Jordan travel guide

2 minute summary

If you can time your arrival in Jordan with a visit to Petra when it is illuminated by candelight, you will think that this moment is going to be hard to beat. But Jordan’s diverse, dramatic landscapes and cultural influences that have been shaped over thousands of years are both soothing and illuminating. And the welcome you receive is forever warming.

Jordan is physically warming too, of course, given that 80 per cent of it is desert, with the rest made up of the Eastern Plateau and the Jordan Valley. The former rises steeply to more than 1,000m, forming a series of rugged mountains scarred with deep narrow canyons or wadis. And the latter is part of the Great Rift Valley, with flat fertile land in the north, sinking down to the Dead Sea in the center and then a hot dry plain, Wadi Araba, that ends on the shores of the Red Sea. Where, with its coral reef and myriad marine life, that soothing and illuminating factor kicks in all over again. Find out more in our Jordan travel guide.
Jordan is...

elegant, exquisite and endearing.
All in a morning.

Jordan isn't...

just about ancient sites. It promises adventures in wadis, in the water and in the wilderness.

Eating & drinking

Hummus, baba ganoush, tabouleh, falafel and kebabs all feature strongly on Jordanian tables.
A traditional Bedouin coffee ceremony involves three cups of coffee.
Jordan has one of the oldest wine making histories in the world. Although largely a Muslim country, drinking alcohol is not a taboo.
Mansaf, the dish of special occasions, is lamb seasoned with herbs and spices, cooked with onion in yoghurt and served on heaps of rice with a bed of Bedouin bread. Zarb is an ancient tradition using lamb or chicken cooked in an oven with hot coals in desert sands.
For an insight into the Bedouin's last years in Petra, read Marguerite van Geldermalsen's Married to a Bedouin. She is still in Petra and sells jewellery made by local women.

People & language

Over 90 percent of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims, but this is also home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities, the majority being Greek Orthodox. This is not a religious state and all Jordanians have full freedom of worship. The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken, especially in the cities. However, attempting a few words will gain you respect from the locals and is a good way to break the ice.
Salam or Marhaba = Hello

Ismi... = My name is…

Shukran = Thank you

Afwan = You are welcome (answer to Shukran)

Jameel or Helow = Beautiful

Gifts & shopping

Jordanian wine is a great present. Check out Omar Zumot's St George label using organic viticulture techniques.
The Soap House in Orjan, Al Ayoun sells top soaps made from local olive oil.
Beautiful creations from craft workshops at Dana Reserve include silver jewellery and leather goods.
The art of mosaic lives on in Madaba, with fine work for sale at Art River Mosaic Workshop.
Jabal Amman is the cultural hub and craft shopping area of Amman.

Fast facts

Petra is mystical, beguiling and romantic. At night, when lit by the flickering flames of more than 2,000 candles, it seems to make the rose rock glow from within.

How much does it cost?

Streetfood lunch: £5

Good quality dinner: £10

Kilo of large khubez (pieces of bread): £0.50

Shawarma sandwich: £1

Freshly squeezed juice: £0.50

Jordanian wine: £6-10 per bottle

A brief history of Jordan

Jordan has been a hub for humanity since the dawn of civilisation and before. There are archaeological finds dating back to Palaeolithic times and once societies developed its importance increased. Its position as a link between continents means any movement of people between Africa, Asia, Arabia and Europe would be likely to pass through Jordan. This role as a pathway and a trade route, a conduit for commerce and communication, gave Jordan strategic importance and this in turn brought it to the attention of foreign civilisations.Read more ▼
Photo credits: [Top box: Visit Jordan] [Eating and drinking - Mansaf: Krista] [Gifts and shopping - shop front: Guillaume Baviere] [How much box: Visit Jordan]
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