Top 5 Experiences in Jordan

What to do when you're in Jordan

Characterised by strong historical, cultural and religious heritage, the astonishing remnants of the past continue to influence this region today. Contrasting landscapes, man-made creations and ways of living are all harmoniously influenced by an array of civilizations. Home to a World Wonder, the lowest point on Earth and six million distinctively charismatic and diverse people, Jordan is a microcosm for the delights of the Middle East.

1. Lose your bearings in Amman

There is a unique serenity on Citadel Hill, just one of the seven 'Jabals', or hills, Amman was built upon. Absorbing the panorama, with the Temple of Hercules at the heart of the Jabal, and the Roman Amphitheatre at its foot, you'd feel as if you were dropped into a Byzantine era Mediterranean city. Only the occasional distant beep of vehicles and the Adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, can be heard echoing from various mosques. Below in the heaving side streets around the famous al-Husseini mosque you can navigate Amman's fruit and vegetable souks guided by the fanning scents of mezze dishes. Or wander further in this enigmatic capital through Amman's contemporary cafe and arts quarter in Rainbow street. Work up an appetite and dine downtown at Abu Ahmed restaurant to sample the contrasting yoghurt and nutty tastes of a traditional Jordanian mansaf or kofta dish.

Lose your bearings in Amman

2. Float effortlessly in the Dead sea

Moments from Mount Nebo, the supposed place where Moses was granted view of the Promised Land, a site of biblical significance gives way to the Dead Sea, the point of the lowest elevation on Earth. Its name owes to its strong salinity, making it impossible for flora and fauna to flourish. A large eerily tranquil basin nestled between Jordan and Israel's mountainous borders, you can float effortlessly in its shallow waters, buoyed by the seas mineral salt content. Then cool yourself from the Middle Eastern sun on the shoreline by smothering on Dead Sea mud renowned for its use in health therapies as you gaze across the serine haze to the Halite rock formations on the Israeli border.

Float effortlessly in the Dead Sea

3. Discover a world wonder

Just 200 years ago, Swiss traveller Johan Ludwig Burckhardt stumbled upon Petra. Before then this 'rose-red city half as old as time' remained hidden to the world. Now a World Wonder you can explore this ancient city where edifices, tombs and a water system have been carved intricately out from the sandstone mountain rock. Petra is a perfect symbol and reminder for the synergy between man-made creation and the natural world. Pace through the narrow winding passage or Siq in anticipation and become the 'penitent man' as you uncover the imposing Treasury or Al Khazneh of Indiana Jones fame. Hike up to the Monastery, Petra's largest monument, and catch your breath surrounded by panoramic views of the gorge landscape.

Discover a world wonder

4. Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia

As the mid-day sun beats down and the martian-orange sand curls onto your shoes, a Hollywood-cinematic mise-en-scene unravels before you. Aptly, Wadi Rum, or The Valley of the Moon, was the home of the legendary T.E Lawrence's operations during the Arab revolt. Journey through on jeep and try to spot striped hyena or the elusive Arabian Oryx, or feel like a true explorer on camel or horseback. Extraordinary fissures and rock formations, including 'the seven pillars of wisdom' named after Lawrence's book jut through the desert landscape awaiting the discovery of a keen climber. Race down the towering sand dunes, create your own interpretations of the ancient Thamudic and Nabataen mountain rock inscriptions and test your bravery by ascending the precarious rock bridges.

Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia

5. Camp Bedouin style

Its remoteness and stillness makes twilight at Wadi Rum desert 'the night of a thousand stars'. Poise yourself before dusk upon of the many elevated plateaus to watch the sunset dramatically, spilling dark orange hues across the horizon. Camp in a goat hair Bedouin tent or desert hut and bask in the hospitality of the Zalabia, the local tribes-people. Feast on Zarb, a Bedouin meat and vegetable barbecue, prepared fascinatingly in a carved pit under the desert sands. Then lie back and gaze into the star-stricken sky serenaded by tribal singing, as the campfire crackles and the cry of wolves wane away into the night. Return to your plateau in the morning to watch the sunrise and contrasting colours once-again return to the desert as if it were being re-painted.

Camp Bedouin style

Further Information

If you're interested in heading to Jordan on your gap year or for a mini-break then head to our Jordan country section for some advice and information.

Also, don't forget to jump on the message boards to talk to some fellow gappers about your travels to the Middle East.

About the Author: Tej Parikh

Tej Parikh

Tej Parikh is a freelance writer specialising in travel and economic development. He has written articles for various NGOs, social think-tanks and the Guardian. His travels to Cuba, the Middle East and Colombia have in part been funded by his job in the City, but inspired by his passion for the written word and learning about different cultures. His unique prose is to illuminate conventional thought and societal trends by drawing on his experiences travelling. This is showcased in his blog Tej Parikh where he raises debates on issues from Facebook to the economics of happiness.