June 18, 2015

A destination of greenery, beige houses, red mountains in the desert and the magnificent Petra Treasury enthralling everybody with history, culture, Arabic music and traditional cuisine.

The Jordan Tourism Board recently organized a familiarization trip for 7 journalists from India highlighting places like Dead Sea, Bethany beyond the Jordan, Jerash, Amman, Wadi Rum and the Petra from 21st to 28th March 2015. Jordan is a country known for its history and culture that you need to take a longer vacation or even spend more days to feel and enjoy the country.

The first think that impressed me as I stepped into Jordan is the hospitality of the Jordanians and the grey architecture of the Queen Alia International Airport.The airport has a new terminal with a large duty free area and the number of restaurants like the Blue fig café & Bar that has delicious pastries. The Queen Alia International Airport is one of the superb airports that I have ever visited so far.

Our journey starts with our drive from Amman to Dead Sea was interesting all the way to the long stretch of the blue waters of the Dead Sea, with breathtaking scenery we enter the Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea that looked like a huge palace offering three luxurious enclaves with private pools. The rooms are categorized as Suites, Ishtar Jacuzzi Suite, Junior Suite, Executive Suite and Ishtar Suite with the finest views of the Dead Sea.The Penthouses at Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea are stylish and luxurious. The Penthouse area is considered to be very attractive with a staircase for each house and the pool sided area along with the palm trees close to the different suites is a wonderful sight for all. The Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea offers 11 meeting rooms for organizing a wedding by the shore and business events. The Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea has the oldest olive tree at the entrance and a beautiful lobby with flowers arranged on a marble set up in the middle of the room. Besides all this ,Dead Sea has a number of five star hotels like Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort and Spa, Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea, Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa offering different kinds of meeting facilities to organize MICE events.The King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center is also located in Dead Sea offering the Philadelphia Hall a pillar less hall that has a capacity of 5000 people for MICE events. The Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea is a property that gives you the privilege to enjoy a serene atmosphere by the Dead Sea amidst the ancient olive trees.

On the first day we enter the Visitor’s Center that had a lot of interesting stuffs for shopping like the Arabic coffee grinder, ceramic paintings on the plates, micro mosaic art hangings, khanjars and ceramic pots. One can buy few of the Dead Sea products like Dead Sea Body Salt Scrub, Dead Sea Mud Face Pack and Dead Sea Mud Body Pack from different brands like Dead Sea Fortune. After that we get into the most famous biblical sites like Mount Nebo and Bethany beyond the Jordan. Mount Nebo is one the holy sites in Jordan.Bethany beyond the Jordan is another holy site as we all started walking through the narrow pathway leading to the Jordan River and the huge building that has the ruins of the five churches. The pathway in Bethany was interesting with wooden structures and poppy flowers in different colours, as we entered the huge building we could only see the ruins of the five uniquely designed churches. We also passed through the view of a golden domed church, the white marbled church and three other white churches. After that we reach the site of the Greek Orthodox Church that has two small golden bells, a golden dome, biblical paintings on the walls, lovely chandeliers and a micro mosaic art on the floor. The Greek Orthodox Church has a seating arrangement for very few people. People can get baptized in the Jordan River at the baptism site and you also get to see a stone basin generally used to baptize kids carved with a cross and a dove. We also had visited Madaba famous for mosaics especially with the Mosaic Map that represents the holy land and the surroundings.We were all excited for another excitement of the day to float lightly or even read a book on the Dead Sea. Floating on the Dead Sea is an amazing feeling or an experience to realize that there is so much of excitement in life rather than a workaholic life. At the Kempinski Ishtar Hotel, Dead Sea close to the private beach there is a beige vase with Dead Sea Mud that can be applied by all after a float in the Dead Sea twice in a day for a better look.The mud is very soft and should be applied for at least 20 minutes and dried under the sun before you wash it.You must not forget to take a photograph of your new look with the Dead Sea mud over your face and body .The natural black mud improves blood circulation, relieve tensions of the mind ,muscle and cosmetic benefits. You cannot miss an opportunity of discovering a world of pure tranquility. We proceed to the Cabana set up across the Dead Sea for the belly dancing performance which was an outstanding performance of a torso-driven dance.

Our drive from the Dead Sea to Jerash was a long drive as we enter another Visitor’s Center we get to see the sand art painting done inside the bottle and you buy a bottle with sand art painting with yours name written inside in Arabic or English, this can be taken back home like a souvenir for your family and friends.We then walked through the ancient city of Gerasa or Jerash, the Arch of Hadrian a triple-arched gateway is the entrance which is very impressive with the greenery around the beige structures. The first site we stepped into was the Hippodrome that used to have chariot races. Jerash has two gates as North and South, two Roman theatres, the first theatre has a capacity of 3500 people and the second theatre has a capacity of 1600 people the auditorium theatre where we got to meet the Pied Piper Scottish band playing Scottish music with a huge crowd listening and dancing along the music in Jerash. The oval plaza is another interesting point in Jerash where the Jerash festival is organized every year and various music bands.During the Jerash Festival people from all over the world come to celebrate the ancient and modern culture of Jordan with dancers, musicians and theatrical tropes. Lastly we get into a building that has impressive structures which is another point where one should definitely take a photograph of the impressive columns. Jerash is a perfect place with its stunning greenery along with the Roman Architecture .The narrow lanes between the greenery of Jerash with the little white and yellow flowers is a magnificent sight for all. The weather was great for our trip to be enticed by walking through the greenery of Jerash. After a long walk in Jerash we halt over for a delicious lunch at the Sufra Restaurant in the Rainbow Street of Amman a well designed restaurant with purple sofas and chandeliers that serves Jordanian dishes. Some of the delicacies of the restaurant are Mezze hot and cold, aubergine salad and sweets like Mahalabiya and Baklava. The Roman site of Jerash leaves one spellbound especially with impressive colonnades.

The tour gets exciting as we proceed to the Royal Automobile Museum, an automobile journey for one to walk through history of the vintage cars of Jordan like Aston Martin, Buick Skylark and Bentley S2 Continental. After that we proceed to the Ghazal Restaurant for a shawarma. We then head to the Le Royal Hotels and Resorts that offers 286 guest rooms and suites with 8 food and beverage outlets and the Royal Spa, the ballroom of the hotel have the capacity of 1800 people for our stay in Amman. For an incredible dinner we get into the Kan Zaman Restaurant which has a Middle Eastern set up with bronze decorations and the traditional music played on Oud in the background.

On the next day we enter the twin tower the gate to Amman, Amman is also known as the white city especially with a blend of old and new houses made of lime stone, Amman is a city of 7 hills and the streets are divided into 8 circles. The East part of Amman is the oldest area with middle class people while the West part of Amman is the wealthy area of the upper middle class area or the modern area. The Rainbow Street is considered to be the busiest and happening streets in terms of cafés and nightlife. The Prince Hashem Bin Al-Hussein Street and King Talal Street are fine-looking streets and good for shopping souvenirs, jewellery and the vintage stained glass hanging light lamp chandelier shades. The Amman Citadel is known as Jabal al-Qal’a the historic site in the center of Amman .The tall white marble temple columns are the ruins of the Temple of Hercules and a carved hand remains as the Roman statue of Hercules in Amman Citadel. During sunset the Temple of Hercules looks attractive i was overjoyed to recollect that moment gazing at this structure.Some of the main buildings in the Amman Citadel are the Temple of Hercules, Byzantine Church and the Umayyad palace. The Jordan Archaeological Museum has pottery shards, jewellery and statues. Amman has a number of five star hotels like Grand Hyatt Amman, Four Seasons Hotel Amman and Sheraton Amman Al Nabil Hotel offering MICE facilities for all events.

On our drive to Wadi Rum we halted over at the Visitor’s Center where we met Tamer a micro mosaic artisan who told us about the process of making a micro mosaic art which is first done on a cloth then cemented and framed, a micro mosaic art can extent up to 1 million to 3 million pieces.Our voyage becomes more interesting to Wadi Rum as we enter the desert with red mountains around. The Wadi Rum is known as the valley of moon and a unique place for jeep tours, hot air balloon, horse riding, hiking, rock climbing and camel riding. The Bedouin tribes travel from one place to other with their own tradition and culture. The Bedouin tribes still live among the mountains of Wadi Rum. The Bedouin tents made of goat hair are main parts of Wadi Rum. For a lovely lunch we halted over at the Captain’s Desert Camp a unique place for Bedouin experience that can accommodate 250 people ,the tents are categorized into standard, deluxe, suite.The Captain’s Desert Camp is a huge camp has stylish couches, low tables and colourful carpets. During our walk around the camp we get to see the process of Zarb a tradition way of cooking rice, meat and chicken with herbs, vegetables like potatoes and egg plants and carrots with hot coals beneath the desert sands.A large metallic tray is used to cook the food underneath the desert sands . Firstly the rice is placed in a vessel on the bottom of the metallic tray , on the second level the meat is placed and the chicken with vegetables is placed on the third level. The meat and Chicken is either wrapped in palm leaves or silver foils. The whole process of Zarb under the desert sands takes almost an hour and more. Once the Zarb is cooked the meat is first layered on a large metallic tray with chicken, rice covering over the vegetables. We were excited to taste Zarb which was so delicious and highly recommended for one to try whenever you are in Wadi Rum. The ambiance in the Captain’s Desert Camp was good and the Arabic music being played, by a man playing Oud a traditional instrument on one side and another man playing the Tabla on another side , plus the folklore dance with people clapping and dancing in the camp as a custom of entertaining people. During our jeep tour we could feel and enjoy the wilderness of the desert, you will see the ancient rock drawings and camels lazing around in the desert. We had a wonderful time listening to Arabic music till we reached the encampment .We noticed the faces carved on the rocks like Lawrence of Arabia and leader of Bedouin tribe close to the Bedouin tent. The Bedouins are very hospitable and often invite visitors to sit and enjoy a coffee or a meal. Wadi Rum is best experienced during nights at the camp by enjoying the silence of the desert just to get away from all your troubles .Wadi Rum is about enjoying the natural rock formations coloured in shades of red, yellow and orange with golden sand where you will literally be overwhelmed by the serenity of Wadi Rum.

Our expedition started with a drive to discover the rock carvings and tombs in the city of Petra or the rose red city. During the Petra by night we had a lovely walk with the candles lit on the sides with brown paper covering it all the way to the Al Khazneh or Treasury. We all sat down in front of the Al Khazneh or Treasury to listen to the Arabic instruments being played like the Nay the local name for flute being played and Rababah the oldest Bedouin instrument made of wood and goat skin was also being played. After that we got to listen to the history of Petra and the significance of the music being played with the uniqueness of Arabic music and coffee with a cup of coffee. Our next day turns out to be exciting during our visit to Petra in the morning we walked through the Siq the entrance of Petra a narrow gorge with high cliffs. The Siq offers an incredible experience to see the colours and formations of rocks and the roads to Petra are uneven roads .At the end of the Siq you get a glimpse of Al Khazneh or Treasury and you also get to see cow boys who looked like Johnny Depp around Petra. The Treasury in Petra is one of the outstanding sights and is archaeologically well done with the top part of the monument that has Eagles from Syria, the Egyptian goddess zeiss and the warriors on the side from Amazon, you will see below the roza or rose designed, you then have the Arabic design with flowers and cups and at the bottom you have the horses on both sides with the right side signifying for bad souls and horses on the left side signifying for good souls. Some of the main sites are the obelisk tomb, street of façade, the Roman amphitheater, the royal tombs and palace tomb. We had a great dinner at Alqantarah Restaurant like Kedrah rice with chickpeas and chicken made in small clay pots and Mahashi made of zucchini. For an overnight stay we proceed to the Petra Marriott Hotel offering meeting facilities with a capacity of 130 people. Our tour on the last day commences on our drive to Amman for an overnight stay at the Landmark Amman Hotel offering conference facilities for business events.After that we proceed for a wonderful lunch at Tawaheen Al Hawa Restaurant where we got to taste the Mansaf a traditional Jordanian dish cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt made of steamed rice with lamb or chicken, the national dish of Jordan which is served on special occasions like weddings, births and graduations, or to honor a guest.We also had gone to pick a sweet box from Anabtawi sweets shop and Al Alawi dates with different varieties of dates as gifts from Jordan.

Jordan is a country for traveler motivation, rejuvenation and inspiration in terms of history, culture and never unsafe to be explored .The destination can really change you as the country offers you a different experience on every trip and gives you the happiness and the will power of exploring Jordan every time on your visit.

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