Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The wonders of Jordan


We spent Easter in Jordan, visiting the major sites and relaxing by the Red and Dead Seas. Our original planned trip to Syria as well was cancelled - later than I had expected given the appalling events there - just days before our departure, but that didn't take from the wonders of Jordan. We ended up with the Cox and Kings 'Splendours of Jordan' trip, which was a fast-paced but excellent overview.
From our Amman hotel, close to the Ministry of the Interior, the noise of a crowd chanting seemed to grow ever louder. Jordan had, after all, not been immune from the Arab Spring: King Abdullah sacked his government in response to some protests, and on the Friday before we arrived, dozens of police were injured after Islamist extremists demonstrated in Zarqa - or so the Jordan Times reported. But these were no demonstrators: the hotel had laid on two giant screens by the swimming pool for a late evening soccer match. Those who cancelled their visits to Jordan because of Syria or Egypt are missing out. Amman is an extraordinary mix of old and new, and felt entirely safe though all the big hotels had airline-style security. We had a great dinner at the famous Fakhr el-din restaurant and spent time visiting the wonderfully preserved amphitheatre and the Citadel with its remarkable city views. We took in the Franciscans' Mount Nebo where Moses saw the Promised Land and the great crusader castle at Karnak. Petra with its stunning Treasury, tombs and Siq is as awe-inspiring as one would expect; and Jerash - old Antioch - is a remarkable Graeco-Roman city.  Wadi Rum has all the echoes of Lawrence of Arabia that one would expect; while Aqaba is a splendid city to relax (with cheaper taxes than elsewhere in Jordan too) especially staying in the centre.
Petra sunset
But the Jordanians are worried about growing cancellations as a result of the Arab Spring. True, over Easter there was little sign of tourists staying away, especially in Petra and Aqaba. But there is a real concern that people will stay away in the autumn or next year, as people consider their options. Syria and Yemen may be out of bounds for now, but Jordan is not. I hope people don't allow the troubles of neighbours to let them miss out on the wonders of this remarkable country.

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