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Discovering the history and heritage of Jordan

What do you do when you get an invite to visit a country that is surrounded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel? Since there was Visa on arrival, half my pre-trip headache was gone and I started dreaming about visiting the world UNESCO world heritage sites of Petra and Wadi Rum.

 

Anuradha Goyal

What do you do when you get an invite to visit a country that is surrounded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel? If you are someone like me, you start packing your bags and that’s exactly what I did last month. Since there was Visa on arrival, half my pre-trip headache was gone and I started dreaming about visiting the world UNESCO world heritage sites of Petra and Wadi Rum.

I landed in Amman around noontime and while driving to the hotel located at the heart of the city and about 40 minutes from the airport, all I saw was a monotone. All buildings were a pale pink colour, as if emerging from the sand beneath or engulfed in a sandstorm that had just left. From the 21st floor of my hotel, I could see the monotone merging on the horizon into a dust storm. It left me with a feeling of melancholy. I was to learn later that in Amman it is by design that all the buildings wear the same colour.  In the evening while roaming around on the lively Rainbow street I got to see groups of young men singing and playing musical instruments in the market square and the music just added to the mood that the monotone had created.

Next day the exploration of Jordan began with the Amman citadel – which is like the history of Jordan in a nutshell. It is one site with remains from the Bronze Age to the recent city past. It is best known for the Pillars of the Hercules temple and the archaeological museum that has pre-historic human figurines with elaborate eyes. The Amman citadel is a vantage point from where one can see the western and the eastern quarters of the city. There is a form of economic divide between the two, with former being the affluent quarters. You also get a bird’s eye view of the Roman theatre that sits right in the middle of the city like a jewel – only pray that the haze allows you to admire it.

Jerash – a Greco Roman city located approximately 50 km north of Amman and almost at the northern edge of Jordan was a pleasant discovery. Jerash or the city of Gerasa has the ruins of a lovely 2,000 year old city that has elements of its Greek origins and Roman features and some embellishments from later residents after the Persians too over. Even in the ruins one can see its distinct elements such as the Hippodrome – meant for horse or chariot races, two theatres with impeccable acoustics– meant for performances, temples dedicated to various Greek deities like Zeus and Artemis, an Oval forum that is nothing but an open area enclosed by free standing ionic Corinthian pillars, Cardo – a city street treated as the heart of the city and city baths.

Petra is the face of tourism and it deserves to be so – for where else in the world can one see a city in rose-tinted stone. To enter the city of Petra you have to walk about a mile through an open walkway followed by a walk through the Siq. The Siq is a natural parting made in the hill by an earthquake. So you literally walk through a narrow strip with tall hills around you where man has left his mark by carving here and there. It is a pleasant walk and towards the end you get the glimpse of Treasury – the poster image of Petra. It is called treasury but it is actually a tomb, and when you walk across this city you see many beautifully carved facades of tombs, presumably belonging to the kings or chieftains. You need a lot of energy and time to walk around the whole site and see the caves with their multi-coloured stone. Thankfully, there are restaurants and coffee shops inside to rest and camels and mules rides help one go around. Petra has to be experienced to get in touch with an unknown past.

Wadi Rum is a desert with a unique landscape. They say that it is the favourite place for filmmakers to rush to when they want to show the surface of Mars, with its small rough uneven hillocks emerging out of the sand at regular intervals. Here I got introduced to Arab revolution of 1916 through a well crafted show and got an opportunity to ride in a 100 year old heritage train – imagine a train through the desert.  A camel ride is a given in a desert and so is a Jeep drive through the sand dunes. What I enjoyed the most though was a lunch in a camp in the middle of the desert, a one of its kind experience.

The Red sea with its Ink Blue water and the Dead Sea with its killing salinity and bounce are fun places to relax after you have wandered around in Petra, Jerash and Wadi Rum. In 5 days we drove across the length of the country and saw its landscape.

Jordan turned out to be the perfect place for history and architecture enthusiasts though there is no dearth of options for adventure seekers as well.

 

(Writer is a leading travel blogger from India. You can read her stories at www.IndiTales.com and reach her on twitter @anuradhagoyal)

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