairo. In some ways it also resembles a smaller Indian city minus the population. Except for the Citadel area, not much of historical importance there. But its a sound base to do day trips to Jerash, Ajloun castle, kerak castle, Madaba. Even to the Dead Sea (a little more than an hours drive away). The West part of amman, Abdoun is a posh area. A lot of the social life revolves around ‘cafes’ which are largely small coffee cum shisha joints. Sheesha is a big past time in Jordan. Even women smoke Sheesha.  

Nightlife: Its not known for a great nightlife. Small seedy joints largely manned by Russian cocktail waitresses. These joints charge table cover charges of 20-25 Jod and will charge 10jod for beer, 5 jod for soft drinks. So, its pricy too. Cube is a small nightclub where one can take the wife to for a dance and drink. 

Hotel/restaurant observation report:

Amman:-

a) Regency palace hotel, 5 star. Local brand. Newly renovated lobby. Had dinner there at their restaurant on M floor. Rooms are nice but need renovation. U lounge on rooftop is a chic bar and opened in Aug,14. Perfect for a dinner out for a honeymoon couple. Traders vic is their lounge bar in the basement. Large and chic. Open till 2 am.
b) Grand palace hotel, 4 star. Sister hotel, same management as regency palace. Looks good but rooms are tacky. Avoid.
c) Marriott Amman: city centre. 290 rooms. I stayed here. A typical small Marriott hotel. Ballroom Al Majles (photo below) is decent for 100 pax on ballroom seating. Recommended for both groups and FIT’s. 

 

d) Le meridien: Near marriott. Rooms like marriott. Large and impressive lobby. Massive 13000 sq ft pillarless, 22 ft high ceiling ballroom. Travco can get very good rates for us. Should be first choice hotel for both MICE and FIT. 

 

e) Kempinski hotel: 5 restaurants. Std room 27 sq mtrs. Same size as marriott. 278 rooms. Does not exude luxury. Pool area outdoor is nice. Had dinner at Via Appia restaurant, the best Italian restaurant in the city. 

 

f) Amman cham palace. 4 star. Outdoor pool. 140 rooms. Conf hall for 80 pax. 9 storey htl. All rooms have balcony. Slightly garish lobby, but ‘chalega’. Large std rooms. Good for fits and cheaper groups. 

 

g) Artemis restaurant: 1 hr from amman, 30 mins from jerash. Very nice location overlooking a small valley. Ask the tour operator to take FIT clients there for lunch (they can pay on own) when they are visiting Jerash. 

 

h) Restaurant Terrace Souk: Another excellent restaurant ‘on the road’ to Madaba. Very good local cuisine (veg options available) with terrific views overlooking a wide valley below.

 

h) Chapatti restaurant: Indian restaurant. Mostly local and foreign tourists. Didnt see any Indian tourist. Indian chef, but run bu Jordanian. No achaar, chutney, pickle. Food was very average standard. Indian food will be an issue for groups keen only on Indian food. Another one is called kashmir. Needs to be checked. More research to be done on Indian restaurants which looks like a bit of a hurdle as of now. 

 

Hotels in Petra: Marriott Petra where we stayed had fantastic views of wadi Araba. The pool and a lovely bedouin tent overlook the wadi. Rooms are typical Marriott quality. Ask for the Valley view rooms without fail, though they may have a supplement. But really reqd only if client is staying for 2 or more Highly recommended for FIT’s and small groups. 

 

Other hotels in the area are movenpick opp the gate of petra (Shobita has stayed here), Crowne plaza guest house closest to gate, another Movenpick in the outskirts of petra overlooking wadi araba (similar to the Marriott). None of these hotels were personally inspected by me. 

Wadi Rum: There’s no 5 star hotel at Wadi Rum. In fact guests dont need to stay there. Remember Jordan is a small country and Wadi Rum is only 45 mins drive from Aqaba (to the south) and is only 2 hrs from Petra (to the north). So, ideally clients will stay in either Petra or Aqaba and do a trip to Wadi Rum (usually an open jeep safari for 2 hrs into the desert)  when traveling between Aqaba and Petra. 

 

Aqaba hotels: As mentioned we just drove through Aqaba and did not halt anywhere. So, saw most of the hotels from the coach as we drove past. Movenpick, kempinski, intercon are all next to each other on the beach. They are all equally good. The city is a must for a relaxed stay of min 2 nights. Red Sea is famous for its coral reef and snorkelling and diving are very popular activities. But if client has visited Sharm Al Shaikh (Egypt) or Eilat (Israel), then you can tell the client that its a pretty similar experience. They can take a call if they want to stay there or avoid it. In which case, after petra, they can head straight back North to Dead Sea. 

 

Dead Sea: The Dead Sea experience is essentially one that lasts not more than 45mins to an hour. But its an experience thats quite surreal. It is the lowest point on Earth, but its high saline content of 30% (normal seas have a 3% saline content) ensures that everyone can float on the water. One cant swim because the saline water will burn the eyes (nothing very serious but its what ends the Dead Sea experience in most cases). On the Jordanian side, the sea bed is rocky and its best to wear sandals and not go in bare foot. On the Israeli side, they have created a sandy patch where its easier to enter. Otherwise the floating experience is much the same. Apart from the floating experience, the Dead Sea is world famous for minerals that have healing properties for many diseases including skin diseases and arthritis etc. A huge beauty industry around Dead Sea minerals has sprung up in both Jordan and Israel. But in Jordan, its the Black mud from the sea bed thats very famous and is applied all over the body, then cleaned using the dead sea water or fresh water from the resort. The oily layer is good for the skin and leaves a smooth skin. 

Dead Sea hotels

Marriott: huge property with 5 pools. Overlooking dead sea and with direct access to it. Great place to relax. The rooms are excellent and its quite like the Juhu Marriott. 

 

Didn’t see but kempinski dead sea is quieter and better according to reviews. Winter valley warwick resort and spa (4*) is another property where we had a very late dinner. Not near the sea. About a 10mins drive away but cheaper. Shuttle every 15 mins to the sea.  Its part of the Warwick hotel chain. https://warwickhotels.com/destinations/

 

Synopsis of my ity: This places covered on this trip covers the highlights of Jordan and should be recommended to all clients, though in a more relaxed manner than done by me.

Day 1: Arrival by Air Arabia at Queen Alia Intl airport. Amman city tour with the citadel (from where we saw old city and palestinians refugee camp). 

Day 2: inspected le meridien and amman cham palace htl. Then lunch at Artemis restaurant. Then Ajloun castle (with the moat), then jerash. Saw chapati restaurant. 

 

View from Ajloun castle (1 & 2) and spectacular Jerash from top of amphitheatre with Roman collonade in the distance

Day 3: start from marriott amman to Mt nebo to madaba (church with mosaic floor map) to kerak castle (sadist french ruler crusador who was killed by salauddin) to petra. 

Mt Nebo, Mosaic floor of church at Madaba & view from Kerak castle

Day 4: 8am start from marriott petra to visitors centre petra main gate. 7 mins. 1130 am start from petra to wadi rum. 15 mins later we stopped at a vantage point overlooking the scraggy rocks and features of wadi araba. In the far horizon was wadi rum. Reached wadi rum at 2pm. Lunch. Then sightseeing of wadi rum. Visited a typical tent, went to a large hill and walked into a narrow passage, then to a bedouin tent for tea, then to a sand hill. Climbed that for great views. Left for aqaba at 5pm. All land insiders wadi rum owned by bedouins. 3000 of them live in a village just outside the protected area. King Abdullah ‘s fav place. Reached aqaba at 5.45pm

 

L-R: Canyon path to Petra, first glimpse of Treasury, The Treasury, Wadi Rum landscape

Reached dead sea at 1030 pm. Dinner at Winter Valley Warwich Hotel. O/n at Marriott Dead Sea

Day 5: Breakfast. Depart for airport. 

 

My notes on Petra: Inform about the walking to clients specially senior citizens and those with disabilities. Also in summer months and peak winter months, the weather can be very tiring. 

There is a lot of walking in Petra, approx 1.8 kms one way to reach the Treasury, the main snap of the pillared structure that you always see of Petra. If they want to go to the roman collonades, thats another 1km away. So, total 3.6 return if they go to treasury or  6kms return if they want to see the collonades. However, pls note the foll:

From entry gate to the entrance of the 1km gorge its 800mtrs and from entry point of gorge to Treasury, its 1km  i.e 1.8 km one way. For the first 800m upto the entry gate, they can ride the horse  free of charge (that is included in the price of the tkt). But they will HAVE to tip the horseman USD 5 one way. Everyone does, so they too should. They have to understand that. From entry gate to Treasury, they have to walk.  Or, for elderly pax, they can also take a horse carriage. Horse carriage 20 jod plus tip 5 jod. Can be paid directly. No advance bkg reqd. 

From a little behind treasury, to go to the collonades, they can take a donkey! Again a tip is a MUST. Pls find out from operator how much that is. 

Also note that Petra is a vast canyon. Lot of walking trails there eg to the place of High Sacrifice etc, for which the person needs a lot of time and has to be physically fit. Again horse riding is an option. So, if you want to do a quick trip upto the Treasury and the burial grounds behind that, then put aside 3 hrs for the same like I did. But if they are physically fit and want to really explore Petra, then keep aside a full day. Guide is a must.  

Petra by candlelight: Yes, its a nice experience. But since they also see it at day, they have to stay back till night and it will get colder. Unless they are really really enthu, not reqd. In our group for eg, once we had seen the place by day, no one talked about going back there again at night..But as I said, tell clients to decide once they reach and after consulting the guide and checking on their stamina etc. Petra costs: 1 day charge 50 jod. 

Other places to see in Jordan:

Wadi mujib nature reserve: only 30mins from dead sea. In a 5 hr plan, you can go there, walk in the stream against the current and reach the waterfall and do rappelling. 

For those keen on selling Jordan, I highly recommend that they do the Jordan specialist programme:

https://academy.visitjordan.com/Default.aspx

Regards, 

Abhik

 

 

 

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