About Jordan, United Arab Emirates & Oman
Ajlun: A hilly town some 76 km/47 mi. northwest of Amman, it is noted for the impressive ruins of its 12th-century Ajlun Castle. It was one of the few fortresses built to protect the country against Crusader attacks from Karak in the south and Bisan in the west. A major objective of the fortress was to protect and control the development of the iron mines of Ajlun. The original castle core had four corner towers with arrow slits in the walls.
Amman: Amman is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a fascinating history. Ancient Amman, Jordan’s capital, has a sense of timelessness about it that is seen in the profusion of gleaming white houses, kebab stalls with roasting meat, and tiny cafes, where rich Arabian coffee is sipped in the afternoon sunshine. It boasts one of the largest Neolithic settlements ever discovered in the Middle East. The first settlement on record dates to the Neolithic period, around 8500 BCE. Citadel hill contains early Bronze Age tombs (3300-1200 BCE). Old Amman is filled with souks, bazaars, shops and single-family dwellings. West Amman is less crowded and more scenic. It is one of the richest and most Western-oriented cities in the Middle East, and most of the upscale hotels are here.
Aqaba: Aqaba is a coastal town in the far south of Jordan. With its balmy winter climate and peaceful setting, Aqaba is Jordan’s year-round aquatic playground. Plentiful marine life in the crystalline waters of the Gulf of Aqaba makes diving and snorkeling among the best anywhere. Skiing, windsurfing and fishing are also popular.
Dana Biosphere Reserve: This is the largest nature reserve in Jordan, and encompasses the varied geology of Dana – limestone, sandstone and granite. In the east, the landscape descends through canyons and gorges to the low elevations of Wadi Araba. Dana is not only one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country, it is also archaeologically rich with evidence of Neolithic villages, ancient copper mines, Roman aqueducts and Byzantine churches. The people of the Ata’ta (or Al Atata) tribe are the native inhabitants with their original settlement dating back some 6,000 years. Archaeological discoveries suggest Paleolithic, Egyptian, Nabataean and Roman settlement as well. One of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world, it is spectacular for hiking enthusiasts.
Dead Sea: Jordan shares this salty sea with Israel to the east and the West Bank opposite. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea. The sea has been the source of a variety of products – from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers, to salt and the minerals for cosmetics. The area has luxury resorts, trendy hotspots, spas and hot springs.
Jerash: North of Amman, Jerash, the Roman city of Gerasa, displays some of the finest, most extensive and well-preserved remains of the former empire to be found anywhere. Colonnaded streets, temples, theaters, bathhouses and the oval plaza are complemented by the superbly restored hippodrome, created on a grand scale that held up to 15,000 people. The Roman Army and Chariot Experience reenactment explores these elements of life from thousands of years past.
Jordan Trail: The Jordan Trail is a challenging long-distance hiking trail through the length of Jordan, from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south. It traverses more than 650 km/400 mi., passing through 52 villages and towns. Trekkers can complete all or any one of seven sections. Most segments require four days hiking, while the seventh takes six days. The trail travels through diverse landscapes including the rolling wooded hills of the north, the rugged wadis and cliffs overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley, the rose rock city of Petra, the dramatic sands and towering mountains in Wadi Rum, and finally, the crystal waters of the Red Sea.
Kerak: Kerak Castle is one of the three largest Crusader castles in the Levant, a large region of the eastern Mediterranean. Construction began in the 1140s. With its position east of the Dead Sea, Kerak was able to control Bedouin herders and the trade routes from Damascus to Egypt. It is a noted example of Crusader architecture, a mixture of European, Byzantine, and Arab designs. The most notable Crusader feature surviving is the north wall with its immense arched halls on two levels. These were living quarters and stables, but also served as a fighting gallery overlooking the castle approach and as shelter during sieges.
Madaba: Known as the “City of Mosaics,” Madaba has a history beginning in the Neolithic period. The town, once a Moabite border city, is cited in the Bible. It was ruled by both the Roman and Byzantine Empires between the second and seventh centuries. The famous mosaic Map of Madaba was discovered here in 1896. The Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project is one of the projects hosted by the Jordan River Foundation. Based in Mukawir, near Madaba, the project works to promote Bedouin handicrafts and to improve economic and social wellbeing of Bedouin women and children. The Bani Hamida handicrafts are displayed in the Jordan River Foundation showroom.
Mt. Nebo: Mt. Nebo is most famous as the site where the Hebrew prophet Moses was given a view of the promised land that God was giving to the Israelites.
Petra: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its amazing rock-cut architecture, the legacy of the Nabateans, an Arab people who settled in Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. Petra is spectacularly set deep inside a narrow desert gorge. From the main entrance, visitors walk through the “Siq,” an immense, natural crack in the sandstone that winds between overhanging cliffs. Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end. Petra has hundreds of buildings, facades, tombs, and a first-century 3,000-seat theater.
Shobak Castle: Near Petra, this early 12th-century Crusader castle is far off the beaten path. It is perched on the side of a rocky mountain at 1,300 m/4,265 ft. and overlooks fruit trees below. Although not as well-preserved or frequented as Kerak Castle, its isolation adds to the atmosphere. Originally built in 1115, it was the first of many fortifications to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus. Much of what remains are reconstructions and additions from the Mamluk period. The northeast corner of the castle has a keep with Quaranic inscriptions in Kufic script, possibly dating to the 12th century. There are two churches in Shobak Castle. The first one, near the entrance, has an apse, two smaller niches and a baptistery off the west side. The second church is near the southeast corner of the castle, next to a Mamluk watchtower with more Kufic script, and has a Crusader cross carved in the east wall. Beneath the church are catacombs, which contain Islamic tablets, Christian carvings, large round rocks used in catapults, and what is claimed to be Saladin’s throne, founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty.
Umm Qais: This is an active community that includes the Iraq Al Amir Women’s Cooperative, which offers life-enhancing skills and training to women and girls to help them better their lives. The cooperative also puts on workshops for visitors including beekeeping, cooking and traditional basket weaving. Um Qais is the starting point along the Jordan Trail and in addition to these activities, there is also an archaeological site, which is quite impressive at Qasr al-Abd (Castle of the Slave), and the ancient caves of ‘Iraq al-Amir (Caves of the Prince).
Wadi Rum: Stunning in its natural beauty, Wadi Rum epitomizes the romance of the desert. Bedouin tribes live in scattered camps throughout the prehistoric valleys and soaring sandstone mountains rising from desert sands. Wadi Rum is truly a stunning desert landscape, and the home of Bedouin tribes, who live in scattered camps throughout the area. The main route to Wadi Rum, and the small village of Rum, branches east off the Desert Highway about five km/three mi. south of Quweira and 25 km/15 mi. north of Aqaba. From there, the road extends about 35 km/22 mi. through the desert to end at Rum. The village has several hundred Bedouins, their goat-hair tents and concrete houses, a school and a few shops, and is headquarters for the famous Desert Patrol. The desert tribes, Huweitat and Mzanah, inhabiting Wadi Rum maintain the warm hospitality that characterizes genuine Arab culture. It is difficult to resist their friendly invitation to share mint tea or cardamom-flavored coffee in their black tents. Here is possible to spend a night glamping under a magnificent starry desert sky. Wadi Rum is perfect for outdoor lovers. Hikers enjoy vast empty spaces, where one can still capture an increasing rare moment in today’s noisy world – a sense of genuine solitude and quiet. Climbers are attracted to the sheer granite and sandstone cliffs. Deep in the heart of this desert landscape are areas to explore on a camel or mountain bike.
UAE & Oman
UAE & Oman: From the dazzling gem of sophistication that is Dubai, to the cosmopolitan capital city of Abu Dhabi, to Umm al-Qaiwain’s long sweeps of beautiful beaches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has quickly become a star in the realm of luxury destinations. Seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah – joined together in 1971 to form a constitutional federation. UAE occupies a large sweep of land along the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, with Qatar to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east. Oman is rich in history with about 500 forts, castles and towers in various architectural styles. Like UAE, it offers a wealth of experiences related to both the desert and the sea. Its appealing souks can be found in many of the towns throughout the country. UAE and Oman make perfect partners for an Arabian adventure.
Best Time to Go
Jordan’s climate varies dramatically. The best time to visit is April with moderate temperatures and when wildflowers are in bloom. March, May, September, October and November are also best to dodge the summer’s baking sun and winter’s freezing winds. Although winter can be bitterly cold in most of the country, the Red Sea area and Aqaba are very pleasant. Jordan Valley can reach 40ºC/104°F, while Amman and Petra occasionally get snow in winter. The plateau area is usually warm and dry, between the low 20ºC/70°F and high 30°C/90°F. The desert suffers extremes of temperature: blazing dry heat interspersed with freezing winds from central Asia. Aqaba boasts winter temperatures in mid-20ºC/70°F. The UAE and Oman have much the same climate. There are no major distinctions are seen between seasons, however, other than it is a little less hot during winters. A desert country, UAE remains hot throughout the year. Spring lasts from April to May, is pleasant, but not much is green in the desert. Summer is from June to August, and very hot and humid. The temperatures during this time reach nearly 50°C/122°F, with the average temperature remaining at a steady 42°C/107°F. A little rainfall adds to the humidity level. Winter lasts from November to March with temperatures staying within 26°C/78.8°F to 28°C/82.4°F. Sightseeing is not a problem during this time, and spending a day at the beach is possible. Autumn is in September and October.
Special note: Ramadan is a month of fasting between sunrise and sunset. The time varies each year. If you are visiting here during Ramadan, please be sensitive to the fact that most of those around you are fasting. Ramadan ends with a huge feast.
Day 1: Amman, Jordan
In addition to its archaeological sites, Amman also features museums, art galleries, cultural centers and theaters.
Day 2: Amman – Jerash – Ajlun – Amman
Jerash has extensive Roman ruins while Ajlun is noted for its12th-century castle.
Day 3: Amman / Mt. Nebo / Madaba / Kerak / Petra
Crusader forts, Biblical settings and Roman ruins make this region endlessly fascinating. A local women’s weaving collective near Madaba helps women and girls gain skills to improve their lives.
Day 4: Petra
One of the most precious properties of man's cultural heritage, this rose city is renowned for its amazing rock-cut architecture.
Day 5: Petra / Wadi Rum
Deep in the heart of this desert landscape many secluded areas are worthy of exploring. It’s a rare privilege to experience a night of glamping under magnificent star-studded desert skies.
Day 6: Wadi Rum
Prehistoric valleys, towering sandstone mountains and desert ‘sandscapes’ make for a remarkable day. Hikers and climbers can discover the desert on their own terms.
Day 7: Dead Sea
These mystical waters are believed to possess healing powers, and have drawn visitors from kings to commoners for millennia.
Day 8: Dead Sea / Depart
Custom Tour Options
Aqaba (3 days)
Jordan’s only seaport, the town is best known today as a diving and beach resort.
Dana Nature Reserve (3 days)
The reserve is home to four different bio-geological zones; and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. It is spectacular for hiking enthusiasts.
Jordan Trail (4-6 days)
The Jordan Trail is 650 km/400 mi. hiking trail crossing the country north to south, passing through 52 villages and towns, with opportunities to meet and engage with residents and other hikers.
Shobak Castle (2 days)
Early 12th-century Crusader castle is perched on the side of a rocky, conical mountain at 1,300 m/4,265 ft. above sea level. While it is not as well-preserved as Kerak Castle, its isolation makes it more atmospheric with few visitors.
Um Qais (2 days)
Um Qais offers experiences that delve deep into the destination including hiking, cycling, and a local women’s weaving cooperative that presents workshops for traditional beekeeping, cooking, basket making and weaving.
UAE & Oman
UAE & Oman (4-8 days)
UAE & Oman offer a cornucopia of opportunities for adventure, from Oman’s Crusader castles, to UAE’s Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world. Both offer a wealth of experiences related to both the desert and the sea.
$500-$600 per person, per day. Land only, double occupancy.