Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) is in Petra, an ancient Jordanian City listed as a world
wonder./Courtesy of Shin Dong-yeun.
By Yi Whan-woo
Put aside the geopolitical location of Jordan that may lead a potential tourist to think of the country as a Middle Eastern nation caught in the whirlwind of political and religious conflict.
In actuality the desert nation surrounded by Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia offers a near paradise experience with sincere local hospitality, historical aspects and special cuisine. From the ancient city of Petra in the South to its capital Amman in the North, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is about the same size as South Korea and is abundant in eye-opening and inspiring tourist sites.
Dead Sea and spa
After more than a 10-hour flight from Korea, it may be a good way to unwind by starting with a tour of the Dead Sea. The famous salty body of water is located a short drive from Queen Alia International Airport, the gateway to the country.
One can relax by floating effortlessly to enjoy the sun in one of the world’s first health resorts. The amazing place is made of waters from incoming rivers, including the River Jordan, which evaporate, leaving dense and rich salt and minerals.
At the sparsely populated and serenely quiet place that is the Jordanian east coast of the Dead Sea, one can experience health and wellness tourism. The fact that the site attracted King Herod the Great and Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra in ancient times adds to the mystique while travelers enjoy playing in the buoyant water.
Tourists should not worry about being covered in salt. At the five-star Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, guests can bathe with such Dead Sea products as soap, shower gels and mud packs ― those that are rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium, and several others.
Another way to make the best out of their visit to the Dead Sea is visiting the nearby wonder, Hammamat Ma’in (Ma’in Hot Springs), located 264-meter below sea level in one of the most breathtaking desert oases in the world. Thousands of visiting bathers come each year to enjoy the mineral-rich waters of these waterfalls.
The falls originate from winter rainfalls in the highland plains of the country and are the source for the 109 hot and cold springs in the valley. This water is heated to temperatures of up to 63 degrees Celsius by underground lava fissures as it makes its way through the valley before emptying into the Zarqa River.
A notable place for lodging is the 97 room Evason Ma’in Hot Springs and Six Senses Spa, a hotel that provides a wide range of services including mud wraps, hydro-jet baths and showers, underwater massages, along with mud facial treatments.
While the tourists should be eager to see Petra, the ancient city in the south, the desert country has a natural reserve, Dana biosphere reserve, by the King’s highway, the road to the historical site.
Dana is the only reserve in Jordan that has the four various bio-geographical zones of the country. It is a melting pot of species from Europe, Africa and Asia. Such a combination of natural communities in a single area is unique to Jordan and many of Dana’s animals and plants are very rare.
Along with the reserve, Karak, an ancient fort, is another must-see site where one can transport oneself back to the time of the Crusades.
The castle in itself is more imposing than beautiful, though it is all the more impressive as an example of the Crusaders’ architectural military genius.
Karak’s most famous occupant was Reynald de Chatillon, whose reputation for treachery, betrayal and brutality is unsurpassed. When Baldwin II died, his son, a 13-year-old leper, sued for peace with Saladin. The Leper King, however, died without an heir, and in stepped Reynald, who succeeded in winning the hand of Stephanie, the wealthy widow of Karak’s assassinated regent. He promptly broke the truce with Saladin, who returned with a huge army, ready for war. Reynald and King Guy of Jerusalem led the Crusader forces and suffered a massive defeat. Reynald was taken prisoner and beheaded by Saladin himself, marking the beginning of the decline in Crusader fortunes. The castle was enlarged with a new west wing added by the Ayyubids and Mameluks.
Perhaps, the phrase “seeing is believing” is the only expression that can suit Petra, the ancient city that is listed as a world wonder.
It is without a doubt Jordan’s most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here way before 2000 B.C.
The entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1-kilometer in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80-meter high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colors and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).
This is an awe-inspiring feeling. A massive facade, 30-meter wide and 43-meter high, carved out of the sheer, dusky pink rock-face and dwarfing everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people. The monument even captured the attention of the Hollywood moviemakers, who featured the site in “Indiana Jones.”
While the Dead Sea is surrounded by land, Aqaba, the city in the south boasts the Red Sea resort. But apart from being a delightful place for discerning holidaymakers, this is actually a great base from which to explore various places of interest in southern Jordan.
Aqaba’s greatest asset perhaps is the Red Sea itself. Here you can experience some of the best snorkeling and diving while taking a cruise. The temperate climate and gentle water currents even in winter time have created a perfect environment for the growth of coral and a teeming plethora of marine life.
The country plans to develop the site as the world’s popular resort using the Aqaba International Airport conveniently situated just 20 minutes from the town center. It has regular flights from Amman as well as from several European cities. From the town centre, the borders of Israel, Egypt’s Sinai and Saudi Arabia are no more than a 30-minute drive making it easily accessible within the region.