Dream Destinations
Experience Jordan
with Derek Annoh

I visited two Jordanian destinations Amman and Petra as well as the wonders of the Dead Sea . The ancient and modern capital of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan ; a sprawling city spread over 19 hills, or jebels. Amman is also known as Rabbath-Ammon during prehistoric periods and later as Philadelphia , the ancient city that was once part of the Decapolis league, now boasts a population of around 1.5 million.

Sometimes Amman is also referred to as the white city due to its low size canvas of stone houses but the city offers a variety of historical sites and modern facilities that is complemented by wonderfully gracious and welcoming people. I discovered that Amman is a busy commercial and administrative center with many fine hotels, restaurants, art galleries and museums. Shopping amenities vary from old markets and souqs full of gold and spices to modern boutiques offering local handicrafts and imported fashions.

I stayed at the beautiful Moevenpick Hotel and Resort during my visit to Jordan. it was a beautiful hotel. Towering above Amman , the site of the earliest fortifications is now subject to numerous excavations which have revealed remains from the Neolithic period as well as from the Hellenestic and late Roman to Arab Islamic Ages. The site which is known as the Citadel includes many structures such as the Temple of Hercules , the Omayyad Palace and the Byzantine church. At the foot of the Citadel lies the 6000 seat Roman Theatre which is deep-sided bowl carved into the hill and still used for cultural events. Another newly restored theater is the 500-seat Odeon which is used for concerts. The three museums found in the area offer a glimpse of history and culture, they are the Jordan Archaeological Museums , the Folklore Museum and the Museum of Popular Tradition .

Amman is an excellent base to explore the environs and many interesting half-day or full-day trips can be arranged. The ancient town of Salt and the traditional villages of Fuheis and Kan Zaman, for example, are less than an hour away and feature traditional restaurants, handicrafts complexes and picturesque streets from ancient times.

From Amman , I went to the ancient city of Petra ; one of Jordan 's national treasures and by far its best known tourist attraction. Located about three hours south of Amman , Petra is the legacy of the Nabataens, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra is now a UNESCO world heritage site that enchants visitors from all corners of the globe.

Much of Petra 's appeal comes from its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. The site is accessed by walking through a kilometer long chasm (or siq), the walls of which soar 200 meters upwards. Petra 's most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the siq. Used in the final sequence of the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", the towering facade of the Treasury is only one of myriad archaeological wonders to be explored at Petra .

Various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds of buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, colonnaded streets and haunting rock drawings - as well as a 3000 seat open air amphitheatre circa, a gigantic first century Monastery and a modern archeological museum, all of which can be explored at leisure.

A modest shrine commemorating the death of Aaron, brother of Moses, was built in the 13 th century by the Mamluke Sultan, high a top mount Aaron in the Sharah range.

Finally, within the folds of the Jordan Valley lies the Dead Sea , more than 400 m below sea level and the lowest point on earth. Rich in minerals that have seeped from adjacent wadis, the Dead Sea , as well as having exceptionally buoyant water, is believed by many to have curative powers. The nearby waters of Hammamat Ma'in, where a thermal spa has been built, are thought to be similarly imbued.

The Dead Sea itself is flanked by mountains to the east and rolling hills of Jerusalem to the west, giving it an almost other - worldly beauty. Although sparsely populated and serenely quiet now, the area is believed  to have been home to five Biblical cities: Sodom , Gomorrah , Adman, Zebouin and Zoar.

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