The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a young nation founded in 1946, is located at the intersection of Europe, Africa, and Asia on ancient soil. Jordan’s history is heavily influenced by transportation. For thousands of years the area served as a crossroads for cultures and trade routes. For instance, the ancient Nabataean city of Petra served as a hub for caravan trade, with goods being transported across the desert by camels and donkeys.
Over time, various forms of transportation developed in Jordan. In the early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire built the Hejaz Railway, which ran from Damascus to Medina and passed through Jordan. It transported pilgrims to Mecca. It was later damaged during World War I and eventually fell into disrepair.
The Ottoman Empire fell at the end of WWI, despite the efforts of Lawrence of Arabia et al to form a united Arab state. The Sykes-Picot Agreement ceded control of this land between the British and the French. The UK gained control of what is now southern Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and southern Iraq. The French controlled what is now southeastern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and the Kurdistan Region.
In the mid 20th century, roads were built across Jordan, connecting major cities and towns. The country also developed an extensive network of buses and taxis to augment Jordan’s transportation system. This makes it easy to get around even in more remote areas. It also guaranteed our ability to travel throughout the country, in a fraction of the time possible a hundred years ago.
Our press trip to Jordan was a joint effort between IFWTWA and Visit Jordan. The welcoming nature and hospitality of Jordan’s people was ever-present. Eight intrepid travel writers traveled by 11 methods to experience all that could be pressed into a 10-day stay.
Jordan’s Transportation: The Coach Crusaders
Our transportation for the week was a 19-passenger van. It allowed us to pack our sense of adventure each day. Then ready to describe the experience of exploring Jordan’s incredible historical and cultural sites by coach. Our guide and translator, Mohammad, was invaluable.
Pro Tip: Request a non-smoking van. Most drivers in Jordan smoke. This request is likely to garner you a coach whose driver smokes outside the van. So you can ride sans mask. If you’re sensitive to either smoke or the fragrance they spray to try to cover the smoke odor.
Tired as we were, it was exciting to travel from Queen Alia International Airport, named for King Hussein’s third wife. She died tragically in a helicopter crash at age 28, bt not before she pushed for women’s rights to vote in Jordan. The skyscraper laden city of Amman rose from the desert.
Flight of Flavor
Expect just a brief respite in your hotel room as you’ll arrive mid-afternoon. Then you’ll be whisked off to a wonderful restaurant and wine cellar as we were — 13 c Bar In The Back. This venue allows a different type of transportation. Wine connoisseurs delight in wine flights, sampling the fruits of the second oldest vineyards in the world. Armenia’s vineyards date back to 4100 BC.
Returning to the hotel, happy, sated, and exhausted, we fell into deep slumbers. Upon awakening on Jordan time the next day, we were ready for our first dive into Jordanian culture — a hike through Umm Qais.
Following a three-hour coach ride north to Umm Qais, we started our “soleful” journey. Shoe leather acted as our primary mode of entry across this ancient site.
Our first experience in Jordan explored the ancient Roman civilization. This allowed us an introduction to the different empires that ruled the region. It also provided the first jaw-dropping glimpses of religious sites. They included the Sea of Galilee (here known as Lake Tiberius), Golan Heights, Palestine’s northern plains, and Syria.
You could easily spend a lifetime exploring the intricacies of Umm Qais history. From the stonemason to the beekeepers, to the women empowerment movements of modern Jordan, it was just an amuse bouche for what we experienced at the other archeological sites.
Returning to Amman that afternoon, we experienced a city walk with two Millennial artists. They showcase the artsy area struggling to maintain its identity despite foreign infiltration and gentrification.
Cyclists, fear not! With all the roads in Jordan, you can join a growing portion of Jordan’s tourism. Bicycles are common in both the cities and smaller towns.
The next day, it was more archeological exploration in Jerash. It is an even larger, more fully excavated area than Umm Qais, with both horses and camels available. Do yourself the favor, though, of waiting until either Petra or one of the Wadis. Choose the desert before trying a camel, especially if it’s your first time.
The Slippery Stroll to the Treasury
You’ll want to wear walking shoes with a good tread to get to the Treasury at Petra for a night performance during your visit. The stones are somewhat slippery in the dryness of Petra nights. The beauty of more than 1500 luminarias line the mile plus long path to the Treasury. The half hour music and legend presentation starts about 9 p.m.
Golf Cart Getaway: Another Form of Jordan’s Transportation
Sometimes, you’ll get injured while traveling. On the road to Petra’s Treasury during the day, you’re dodging camels, horses, golf carts and other people. I tried to get out of the way of both a golf cart and a horse. Inadvertently stumbling into our group leader, I rolled my ankle in the process. This caused an unexpected urgency to the day.
This Petra Panic was overcome with our guide arranging for me to be medevacked out by golf cart. It was sad to miss seeing more of Petra but I returned to our hotel for medical repair and rejuvenation.
Some of my colleagues kept their “Giddy Up and Go” attitudes. They rode high on hoof and hump while exploring parts of Petra on horseback, camelback, and mule. One friendly Bedouin man invited some of our party to visit his cave or go ride his motorcycle. Some of the ancient families still live in the archeological site.
Transport Your Tastebuds
The evening adventure in Petra is to join other travelers to prepare and eat your own meal as a group at Petra Kitchen. This added a dimension as the generous Jordanians continued to teach and inform another adventure for us. We shared the opportunity to highlight the unique flavors and tastes of Jordanian cuisine. The chef was kind enough to share the recipes! This helped so many of us when recounting the adventure once we returned home.
Jordan’s Transportation: Sunset Safari 4×4
From Petra, we backtracked to Wadi Feynan where we experienced our first Bedouin Jeep Tour. With 4×4 travel to the boutique ecolodge, we shared local Bedouin experiences like baking bread, making jewelry, and crafting mascara.
But it was our trip to Wadi Rum that led to our race across the desert. This included the discovery of specialized rock formations and a sunset safari traveling in 4x4s. After an up close and personal meeting with several race camels in this venerable region, we watched the sun dip behind Jabal Um ad Adami.
Camel Caravan to the Dawn
Camels have been used in Jordan’s transportation for centuries. The Nabataeans even carved the outline of one on the road to the Treasury. Experience a sunrise ride with these fabulous creatures with their bedecked and bejeweled saddle garments.
Riding out in the dark, the desert appears infinite but you’ll join other groups of travelers. Shouted greetings ring out across this stunning desert landscape, echoing off ancient rock formations.
As we returned to camp, a glimpse to the mountains beyond us showcased shadows. Our shadow row of camels and riders inspired me to grab my camera. In the purest form of flattery, I saw several of my fellow photographers follow my lead capturing that special image.
This is also one region in Jordan where you may find hot air balloon rides. They offer a unique perspective on the country’s landscapes and ancient ruins, from the desert dunes of Wadi Rum to the rugged mountains of Petra. The breathtaking views enhance the unforgettable experience of floating above the world.
The drive to the resort seaside city of Aqaba allowed time to process our journey from barren dunes to pristine beaches.
The Red Sea, popular for its clear waters, coral reefs, and colorful marine life, offers some of the best diving opportunities in the world. If scuba diving is not your sport, participate in snorkeling, jet skiing, or a trip on a glass bottom boat. You can even swim with dolphins.
Though not as salty as the Dead Sea, if you scuba dive, expect to add about 20% more weight than you’re accustomed to. Enjoy sea flora and fauna, along with items dropped for wreck dives (ship, airplane, and tank).
From Baptism to Buoyancy
Reaching the Dead Sea, there are several “must do” events. They include floating on the Dead Sea, visiting Beyond Bethany on the Jordan where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus Christ, and Wadi Mujib, the ultimate adventure playground in Jordan.
Plan to visit the Dead Sea and use the mud twice a day. You’ll enjoy the smoothest skin you may ever experience.
This transportation between physical and spiritual experience may be the most meaningful of the trip. As you float in the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea, the weightlessness and effortless motion can transport you to a state of calm and relaxation if you let it.
Utilize your meditation skills as the salt and minerals in the water provide a physical rejuvenation, leaving you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Lying there, effortlessly floating, you feel of precious water on your back. The salt smell emanates from every direction. The sun gently kisses your skin. You’re so far below sea level, the sun’s rays are diffused to an easy glow. Your “religious” experience may start here but continues when visiting Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
The history and religious significance of Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Christ was baptized and where John the Baptist hid in caves due to persecution, can provide a sense of enlightenment and connection to something greater than yourself. Many feel a powerful emotional experience. It transcends the physical world when they step in the River Jordan, the same river that Jesus stepped into to be baptized.
That’s the thing about Jordan’s transportation methods. It transports you physically with modes of transportation and spiritually with its deep connection to the three major religions in the world. They inextricably link us, one to another. What a profound journey of discovery and exploration.
The Journey’s End: Concluding Observations on Jordan’s Transportation Landscape
Today, Jordan’s transportation infrastructure continues to modernize and expand with new highways, airports, and railways. Renewable energy and the development of bike-sharing programs have already enhanced the urban areas. They just need time to grow.
Travelers can experience a diverse range of landscapes, cultures, and historic sites in Jordan. With many unique ways to explore them, you can plan a trip that suits your interests and preferences.
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