Jordan is a land of ancient heritage that until relatively modern times has lived in the fold of great empires, most often existing as an important trading and communications link. Jordan’s millennia of human settlement have left it with varied archaeological treasures that range from Neolithic villages and four thousands year old frescoes to the Greco-Roman splendour of Jerash, the mosaic riches of Byzantine Madaba and the rock-carved wonders of Nabataean Petra.
Since time immemorial, the lands of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan have witnessed many civilizations emerge, conquer, thrive and then vanish. Wave after wave of Nabateans, Ammonites, Edomites, Kanaanites, Greeks and Romans left its mark on the desert, hills and plains of Jordan.
Today, the sites of Philadelphia (Amman of the Roman times), Gerasa (present-day Jerash) with its Colonnaded Street, Petra (the lost capital of the Nabateans) and a myriad more give visitors from all corner of the globe a glimpse into the history of mankind. These historical sites, combined with a moderate climate and central location in the Middle East, make the kingdom idea for tourism. And as the country is small and communication is good, much can be seen in a minimum amount of time. The Jordanian people are friendly, warm, and hospitable. You are bound to be attracted by fascinating natural surroundings under bright blue skies.
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go: Jordan has a typically Middle Eastern climate in which summers are very hot, with temperatures reaching up into the forties Celsius. The best time to visit climate-wise is in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), when the daytime temperatures aren't too extreme. Winters can be surprisingly harsh: Petra has sometimes experienced snow, and the nights get cold especially in the desert regions. Winter is also when the majority of the rain falls, but showers tend to be short and sharp. April is probably the best month, when temperatures are warm and wildflowers are in bloom. March can be cold and rainy in the north but is balmy by the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea.
Visa: All foreigners need a visa to enter Jordan. All nationalities except Colombian and Chinese nationals can purchase a visa at the border. The current fee is £18 (20JD) and has to be paid in cash. South African nationals have free entry. Visas are valid for two weeks from entry, but can be easily extended for up to three months.
Currency: The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, symbol JD, also pronounced as “jaydee.” There are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 JD notes. The dinar is divided into 100 piasters (pronounced “pee-asters”) of 1000 fils (“fills”). The fils is the unit most commonly used and you will usually see prices written as 4,750 (which is 4 JD and 750 fils). Currency can be exchanged at major banks, exchange booths and at most hotels. Street money-changers are best avoided. Exchange rates are set daily by the Jordanian Central Bank. All major credit cards and US dollars are widely accepted although some, not all, stores may charge you a 3-5% service fee if paying for your shopping with a credit card. Most local kiosks and souvenir stalls will only accept local/US currency.
Health: It is advisable to carry some Imodium with you in case you get an upset stomach from the difference in cuisine. The different spices and foods may be a little upsetting to your stomach and it is best to be prepared just in case. Rabies exists in Jordan in rural areas although it is very unlikely that you will come in contact with a rabid animal. Immunisation is available in either a series of three injections over a period of one month (lasts 3-5 years) or a single visit booster dose that lasts only 6-12 months. Please consult a medical practitioner for advice. Bottled water is readily available throughout your tour and we recommend that you purchase this rather than drink the local tap water. While the local water is usually heavily chlorinated and safe many people find they get upset stomachs after drinking these supplies.
Food and drinks: Food in Jordan tends to be a mixture of Arab and Lebanese cuisine. A Standard Jordanian meal will consist of a main dish supplemented by a number of appetisers such as tahina (sesame seed puree) and baba ghanoug (tahina, garlic and charred aubergines) dips, salads and side-dishes. Mensef is the national dish of Jordan. This traditional Bedouin meal consists of lamb (or goat) cooked with herbs in a yoghurt sauce with rice and bread.
Safety & security: There is a high risk to your security within three kilometers of the border with Syria due to military activity and we advise against all tourists and other non-essential travel to the border area. Security on the border is reportedly heavy and military activity has caused fatalities and injuries in this area.
There is some risk to your security elsewhere in Jordan due to the threat from terrorism and civil unrest and we advise caution. New Zealanders in Jordan should be aware there is the potential for the ongoing conflict in Syria to affect the security situation in Jordan, including beyond the immediate border area.
There is a threat from terrorism throughout Jordan. Attacks could be indiscriminate and target places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers.
New Zealanders in Jordan are advised to maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times and monitor the media for information on potential threats to safety and security. We recommend you adhere to any instructions and advice issued by the Jordanian authorities.
Political developments and events in both Jordan and the region may trigger demonstrations and protests. Demonstrations and protests most commonly occur on Fridays after midday prayers. While these gatherings may be intended as peaceful, there is potential for them to turn violent. New Zealanders in Jordan are advised to avoid any protests and demonstrations. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations or violence, you should find a safe location, remain indoors and heed any local advice.
Landmines and unexploded munitions are located near some military installations and borders. These areas are usually fenced and marked with skull-and-crossbones signs, although this may not be immediately obvious due to the state of disrepair of some fences and signs.
New Zealanders travelling or living in Jordan should have comprehensive travel insurance policies in place that include provision for medical evacuation by air. New Zealanders in Jordan are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Clothing: Jordan is a primarily Muslim country, although the freedom of all religions is protected. Muslim women’s clothing often covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, but very revealing clothing is never appropriate and conservative dress is advisable for both men and women in the old part of Amman (downtown), and outside the cities. Shorts are rarely worn by either sex, and would be out of place in the downtown Amman area. Topless sunbathing is prohibited and one-piece swimsuits are preferred, although two-piece swimsuits are acceptable at hotel pools.
Please be sure to bring comfortable, rubber-soled walking shoes, as a fair amount of walking is involved on the tour. You are also advised to bring sunscreen, a hat and insect repellant with you. Cargo pants, modest shorts and jeans are acceptable daytime wear. It is advisable to bring a small flash light with you if you will be camping and going to areas with minimal electricity such as Wadi Rum and Feynan.
Language: The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken especially in the cities. Many Jordanians have travelled, or have been educated abroad, so French, German, Italian and Spanish are also spoken, but to a lesser extent. When Arabic is written in Jordan using the Latin alphabet, English spelling is applied; however, these spellings can be interpreted in various ways - the spelling, for example, of street addresses can vary widely. For this reason, the sounds of the words are a much better guide than the spelling.
Gratuities: Tipping in Jordan is a part of the culture and in most cases leaving a tip is good etiquette, unless of course the service was terrible. Many industries, such as restaurants, pay lower wages to the employees with the expectation that they will receive tips. Therefore, it's important that you give generously when you get amazing service. A tip of 10% is standard in almost all circumstances. If you find a charge has already been added to your bill (which is common), consider giving the worker a small tip anyway, since they will likely not receive that percentage. Taxi drivers are generally not tipped, but it is customary to pay the nearest round figure to the price on the meter. It may be difficult to get change for a large bill, so carry plenty of small denominations and coins for taxis.
Departure tax: There are three departure taxes from Jordan: four Jordanian Dinars (JD) across land borders (JD 8 for Jordanians), JD 6 from Aqaba by sea, and JD 15 when leaving by airplane (JD 25 for Jordanians). Generally your international air ticket should include airport tax on international departure.
Internet: There are Internet cafes all around Jordan in and outside hotels.
Telephone: IDD service is available within cities, with direct dialing to most countries. Country code: 962 (followed by 6 for Amman, 3 for Aqaba and Petra, 5 for Dead Sea and Ma'in). Please check with your telephone service provider to see if you can make/receive cellular calls on your telephone from Jordan (roaming rates will vary). For some carriers, it is as simple as requesting activation of the international service feature. Telephone calling cards and local carrier SIM cards are also easily available for purchase. Please advise family and business associates to call you instead. While calling New Zealand from Turkey, you will need to dial +64.
Time Difference: Jordan is is 11 hrs behind New Zealand from April to September and 10 hrs from October to March.
Photography: One hour developing is widely available. All sorts of films, cameras, disposable cameras, camcorders are available. Like in any country, it is advisable that one asks permission before photographing strangers.
Electricity: Electricity is supplied at 200 volts all over Jordan, European round/ 2-prong plug are used. Transformers and adapters are widely available.
Postage: Most 4- and 5-star hotels offer postal services. Post office opening hours in summer are Saturday-Thursday 07.00-19.00 / Fri 07.00-13.00 and winter: Saturday-Thursday 07.00-17.00 / Friday 07.00-13.00. There are also a number of international courier services, including DHL, FedEx, TNT International, UPS, etc.
CITIES OF INTEREST
The modern Jordanian capital city of Amman is only the latest in a long series of communities that have flourished on the same spot for thousands of years. One of mankind’s earliest settled farming villages developed at Ain Ghazal, along the northern entrance to the city between 7000 – 6000 BC.
Bronze and Iron Age cities continued the tradition, culminating in the ammonite kingdom in the 12th century BC Greeks and Romans built their own cities, and the roman city of Philadelphia has left its mark in the downtown theatre and the forum, and the temple of Hercules remnants on citadel hill. In the Byzantine and early Islamic ear, the city continued to play an important role in the region of modern Jordan.
Among Amman’s most noteworthy places to visit are the archaeological museum on citadel hill, the Jordan museum of popular traditions and the Jordan folklore museum flanking the Roman theatre, the Jordan craft centre and the Jordan national gallery.
East of Amman, you can visit half a dozen desert castles built by the early Islamic Umayyad caliphs in the 7th and 8th centuries DD, such as Qasr Amra, Qasr Kharanah, Qasr El-Hallabat and Azraq Castle. Here are some of the best-preserved examples of Umayyad art and architecture, including castles, baths, mosques, water systems and frescoes. The rest house at Al-Azraq, with its thermal mineral water baths, is an ideal base for a tour of the Umayyad desert castles.
Um-El Jimal (Gem of the black desert)
This curious place has extensive ruins of a Roman-Byzantine-Umayyad town built on an earlier Nabataean settlement and constructed entirely of black steel grey basalt. It flourished as a frontier city of the Roman and Byzantine empires and continued to prosper in the Umayyad period. It was destroyed by an earthquake at the Umayyad period.
Jerash, called Gerasa in Roman times, is important not only for its individual monuments, but also for its strict and well preserved town plan, built around the colonnaded main street and several intersecting side street. It’s most noteworthy monuments include the colonnaded street (The Cardo), the south theatre, the temple of Zeus, the Oval Plaza, Hadrian’s arch, the Nymph, the Artemis temple complex and the smaller north, or Odeon.
Ajloun (Qalat Al Rabadh)
Perched atop a solitary mountain in the cool hill of Ajloun, 14 miles west of Jerash, is Qalat Al Rabadh, a 12th century Arab castle built in defence against the Crusaders. The massive structure affords a 360-degree view for as far as the eye can see. Surrounded by a moat, the castle is in a fairly good state of repair and its many rooms, which cling to the mountaintop, are invitingly mysterious.
Um Qeis (Gadara)
The ruins of Gadara, modern Um Qeis, perch on a splendid hilltop overlooking the north Jordan valley and the Sea of Galilee, complete with theatre, colonnaded streets, shops, Mausolaea and baths. Half an hour away, north of the city Irbid, are the remains of the Greco-Roman city of Abila, still being excavated today.
Tabaqat Fahil (Pella)
The sprawling city of Pella in the north Jordan valley may be Jordan’s richest archaeological site, besides the excavated remains from the Greco-Roman period, including a theatre. Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th Millennium BC, Bronze and Iron age walled cities, Byzantine churches and houses, an early Islamic (Umayyad) residential quarter, and a small medieval Islamic (Mamluke) mosque.
Just 20 minutes south of Amman, on the kings Highway, is the mosaic filled city of Madaba both private and public buildings in the city house Byzantine mosaics, but the most famous is found in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. It is the map of the Holy Land, with a large easily recognized depiction of Jerusalem. It is only another six-mile where Moses overlooked the Dead Sea. A magnificent panorama of the Holy Land is before you, and you can the springs where Moses smote the ground to bring forth water.
The church at Mount Nebo houses sixth century mosaics, which are being uncovered as you watch. Many believe this church was built over the burial site of Moses.
The Dead Sea offers natural beauty and uniqueness which humankind did not create but can constantly enjoy at 1306 feet below sea level. This is the lowest spot on Earth take swim where it is impossible to sink, read a newspaper while lying on your back in the sea. Bathe in the waters that have flowed from the Jordan River and from the hills of Moab and Gilead.
After the fascination of swimming in this briny sea with outlet, your return trip to Amman through the Jordan Valley, and climbing slowly up the hills in the sunset will offer you beauty you will not soon forget.
South-West of Madaba are the thermal mineral springs at Zerqa-Ma’in and Zara, where people come for thermal treatment or simply to enjoy a soothing hot soak since the days of Rome, when these were known respectively as the Baths of Baris and Callirhoe. Anew hotel and thermal Water Treatment Centre at Zerqa Ma’in makes this spot one of the leading thermal water centres.
Um Er Rasas
Um Er Rasas is a walled settlement about 30 kilometres southeast of Madaba. Its main feature is a Byzantine tower 15 meters high used by early Christian Monk seeking solitude. Archaeologists have also unearthed the Church of St. Stephan whose remarkable mosaic floor of the Umayyad epoch is decorated with Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian City plans.
Less than 40 kilometres south of Madaba lays Mukawir, ancient Machaerus. This was the fortress built by Herod the great, which after his death passed to Herod Antipas. Here is where Herod imprisoned John the Baptist, and where the beautiful Salome danced for Herod, who presented here with the head of John the Baptist to honour her Wishes. The remains of the fortress thick walls, which were largely destroyed by the Romans, dominate Mukawir, which has splendid view across the Dead Sea to the hills around Jerusalem. Ten kilometres west of Madaba is the hilly district of Mount Nebo, on the western edge of the plateau with a spectacular view across the Jordan Valley.
Kerak is one of the two major Castles in Jordan on a craggy plateau 4300 feet above sea level, it is majestic fortress which was built to protect the approach to Jerusalem the Crusaders managed to hold it for 50 years until 1189 AD, when Salah Din (Saladin) defeated them and took the fortification into the fold the Arab World.
Petra is magnificent, mysterious and always thrilling, two thousand years ago, the Nabataean carved a city out of the Rose-Red Rock, and built an empire based on advanced agricultural techniques and control of area’s strategic trade routes. Petra was protected for several hundred years by a ring of impenetrable mountains, breached only by the kilometre-long fissure through the mountains known as the Siq. When the Romans finally captured Petra in 106 AD, it was a large, thriving and beautiful city. An overnight stay at Petra is recommended for those who have the time to see the city’s most important monuments. These include:
The Treasury (Al Khazneh):
The first monument you encounter as you reach the end of the Siq and enter the city proper.
The Monastery (Ed Deir):
A numerous temple situated in a hillside at the end of an hour’s hike.
The Royal Tombs:
A row of six carved monuments from the 1st to 5th. Centuries, along the inside face of Petra’s eastern monuments.
The High Place of Sacrifice:
At the end of a 45 minutes hike above the theatre, still shows the altar and drains for the blood of scarified animals. The path down from the high place passes by a series of important tombs and monuments.
Half an hour north of Petra by a paved road is the “Suburb” of al Barid, a miniature Petra with a small Siq, carved tombs and monuments and some painted ceilings. Near Barid is the village of Beidah, where humankind made the transition some 10000-year ago from nomadic hunter-gatherer to settled villager, plant cultivator and animal domestication.
Northeast of Aqaba is one of the worlds most famous Wadis, or Valleys. Wadi Rum is the route T.E: Lawrence and Sheirff Hussein took in World War I when fighting the Ottoman armies.
Its wide Valley, bordered by rugged wind and sand-carved-cliffs, provided the backdrop for much of the filming of “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Jordan’s only seaport is Aqaba, located at the northern tip of the Red Sea and the southern tip of the Hashemite Kingdom. World renowned for its placid water, for water skiing, and its underwater plant life, for the pleasure of scuba divers. Boasting 360 days of sunshine, Aqaba is s popular winter and summer resort.