A desert journey, the joys of Jordan

Jordan, famed as the home of the magnificent ancient city of Petra, the wild desert beauty of Wadi Rum, endless photos of people floating in the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea and countless sites of importance to three major religions, is a country of superlatives. Despite perceptions, it’s also a country as welcoming as it is safe, with a wealth of culture and history.

The Jordanian flag, Shobak Castle, Jordan
The Jordanian flag, Shobak Castle, Jordan

In many ways it seems miraculous that it’s still possible to visit Jordan given that to the north a vicious war rages in Syria; to the east a vicious war rages in Iraq; to the west an a deeply unequal but equally vicious conflict regularly engulfs Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and to the south lies the unwelcoming religious-totalitarianism of Saudi Arabia.

The Dead Sea, Jordan
The Dead Sea, Jordan
The Library, Petra, Jordan
The Library, Petra, Jordan
Desert Castle, Jordan
Desert Castle, Jordan

Jordan is a beacon of tolerance and stability in a region that unfortunately lacks both. It currently hosts over 1.5 million refugees from Iraq and Syria, a burden many Jordanians bear with pride. Jordanians are supremely conscious of their situation, regularly asking visitors whether they are having a good time and feel safe in their country.

To these questions I answered truthfully, I was having a good time and I always felt safe. Sadly for Jordan perceptions seem to have outweighed reality for a lot of people. The number of visitors to the country has nosedived in the last few years, and the tens of thousands of Jordanians who rely upon tourism for their livelihoods have suffered in equal measure.

Shobak Castle, the Crusader fortress of Krak de Montreal, Jordan
Shobak Castle, the Crusader fortress of Krak de Montreal, Jordan
Pilgrims, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Jordan
Pilgrims, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Jordan
Mount Nebu, Jordan
Mount Nebu, Jordan
Crusader fortress of Karak, Jordan
Crusader fortress of Karak, Jordan

This is a tragedy, Jordanians go out of their way to help visitors. Numerous times when I stopped by the side of a road to work out which direction I should be going, cars would stop and the passengers ask if I needed help. In some of the more out of the way places I visited I gave lifts to people, all of whom were delighted to have a tourist to chat to.

I’d been working in Jordan and had some vacation afterwards but didn’t really have a plan of where to go and what to see. I knew I’d be visiting Petra but beyond that I decided to play it by ear. Jordan is relatively small, making it easy to see a lot in a short time.

Jordan landscape
Jordan landscape
Jordan landscape with camels
Jordan landscape with camels
Jordan landscape with camels
Jordan landscape with camels
Jordan landscape
Jordan landscape
Truck, Jordan
Truck, Jordan

I almost went south to the Red Sea, but on a whim decided to head north into the desert of eastern Jordan. On the way I visited Crusader fortresses, ancient deserted villages, vibrant towns, Biblical sites, abandoned desert castles and pleasure palaces, the ruins of Roman and Byzantine cities, and I ate delicious food washed down with Jordan Valley wines that have been cultivated since Roman times.

Jerash, Jordan
Jerash, Jordan
Baptismal site, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Jordan
Baptismal site, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Jordan
Umm al-Jimal, Jordan
Umm al-Jimal, Jordan
Azraq fortress, Jordan
Azraq fortress, Jordan

Jordan is a country that welcomes exploration and it is a country well worth exploring.

2 thoughts on “A desert journey, the joys of Jordan

  1. My parents roasted my ass when I said I was going to Jordan, and my husband wasn’t keen but “allowed” me to go if I went on a small group tour, but once there I realised all their fears were unfounded. Felt so safe and welcomed here, felt safer than any city in Australia these days! I loved your photos and have enjoyed your Jordan pages! Cheers.

    1. Thank you, that’s very kind. Jordan felt as safe as anywhere I’ve ever been, and quite a lot safer than some places. People were always friendly, it’s such a shame that tourism has been so badly affected by neighbouring conflicts. Hopefully things are improving, but when I was there I visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites without a single other visitor – that shouldn’t be normal! Your Jordan posts are bringing back some good memories.

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