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Cities of Jordan
Visit this Greco-Roman town, also mentioned in the Bible, snugly located in a hillside of northern Jordan, and marvel at the sweeping view of Lake Tiberias and the Golan Heights from atop this Decapolis. Kindle that transcendental feeling, as you walk through the path of ancient flourishing civilizations, their remnants telling the story of the many travellers who entered its ancient gates; from the Macedonians, who first established their acropolis, to the Romans, Byzantines, Umayyads and Ottomans.
Join us for a fulfilling experience!
Umm Qais (Gadara)
Situated on a broad promontory 378 meters above sea level, this town wasknown as Gadara, one of the ancient Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis, and according to the Bible, the spot where Jesus cast out the Devil from two demoniacs (mad men) into a herd of pigs (Mathew 8:28-34).
In ancient times, Gadara was strategically situated, laced by a number of key trading routes connecting Syria and Palestine. It was blessed with fertile soil and abundant rainwater. This town also flourished intellectually and became distinguished for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, attracting writers, artists, philosophers and poets, the likes of Satirist Menippos (second half of the 3rd century BC), the epigrammist, Meleagros (ca.110-40 BC), and the rhetorician, Theodoros (AD14-37).
Gadara was also the resort of choice for Romans vacationing in the nearby Himmet Gader Springs.
Archaeological surveys indicate that Gadara was occupied as early as the 7th century BC. The Greek historian, Polybius, described the region as being under Ptolemic control at the time.
The Seleucid ruler Antiochus III conquered it in 218 BC, naming the city Antiochia and Seleucia. In 63 BC, Pompey liberated Gadara and joined it to the Roman league of ten cities, the Decapolis. Soon after, the fortunes of Gadara improved rapidly and building was undertaken on a large scale, carried out for the love of Pompey's freed man, Demetrius, who had been born there.
The city reached its peak of prosperity in 2nd century AD and new colonnaded streets, temples, theatres and baths sprouted.
Meleagros compared Gadara with Athens, which testifies to the city's status as a creative centre of Hellenism in the ancient Near East.
Christianity spread slowly among the inhabitants of Gadara. Starting from the 4th Century, its bishop attended the ecclesiastical councils of Nicaea, Chaleedon, and Ephesos.
Despite his attendance, the city was no longer a seat of learning. During the 6th century, decline set in, and in AD 636 a decisive military clash between Byzantines and Arab Muslims took place not far from Gadara. However, there is no evidence of widespread destruction in the city. Umm Qais's charm still lingers today.
A large portion of the Western Roman Theatre, has survived history's upheavals. Vaulted passageway support its rows of seats, built of hard basalt stones.
A row of elaborately carved seats for dignitaries stand near the orchestra, and in the centre was a large headless marble statue of Tyche, now displayed at the local museum.
A cross from the theatre is the colonnaded street [cardo], which was in all likelihood the town's commercial centre. Also, near the black basalt theatre is the Terrace , which hosts an atrium [courtyard], a church and a basilica.
Further west of the Terrace and along the east-west Colonnaded Street [decumanus], ruins of the Nymphaeum, a bath complex and a well-preserved Roman Mausoleum can be seen.
After a few hundred meters one can barely make out the remains of what once was a Hippodrome.
There are two theatres in Gadara, and a third one located at the hot springs of Himmet Gader. Remains of the North Theatre, the largest one, are still visible in the hillside (next to the museum);
the well-preserved West Theatre is the most graceful feature of Gadara. Built of black basalt stones, this theatre dates back to the first and the second centuries AD.
You can enjoy a particularly spectacular view around sunset from the upper rows of the seats.
The terrace is supported by vaulted structures, used as shops during the Roman times. These shops were slightly lower than the level of the Terrace. The road was paved and a Roman sidewalk existed in this area.
The Nympheaum, a fountain with basins and niches, usually decorated with marble statuettes, is located on the Decumanus, near the intersection of the two main colonnaded streets [cardo and decumanus] and across the Terrace.
This sacred monument is believed to have been dedicated to the ancient water goddesses.
Roman Baths Complex
Ruins of a Bath Complex, dating from the 4th century, can be seen by merging left into a small dirt road some 100 meters from the intersection of the Colonnaded Streets.
You can also access its lower parts from a dirt road across from the West Theatre. Just as typical Roman baths, it had hot, warm, and cold rooms, as well as a room for disrobing. It apparently went out of use in the early 7th century .
A pproximately 500 meters from the Roman Baths you will find a well-preserved underground Roman Mausoleum [West Mausoleum].
Behind the black basalt stone cistern [underground water reservoir], steps lead to the entrance hall, which is the porch of the mausoleum itself.
A five-aisled Basilica Church was recently excavated above the mausoleum.
You can also find rock carved tombs scattered around the outskirts of Gadara, such as the tombs of Germani, Modestus and Chaireas.
The Western Gate\Gate of Tiberias
Some 800 meters from the point where the two main colonnaded streets intersect, or 200 meters from the Mausoleum, you will find the remains of the Western City Gate, consisting only of the foundations.
The gate was flanked by circular towers, which straddled the Decumanus. Another 400 meters from the Western Gate there are the remains of a Triple Arched Gateway,
which marked the extension of the city's boundary in the latter half of the 2nd century.
Next to the West Theatre is the paved and colonnaded Terrace.
Some of the structures that remain on the terrace include the colonnaded atrium, which served as the courtyard for the church, a large colonnaded octagon pertaining to the Centralized Church and an apse, remnants of a three-aisled Basilica located between the Centralized Church and the West Roman Theatre.
To the west, the Terrace is supported by vaulted structures.
This church is located on the Terrace and dates to the Byzantine period. The complex consists of a plaza and colonnade.
A central octagon of columns capped with Corinthian capitals taken from a temple preceding the church, supported the roof of the Centralized Church.
A classical Acropolis lies to the east of the West Theatre. Today it is covered by Bait Melkawi and the remains of the Ottoman village,
built from stones taken largely from ancient buildings.
One of the more substantial buildings was restored and converted into a museum, while another was rebuilt as a rest-house.
Museum of Umm Qais
Located in Beit Al-Russan (House of Al-Russan), the Museum was originally the Ottoman governor's house.
Statues, mosaics, coins, among other archaeological finds, are on display.
Opening hours of the museum are: Everyday from 8:00-18:00 in summer and 8:00-17:00 in winter.
For more information contact the museum: 00 962 2 7500071 Umm Qais Rest-house
Umm Qais Rest-house
The Rest-house offers a relaxing retreat overlooking Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee).
You may enjoy a view from indoors or outdoors, on the large open terrace. For more information contact the Rest-house : 00 962 2 7500555
By car or taxi :
(from Amman) Umm Qais can be reached within two hours.
Take either the Jordan Valley road towards the north or the scenic highland route towards Jerash and through Irbid.
Follow the brown signs all the way to Umm Qais.
A close second to Petra on the list of favourite destinations in Jordan, the ancient city of Jerash boasts as unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years.
The city's golden age came under Roman rule and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world.
Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
The Jerash festival, held in July every year, transforms the ancient city into one of the world's liveliest and most spectacular culture events.
The festival features folklore dances by local and international groups, ballet, concerts, plays, opera, popular singers and sales of traditional handicrafts,
all in the brilliantly floodlit dramatic surroundings of the Jerash ruins.
The early occupation of Amman dates back to the Neolithic period (ca. 6500 BC).
Archaeological excavation at Ain Ghazal has shown evidence not only of a settled life then but also the growth of artistic work. Since that time Amman has seen the rise and fall of many civilizations. In the thirteenth century Amman was called Rabbath Ammon by the Ammonites. Then came the Assyrians followed by the Persians then the Greeks, who called it Philadelphia.
In the first century BC Philadelphia became under the Roman control and joined the Decapolis-; a league of ten cities.
In the following centuries, 324 AD, Christianity became the religion of the empire and Philadelphia became the seat of bishopric.
This was the start of the Byzantine era. It got its present name Amman in the Ghasanaian era, and flourished under the Ummayads and the Abbasids.
Then it was destroyed by the many earthquakes and disasters until 1887 which marks the settlement of the Circassians
On March 2, 1921 Prince Abdullah chose Amman as his seat of government.
This date marks the beginning of the modern history of Amman and Jordan. Lack of resources did not discourage people.
The chief Minister's office was established in a little building by the stream.
Until 1948, Amman remained confined to the two main valley beds.
Since then, the population has grown steadily as a result of the influx of Palestinian refuges.
Residential areas have spread out from the centre of the city to the surrounding hills.
In the last two decades, Amman has undergone an exceptionally rapid rate of development and witnessed feverish building activities.
Its population is estimated at about 1.2 million people. Amman has two major airports, Queen Alia airport and Amman Civil Airport.
Your stay in Amman would not be complete if you do not visit the many fascinating tourist sites that Amman is gifted with.
Some of these sites are:
Is considered one of the largest in the middle east.
Its construction dates back to the beginning of the second century AD by Emperor Trajan.
It is carved into the mountain and its seats are built in a way to keep people away from the direct sunlight most of the day. Its acoustic design is very advanced.
The Public Department of ruins has renovated the theatre and it is now used to host many national, public and artistic events.
The castle (Al- Qalah):
Is located on top of a 900 by 400 meter flat hill, 132 meter of the level of the city centre. The castle is surrounded with a wall that is built on the Greek Architecture with 10 meter high Poles.
South of the castle we can still see the ruins of Hercules temple .
Also there is an Umayyed palace. Recently the government built an art gallery . The municipality is also building a big park around the whole Castle site.
The trip south from Amman along the 5,000-year-old King's Highway is one of the most memorable journeys in the Holy Land, passing through a string of ancient sites.
The first city you come upon is Madaba, "the City of Mosaics". Madaba's chief attraction -in the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of St.
George- is a wonderfully vivid, sixth-century Byzantine mosaic map showing Jerusalem and other holy sites.
Ten minutes to the west is the most revered site in Jordan:
Mount Nebo, the memorial of Moses, the presumed site of the prophet's death and burial place.
A small, square church was built on the spot by early Byzantine Christians-and later expanded into a vast complex.
The Jordan Valley
The Jordan Valley is a low-lying strip which cleaves down the western border of the country.
It is part of the Great Rift Valley, which extends down southwards into East Africa.
The Jordan Valley is divided into several distinct geographic sub-regions.
Its northern part is known as the Ghor, and it includes the Jordan
The main resort area is located on the northern shores of the Dead Sea at Sweimeh, about 45 kilometers southwest of Amman.
In Sweimeh, the Government Rest House provides showers and changing facilities, a restaurant, and a choice stretch of beach.
The only accommodations currently available are at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, a few kilometers past Sweimeh. There, you can enjoy a variety of mineral treatments at the German medical center: as well as the waters of the Dead Sea, other therapies include black mud, highly oxygenous air treatment, filtered sunrays, massage and gymnastics. Private bungalows are also available.
Work is progressing toward the completion of additional resort hotels along the Dead Sea.
Several degrees warmer than the rest of the country, its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and water supply have made the Ghor the food bowl of Jordan.
The Jordan River rises from several sources, mainly the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in Syria, and flows down into Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), 212 meters below sea level.
It then drains into the Dead Sea which, at 400 meters below sea level, is the lowest point on earth.
South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley turns into the hot, dry
, the "wilderness" or "Arabah desert" of the Bible.
People first started to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and plant crops in the Ghor about 10,000 years ago.
Villages were built, water-harnessing schemes were implemented, and by about 3000 BCE, produce from the valley was being exported to neighboring regions.
The area’s fertile lands were chronicled in the Old Testament, and the Jordan River is revered by Christians as the place where John the Baptist baptized Christ.
After 1967, when Israel conquered the "West Bank" of the Jordan River, the population of the Ghor fell from 60,000 down to about 5,000 by 1971.
During the 1970s, however, new roads and villages were built, and the population has now soared to over 100,000.
There are no major cities along the Jordan River. In the last few decades, modern methods of farming have vastly expanded the agricultural output of the area. The latter years of the 1950s witnessed the construction of the East Ghor Canal (now known as the King Abdullah Canal), which runs down the east bank of the Jordan Valley for 69 kilometers and has brought substantial areas under irrigation.
The recent introduction of portable greenhouses has brought about a seven-fold increase in productivity, allowing Jordan to export large amounts of fruit and vegetables year-round.
The River Jordan
The Jordan River—or River Jordan, as it is commonly called—is one of the most sacred places, both historically and symbolically, for Christians throughout the world. Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ all crossed it during their lifetimes, and it is associated with some of the most important events in the Bible. After the death of Moses, the Bible says that God stopped the waters from flowing, allowing Joshua to lead his people across the River Jordan into Canaan (Joshua 3: 14-17).
This reportedly took place at a ford in the river directly opposite Jericho known as Bethabara, or Beit ‘Abara ("house of the crossing").
This place, opposite Jericho, is believed to be the same place where the Prophets Elijah and Elisha parted the waters and crossed miraculously to the east bank of the Jordan. From a nearby spot on the east side, Elijah then ascended into heaven "on a chariot of fire and horses of fire" (2 Kings 2: 5-14).
For Christians, the most significant event associated with the River Jordan is undoubtedly the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. Interestingly enough, this also took place very close to Beit ‘Abara, where Joshua, Elijah and Elisha crossed the river. In New Testament times, it became known as Bethany, the village of John the Baptist.
This Bethany is not to be confused with the village of Bethany near Jerusalem,
where the Bible says Lazarus was raised from the dead. The Bible clearly records that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3: 13-17), and that John the Baptist lived, preached and baptized in the village of Bethany, on "the other side of the Jordan" (John 1: 28).
The baptism site, known in Arabic as
is located at the head of a lush valley just east of the Jordan River.
It is now protected and by early 1999 it will be accessible to visitors. After Jesus’ baptism at Bethany, he spent forty days in the wilderness east of the River Jordan, where he fasted and resisted the temptations of Satan (Mark 1: 13, Matthew 4: 1-11).
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is 75 kilometers long and from 6 to 16 kilometers wide.
It is fed by the Jordan River, but it has no outlet. As its name suggests, the Dead Sea is entirely devoid of plant and animal life.
This is due to an extremely high content of salt and other minerals—350 grams of salt per kilogram of water, as compared to about 40 grams in the world’s oceans.
This concentration is caused by a rapid rate of evaporation.
These natural elements give the waters of the Dead Sea certain curative properties, recognized since the days of Herod the Great over 2000 years ago.
Also famous for their restorative powers are the thermal mineral springs of nearby Zarqa Ma’een, which hosts a therapeutic health spa.
The Dead Sea is also famous geographically as "the lowest point on earth," lying some 400 meters below sea level. In addition to the historical significance of the "Salt Sea," as it was referred to in the Bible, the Dead Sea is today an important and rich source of minerals essential for agricultural and industrial development, as well as for the treatment of various medical conditions such as psoriasis.
Visitors to the Dead Sea come away with an unforgettable swimming experience, as the high density of the water makes sinking virtually impossible. Indeed, swimming is also difficult, as one is lifted too high in the water to be able to stroke properly.
More appropriate is the often-photographed pose showing a visitor reclining in the water, leisurely reading a perfectly dry newspaper.
The ancient city of Pella, known in Arabic as Tabaqat Fahl, is believed to have been inhabited as early as 5000 BCE. It was during the Greco-Roman period, however, that Pella truly prospered. Strategically placed at the crossroads of numerous trading routes linking Europe, the Near East and Asia, the city flourished from trade and was influenced by a multitude of diverse cultures.
Like many of the ancient cities of Jordan, Pella came successively under the rule of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.
Disaster struck in 83 BCE, however, when the Hasmonean leader of Judea, Alexander Jannaeus, largely destroyed the city when its inhabitants refused to embrace Judaism. Pella was one of several Hellenistic communities on the east bank of the
Jordan River that was targeted by Jannaeus.
The Byzantine era saw a revitalization of Pella, as trade routes strengthened and local industries developed. Approximately 25,000 people lived in or near Pella during the late fifth century CE.
The Byzantine armies were defeated by the Arab armies at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 CE, and Islam soon became the dominant religious and cultural influence throughout the land.
Pella —which received the Arabic name of Fahl—continued to prosper under Islamic Umayyad rule, until the great earthquake of 747 CE brought much of the city crashing down. Even then, archeological evidence indicates that the city remained inhabited on a modest scale.
The Mamluks occupied it in the 13th and 14th centuries, but then the city was virtually abandoned for five centuries. Today, Pella is gradually being unearthed by teams of American and Australian archaeologists. As you climb up the steep wadi, you will notice to your left three columns which mark the spot of the sixth-century West Church. Continuing along, there are the remains of a 14th century Mamluk mosque and a graveyard.
Off to the left is an immense water tank, built by the Byzantines to hold 300,000 liters of water. You then approach the main ruins, which consist of houses, shops, store houses and other staple constructions of city life. Below on the right lies an assortment of Byzantine and Roman public buildings.
Sitting on the stream bed, or Wadi Jirm, is a first century CE Roman odeon, or theater. Next to this are the ruins of a large Byzantine church, built in the sixth and seventh centuries on top of a Roman shrine.
The remains of Roman baths are also visible in this area. Perched up on the east, on a natural balcony overlooking the valley, is the East Church, erected during the late fifth century CE.
To the south is Tel Husn, on top of which was a Byzantine fortress.
Of all the Ummayed castles in Jordan, Amra is the most loved.
It was built as a bath house and its existence adds to the theory that these ‘Desert Castles’ were built mainly for leisure and not as forts. The auditorium chamber, used for feasting, meetings and cultural events, leads through an antechamber to the baths.
The walls of the antechamber are decorated with athletic, hunting and wildlife scenes.
Qasr Amra had an elaborate bathing complex and a sophisticated heating system. The caldarium’s domed ceiling depicts the constellations of the northern hemisphere and signs of the Zodiac.
The mighty fortress at Kharana is one of Jordan’s strangest deviations - built in the form of a castle, experts maintain that it was a palace in disguise.
The lavish plastering of the upper halls and rooms, the splendid vaulted ceilings and attention to decorative details raise the question that Kharana was a fort.
As Qasr Kharana does not have a substantial water source or a major route passing by, scholars suggest that it could have been an extravagant meeting place for Ummayed leaders.
asr Mushatta is extraordinary because of its grandeur and construction.
It is worth visiting Mushatta at sunset as the last rays illuminate the exquisite brickwork.
Another page of Mushatta’s history was added in 1904, when the magnificent patterns were removed and presented by the Turkish Sultan to German Kaiser Wilhelm.
The remains were taken to Berlin and were destroyed in World War ll.
Jordan’s deserts are dotted with ancient castles, farming estates, forts, hunting lodges and caravanserai.
Widely varied in function, architectural style and creative embellishment, most were the domain of Omayyad princes in the first half of the 8th Century
Hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains, the rock-carved city of Petra is full of mysterious charm.
The approach through the cool gloom of the Siq, a long narrow gorge whose steeply rising sides all but obliterate the sun, provides a dramatic contrast with the magic to come.
Suddenly the gorge opens into a natural square dominated by Petra's most famous monument, the Khasneh, whose intricately carved facade glows in the dazzling sun.
More facades beckon the visitor on until the ancient city gradually unfolds, one monument leading to the next for kilometer after kilometer.
The sheer size of the city and the quality of beautifully carved facades is staggering and leads one to reflect on the creativity and industry of the Nabateans who made Petra their capital more than 2,000 years ago.
From their capital at Petra the Nabateans had established an elaborate network of caravan routes which brought spices,
incense, myrrh, gold, silver and precious stones from India and Arabia, to be traded onto the west.
From the wealth they acquired, they adorned their city with palaces, temples and arches. Many that were freestanding have largely disappeared but many were carved into the rock i.e.
the treasury, the monumental tombs and the high place of sacrifice. These still remain today in a condition of perfection so staggering that you feel you must have entered a time wrap.
Petra is an enchanting place that captivates and excites the senses. Its overwhelming size, rich textures and stunning surroundings create an ambiance almost impossible to describe.
As you set off from the City's entrance gate, at this stage the valley is quite wide and open. This section is the approach to the narrow gorge and is know as Bab Es-Siq, gateway of the Siq.
The first monuments you pass are the curious Djinn Blocks, a cluster of three freestanding rock cubes just to the right of the track.
Continuing along the path you come to the Obelisk Tomb, carved out of the cliff.
At one point the passageway goes from a wide breach to a dark chasm not more than a few feet across. Suddenly in the space of a few footsteps, you get your
first glimpse of Petra's most fabled achievement, El-Khazneh (the Treasury), which looms up in the brilliant sunshine, carved from the rock, defiled by man. At the outer siq's widest point a gully runs abruptly off to the south.
The path takes you to the high place: an ancient Nabatean sacrificial site with an Altar cut from the rock. For those who can stand the strenuous climb, the sweeping view of Petra is well worthwhile.
Past the altar the track continues leading to the garden Tridinium (the garden temple complex). There are two freestanding colonnades, in front of which are a remnants of a shrine.
Continuing on, one passes dozens of wall niches, before arriving at the Roman Soldier's Tomb, and a further Triclinium.
Petra has dozens of sacred sites.
On a windswept ridge high above the city, the Nabatean people extolled their gods at the High Place known as El-Madbah in Arabic.
In an area known as the street of facades, many classical Nabatean ruins can be seen. The Outer siq makes a sudden turn northwards and leads to the Roman Theatre which was built in typical Roman style.
The substantial building Qasr El Bint Faroun (Palace of the Pharoa's daughter'), demonstrates that the Nabateans were capable of creating freestanding buildings.
Petra's second most spectacular construction after the treasury is El-Deir (The Monastery). For a feeling of Petra's immensity and the sheer power of the rock, the trip is essential.
Across from the Qasr El Bint a jumbo of steps lead up to Petra's Museum. The room housing the small collection is the most monumental exhibit of all.
Stunning in its natural beauty, Wadi Rum epitomizes the romance of the desert.
With its "moonscape" of ancient valleys and towering sandstone mountains rising out of the sand, Wadi Rum is also home to several Bedouin tribes who live in scattered camps throughout the area.
Climbers are especially attracted to Wadi Rum because of its sheer granite and sandstone cliffs, while hikers enjoy its vast empty spaces.
Wadi Rum is probably best known because of its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18.
Much of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia was filmed in Wadi Rum.
The main route to Wadi Rum, and the small village of Rum, branches east off the Desert Highway about five kilometres south of Quweira and 25 kilometres north of Aqaba.
From there the road extends about 35 kilometres through the desert to end at Rum. It is best to take your own vehicle to Rum, as public transportation to the village is very difficult.
The village consists mainly of several hundred Bedouin inhabitants with their goat-hair tents and concrete houses, a school, a few shops and the headquarters of the famous Desert Patrol.
There are several options available for exploring Wadi Rum. At the Government Rest House, located just inside the village, you can rent out a four-wheel-drive jeep with a Bedouin driver for short or longer day tours of the area.
Also available are camels, which you can hire for short excursions or for the desert trip to Aqaba. The only accommodations in Rum are in the Government Rest House, where tents are available. For those with a
For those with a bit more time and/or sense of adventure, the best way to see Wadi Rum is by hiking and camping in it.
Indeed, the vast silence and grandeur of the landscape is best experienced on foot. All you need for hiking in Wadi Rum is plenty of water (at least 2-3 litres per day), some food, good shoes and a sleeping bag.
Those with a four-wheel drive, a map and plenty of fuel can see more of the landscape, while saving their energy for spectacular hikes such as the Rock Bridge of Burdah, one of Wadi Rum’s most popular attractions.
True adventurers can test their skills and endurance by climbing Jordan's highest mountain, Jabal Rum.
The climb is a gruelling and treacherous challenge which should only be attempted by those of stout heart and indomitable will.
A guide is recommended for the ten-hour round trip to the summit, and arrangements should be made the previous day at the Government Rest House.
Offroaders should exercise care in staying on the tracks to avoid plowing over desert vegetation.
Don’t venture too far away from Rum, and remember to bring plenty of water. Highly recommended for adventure-seekers are Tony Howard's detailed Treks and Climbs in the Mountains of Wadi Rum & Petra or the less extensive Walks & Scrambles in Rum.
Just off the King's Highway 190 km south of Amman and less than an hour north of Petra stands an impressive castle as a lonely reminder of former Crusader glory dating from the same turbulent period as Kerak,
crowning a cone of rock, which rises above a wild and rugged landscape dotted with a grand sweep of fruit trees below.
It is today known as Shobak, but to the Crusaders it was Mont Real (Crak de Montreal) or Mons Regalis, the Fortress of the Royal Mount.
It was built in 1115 by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Damascus to Egypt, and was the first of a string of similar strongholds in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Salahuddin Al-Ayyoubi (Saladin) attacked it on several occasions, finally capturing it in 1189 (only 75 years after it was raised) when the Crusaders were losing their foothold throughout the Holy Land. Inscriptions by Saladin's proud successors appear on the castle wall.
In 1260, it passed to the Mamluks whom restored it in the following century, adorning its walls and towers with Arabic inscriptions which testify to their work.
Since then it has lain largely untouched, gradually falling into greater disrepair.
The castle's exterior is impressive, with a forbidding gate and encircling walls three layers thick.
The walls and projecting towers are still reasonably intact, but inside the castle consists mainly of tumbled stones with a few walls and arches.
One of the most fascinating remains is the ancient well-shaft cut deep into the rock, with 375 steps leading down to the water supply at the bottom.
There are several small villages in the area, for there are abundant springs and fertile valleys where olives, grapes, figs, and apricots are grown, as well as grain crops.
Earlier this century the castle itself was occupied by a few local families, and there was a market within its walls which served all the villages.
Before 1948 trade links were mainly with Palestine, and the villagers would make regular trips to Beersheba to sell livestock and ghee (camel butter), and to Hebron and Jerusalem to buy sugar, oranges and cloth.
Today they have to go to Ma'an.
Take time off from the sun and fun and learn about the resort’s history, which dates back to the fourth millennium BC.
Tel al-Khalifeh, inside the Jordanian-Eilat border, was initially identified with the Eziongerber, mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, where King Solomon built a fleet that sailed to Ophir (Somalia) and returned with 420 talents of gold.
But recent excavations indicate that the site was found after the 8th Century BC and served commercial and industrial purposes: for smelting copper and as a halting place for caravans.
During the 1st Century BC, the Nabteans, who raised livestock and pirated merchants’ ships in the Red Sea, inhabited Ayla. During the same time, merchants from Ailana were found in South Arabia (Yemen) buying frankincense and myrrh. From 106 AD, rulers and civilizations came and went, starting from the Romans, to the Sultans and Islamic rule.
Just prior to Islam, the Ghassanid Phylarchs (a tribe from western Arabia) controlled Ayla on behalf of Byzantium, its bishop at Ayla attended the Council of Nicaea in North Carolina State University,
located the Nabatean-Roman town of Ayla two kilometers from Tell Al-Khlifeh , in the circular area of modern Aqaba.
In one of the most exciting discoveries in recent times, archaeologists in Aqaba have unearthed what they believe to be the world’s oldest church, from the late 3rd Century AD.
It is slightly older than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, both of which date back to the 4th Century. The church is found on a plot of land east of Istiklal Street (see map).
It is now back-filled with earth for protection. The walled city of Ayla was constructed during the early days of the Islamic era—a rare example of early Islamic urbanization policy.
Its layout is marked by axial streets leading to four gates and intersecting in the middle, where a tetrapylon (four interconnection arches) was set up, thus recalling the plan of roman legionary camps. Unearthed in the mid-1980s by an America –Jordanian archaeological team are the remains of Ayla, located along the main water front road, near the hotel district.
The tranquil waters of this port-resort make water sports enjoyable. Scuba diving, snorkelling, water skiing, windsurfing and fishing are just some of the popular activities in Aqaba.
The Gulf of Aqaba is a world known diving area. Aqaba itself offers eager divers the chance to experience virgin coral reefs, rare marine life forms, and encounters with friendly sea animals like turtles and dolphins.
Transportation within Aqaba is easy. Taxis, rental cars and buses are easily accessible.
From Aqaba, there are JETT and Alpha buses, public busses, and taxis to Amman and Wadi Rum. Royal Wings Airlines has daily flights between Aqaba and Amman.
The 10km drive from the Jordanian-Israel border crossing to the city costs approximately three Jordanian Dinars. Taxis within the city are usually not metered.
A minimum of half to one Jordanian Dinars is expected
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