“Jordan has a strange, haunting beauty and a sense of timelessness. Dotted with the ruins of empires once great, it is the last resort of yesterday in the world of tomorrow. I love every inch of it.” – Hussein of Jordan
Traveling to the Middle East is always special. Here, you’ll discover hidden pasts and undisturbed cultures that date back to the origins of what we understand as humanity. Jordan epitomizes this. In Jordan, you’ll find a naturally stunning country decorated with some of the finest ancient ruins in the world. On top of its history, Jordan is home to a jovial culture, one full of charming and genuine people who take pride in their homeland. To learn more about the experience awaiting you, read on!
- Capital: Amman
- Population: 10.2 million (2018)
- Official Language: Arabic
- Currency: Jordanian Dinars
- Independence: 1946
- Time Zone: Eastern European Time (UTC+2)
- Drive on the: Right
Where in the World
Jordan’s location in the heart of the Middle East has earned its reputation as a crossroads between Asia, Africa, and Europe. A mainly landlocked country (with only a small coastline on the Red Sea), Jordan shares borders with many other nations: Israel and the Palestinian Territories to the west, Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, and Saudi Arabia to the south. Most of the country’s population is located in the north-western pocket, on account of the area’s fertile soil and seasonal rainfall that sustains farmland, nature reserves, and thriving ecosystems rarely seen in the Middle East. What makes the country even more enticing to visitors are its ancient cities and ruins that date back thousands of years, allowing travelers a glimpse into humanity’s past.
There’s a lot to know about Jordan’s past. The country’s name comes from the famous Jordan River and appears many times in biblical contexts. But even before it had a name, this area was already bustling.
In research published by Princeton University Press, findings suggest that Jordanian civilization could be 200,000 years old. Other discoveries place civilizations in the region during the Paleolithic period (20,000 years ago), the Bronze Age (3600 –1200 B.C.) where we see the Egyptians control much of Jordan, and the Iron Age (1200 – 332 B.C.). Following the end of Egyptian rule, the country returned to its Persian roots, though the state remained split. For a few centuries, these tribal Kingdoms held their own, solidifying their cultures and languages; but that all changed when Alexander the Great showed up in 63 B.C.
Under Roman rule, Jordan began transforming into the place that draws travelers today. It was during this time — between 63 B.C. and 324 AD — that ancient cities like Petra and Jerash were built, and they would survive under the influence of the Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman empires as they developed their respective reigns. Ottoman rule stayed in place up until the nation’s revolt for independence at the end of WWI. After many years of unrest, the Treaty of London was signed in 1946, officially granting Jordan independence.
How to Get There
Thanks to the popularity of the country’s historic sites, getting to Jordan is as easy as it’s ever been. The biggest and most convenient airport — Queen Alia International Airport — is located just 20 miles (30 kilometers) outside Amman. The airport is Jordan’s main passageway, and the mentioned rise in tourism has incentivized an improvement in its facilities and the start of services from larger airlines such as Qatar Airways and Fly Dubai. From major American flight hubs like New York City, direct flights are available with Royal Jordanian Airlines. When leaving from others locations, however, you can still expect a few stopovers and changing of airlines.
When it comes to saving on airfare, know that Jordan’s busy season lies on the shoulders of summer (May to March, and September to October) as June, July, and August are too hot for most travelers. This means that finding cheaper flight options will be easier in the off-season — during the high summer months or between November and February. The winter months are definitely colder overall and can be a tad wet, but the days are still warm and may give you a more intimate experience with the culture.
How to Get Around
Getting around Jordan has also become easier in recent years, and moving between big attractions such as Petra, Jerash, and Wadi Rum is only getting simpler.
One benefit to driving in Jordan is the road quality, though proper signage and lane designations are sometimes lacking. You’ll also want to look out for sandy spots on highways (especially at night when lighting can be quite poor), as the desert is known to sometimes cover the pavement. But when it comes down to it, all you’ll need is an up-to-date International Driving Permit and a sense of adventure.
If driving’s not your thing,, you still have plenty of options. Buses can be found all over, starting from the airport, where there’s 24/7 shuttle bus service that will gladly take you to downtown Amman. Be warned that inter-city buses tend to land on the disorganized side of things, usually leaving when full, rather than abiding by a strict timetable, and they don’t always make proper stops. This even goes for other popular trips to Petra and the Dead Sea, for which most people use Jordan Express Tourist Transportation (JETT). These buses leave from Amman’s main stations and will help you save money.
There are also a ton of taxis (usually waiting around bus stations and points of interest) ready for hire, plus the option of Uber. Both are relatively cheap and time efficient, making them popular choices. These types of transportation can also help out on short trips around main urban areas and even on longer, full-day excursions to the likes of Jerash.
What to Know Before You Go
Once you’ve arrived in Jordan, you’ll need to purchase a visa. This can be done conveniently at the airport for 40 JOD ($56 USD) and will allow you to stay in the country for up to one month. While still at the airport, you should convert some cash, too. This will make smaller interactions — taxi fares and snacks — much easier.
Depending on when you’re there, be prepared for what the weather can throw at you. You’ll be in the desert, which of course means a lot of sunshine, but it can also bring extreme changes. During the summer, it gets hot. And in winter, snow isn’t out of the question. Be sure to pack accordingly.
Finally, be prepared for some unavoidable misunderstanding when chatting with locals. Locals will sometimes have their own names or slang for certain places, which can be known to cause a mixup or two. To help resolve these issues as quickly as possible, it doesn’t hurt to have a few photos saved on your phone that you can show people. This can also help spark conversation with the people of Jordan, most of which will be happy to help!
Header image by Julian Reinhart