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A family holiday in Jordan

May 20, 2016
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A visit to Jordan on mycustardpie

A resthouse on the road from Petra to the Dead Sea – taken in 2016

I started writing My Custard Pie in 2010 but this wasn’t really the start of my blogging ‘career’. On a very early green Apple Mac, I set up a family website on the now defunct Yahoo Geocities. One of the first things I wrote about was a visit to Jordan with KP and our two small daughters, then aged 7 (F) and 5 (B). My experience of a recent trip was just as thrilling as the first and rereading my account of 2004 unlocked so many special memories. It transported me back to the whole experience of travelling with small children and seeing things through their eyes. So here’s the piece exactly as I wrote it in 2004 (with pictures taken on a point and shoot Canon Ixus (with film). My life may have altered a lot since then but in Jordan very few things have changed since our visit – I have added appendices at the bottom where this is so.  The magic remains the same.

Our Trip to Jordan: 31st March – 4th April 2004

When we lived in Saudi Arabia, the last place we wanted to visit when we went on holiday was another Arab country.  But after nearly 4 years in Dubai – which I saw described in a recent travel article as “Middle East lite” – I felt it was time to see some of the region that we had lived in for so long.  Top of my list was a visit to Petra, so I set about arranging a trip to Jordan.  I shan’t go into the background or history of the country or the practicalities of my trip (there are details at the end).  This is our experience in Jordan as a family of four with two smallish children (aged 5 and 7):

Amman. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

Amman in 2004

Arriving in Amman

The flight was easy at just over 3 hours, but we were delayed and landed an hour and a half late in Amman.  Not being a package-holiday type family, it was a real novelty to be greeted inside the airport by Mohammed carrying a bright orange sign with our name on it.  We had obtained our visas in Dubai (although you could get them on arrival) which meant we whizzed through.  Mohammed welcomed us warmly and started chatting while we waited for our luggage – this set the tone for our dealings with Jordanians throughout the holiday.

Our driver Jamal accompanied us to the car park.   “Choose any car you like” he joked with the girls.  We were delighted that we would spend the next 4 and half days with someone with a sense of humour – F and B were won over immediately.

We all breathed in the fresh air and were surprised by the green rolling countryside that we saw out of the window of the car as we started our journey.  I deliberated whether to give our tour of Amman a miss as we were late. Jamal tried not to push us but you could tell he was proud of the capital so we opted for a quick trip to the centre.

Amman is a new city and Jordanians, in the main, are not terribly well off.  Amman is founded on 7 hills and building regulations specify that all construction must use limestone.  It reminded me of in a modern Arabic Bath, also built from limestone and on 7 hills.   Waste ground and verges were inhabited by flocks of very woolly sheep and black goats.  We stopped in the centre to visit the Temple of Hercules; towering Roman columns in the centre of Amman.  Lack of funding on the scale needed to excavate Jordan’s many archaeological sites means that the ruins have no signage and you just wander round a rather ramshackle arrangement of treasures.  F and B ran round marvelling at it all and clambering on ancient brickwork.  They were eager to start using their disposable cameras.

Amman, Jordan on

A visit to Amman in 2004

With modern Amman as a backdrop, the Temple towering above it was stunning and you could look across from this height to a Roman theatre at the base of the next hill.  Trying to prevent the girls from plunging off Roman walls down a sheer cliff face, the call to prayer started and seemed to echo round the hills in an ethereal way.  It was very peaceful, we drank in the panoramic view, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze and there were beautiful wild flowers dotted in amongst the ruins.  We wandered over to the Umayyad Palace, which has been well restored, and strolled back to our car.  We gave the National Archaeological Museum a miss – this was a trip to please the whole family after all.

We drove through the downtown area with rows of shops selling everything from shoes to meat – a real hustle and bustle.  Even though we have experienced many Arabic souks, this one looked particularly appealing – I bet it is fantastic at night.

Climbing upward out of the city we went through a newer more prosperous residential area, but we were amazed to hear that the prices for the houses were in millions of pounds sterling.  Jordan has provided a safe haven for many people in the Middle East including the very wealthy, which has pushed up the prices in certain areas.

The Dead Sea. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

Movenpick Dead Sea Resort in 2004. Baby camel, floating in the Dead Sea and belly dancing.

The Dead Sea

The drive out to the Dead Sea took us through rolling hills and spectacular scenery.  The girls at this time had finally fallen asleep, exhausted by their 4.30am start, and were snoring gently!

The Dead Sea area, being the lowest point in the world, was much warmer than Amman.  We checked into the Mövenpick hotel and we were led to our room.  The Hotel is built to resemble little Arabic-style 2-story houses around little lanes and courtyards and the girls were delighted when we went through a stone and plaster corridor to reach our room.  The whole place abounds with greenery – bougainvillaea, hibiscus, jasmine, palm trees – and is very pretty.  I read from the Rough Guide that the pretty stream that runs through the resort and into the swimming pool, takes water from a nature reserve and is very un-environmentally friendly*.  Shortage of water is a big problem in Jordan and the River Jordan which feeds the Dead Sea has been dammed by other countries and may lead to the destruction of the sea itself. The Dead Sea is actually a lake fed at one end by the river.  The evaporation rate concentrates the salt content.  The infinity-edge pool at the Hotel led the eye out to the sea itself, sparkling in the sunshine with the mountains of Israel beyond – I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful.

At the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort in Jordan on

The infinity pool at the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort – taken in 2016

We stopped for a quick lunch in one of the restaurants around a courtyard – it was really pleasant to sit there in the shade.  The tax and service charge system adds to the already high prices – drinking and eating out is very expensive **(see note below)

A quick change later and we were by the pool.  The children forged on ahead but as it was not heated I did not venture in.  The view was mesmerizing.  The family pool to the side was heated to bath temperatures – more my cup of tea!

Looking across the Dead Sea in Jordan on

The view across the Dead Sea from Jordan – taken in 2016

We all walked down to the edge of the Dead Sea.  We had received lots of warnings in advance about not shaving beforehand and avoiding splashing the eyes, but didn’t encounter any problems.  The girls had a quick dip then played on the man-made sandy shore.  KP and I ventured in – at first it doesn’t seem so special but then you realise that you cannot swim however hard you try.  It is almost impossible to float on your stomach and you roll over and over.  It was very relaxing and amusing and we looked around us at the other people enjoying the experience…Italians…Germans. All of a sudden a hoard of British OAPs came down the steps fresh out of the Zara Spa.

One sprightly lady stepped neatly onto a large rock, crouched down and rolled in backwards – the perfect way to enter the water.  Others were not so brave and stepped gingerly down – it is difficult to believe that you will not fall onto the stony bottom in such shallow depths.  The first lady who was already floating confidently talked her followers in while relating the tale of another of their group….

“Yes that’s it Mabel, just step onto that large rock just there…..yes awful about Doris, she went in head first, panicked and swallowed large amounts of the water……it’s very easy just bend your knees and go in backwards slowly, don’t worry……yes Doris had to be helped out and taken straight to the doctor. He advised drinking lots of milk……just on that rock there dear, don’t be afraid…..yes she’s recovering in the Spa….that’s it , in you go, see, very easy!” You could just tell she was relishing telling the incident, in a very sympathetic voice of course, although, by the amount of quivering and knee trembling I observed, it did nothing to reassure her followers’!

The grounds of the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort in Jordan on

Ancient palm trees in the grounds of the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort – taken in 2016

We spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, which had a little man-made beach for the children to play on.  I thought that it would be too much like life in Dubai for the girls but they begged to stay for a week, rather than one night.  On our way back to the room we encountered a 2-week old, orphaned, tame baby camel.  I didn’t realise that camels have feet that are very soft, a sort of large cat-like pad.  1 Dinar was handed over for the obligatory photo.  The camel’s name was Moon – in Arabic of course. That evening we eschewed the main hotel buffet for the Italian restaurant in the Courtyard.  The appearance of a glamorous belly dancer, who invited the girls up on stage with her, revived their flagging spirits.  Bea then fell asleep standing up with her head on my lap!   Friends from Amman, who we had originally met in Saudi, joined us.  P and C have had three children since we last saw them so it was great to meet up again.  They love Jordan and will be sad to leave after their posting is up.

A sumptuous breakfast, amid the predominantly older clientele at the Mövenpick, set us on our way and we checked out after one last look at the Dead Sea.  The notorious West Bank in Israel is easily viewed from here. We took the road south along the Dead Sea with barren mountains to our left.  The journey was a long one – over 3 hours – emphasising how vast the Dead Sea is (about 700 square kilometres).  Small farms lined the route on the Dead Sea side while the mountains became more beautiful.  We saw many Bedouin encampments in the lea of the mountains.  A packet of biscuits, books and some colouring pencils kept the girls relatively quiet.  The Israeli roads by the time we neared Aqaba were a few hundred metres away (over highly guarded no-man’s land).  We were continually stopped at checkpoints all along this road.

Exploring Wadi Rum. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

Wadi Rum in 2004

Wadi Rum

We turned South again at Aqaba, which is situated on the Red Sea and very near the Saudi border, and headed for Wadi Rum.  As we turned off the main road to enter the desert, the dramatic mountains or jebels that rise vertically out of the sand offered a taste of the majestic scenes we were to witness later.   We stopped for lunch at a camp.  Waiters served the usual mezze and mixed grill under canvas in national dress.  This is a brown robe secured by a belt and dagger worn with a red and white head-dress.

We didn’t see it worn anywhere else but in tourist areas.  B and F are not the most adventurous eaters and lunch for them consisted mainly of water and Arabic bread.

A small sandstorm was blowing up and I began to get anxious about visibility when our Bedouin guide arrived.   Hassan, whose face, which I suspect seemed older than his years, was kind with sparkling eyes.  He greeted us warmly and we climbed into a fairly basic 4-wheel drive.  We stopped at his house on the way and met his wife and some of his 6 children.

The next 4 hours were magical.  The sun came out and the colours of the towering blocks of stone glowed – from intense ochre to brick red – against the vivid blue sky.  The pitted faces of the rock have been softened into swirling shapes by centuries of erosion and look like they have melted, like strands of candle-wax.  We saw no-one else apart from 2 Bedouin ladies herding a donkey and some goats and a Bedouin encampment against a rock with children playing amid the scattering hens.  The desert was carpeted with plants and spring flowers.  The scale of the jebels, the silence, the appearance of more and more breath-taking rocky forms kept me entranced.

Wadi Rum at sunset. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

Wadi Rum at sunset – taken in 2016

We visited ancient Thamudic rock drawings, ravines which echoed, and pock-marked cliffs for the girls to clamber up.  We came across a family of camels foraging alone.  Hassan avoided the more popular areas and promised to take us to deserted but beautiful parts of the Rum – which he did.  His English was quite good although he had not received any formal education and had learned it from tourists.

As the sun lowered we headed for the spot most popular for watching the sun set.  We stopped to collect firewood and then entered another vast mountain-fringed basin where we saw a few more 4-wheel drives in the distance.   The area is so vast that it seems to absorb everything.  We chose an isolated spot and the girls mucked in to help Hassan light the fire.  When the rest of the family scaled some rocks, Hassan provided me with yashmak and abaya so I could play a trick in disguise.  KP was not fooled by my sudden disappearance (actually relieved by the improvement) but the look of uncertainty from the girls as a strange veiled woman appeared was hilarious.   My sandals and polished toes gave me away.

A truck drew up and another party jumped out to our chagrin.  The driver was about 13!  We drank tea and watched the sunset – a pale golden sphere sinking behind a grey mountain, lengthening the shadows.  It was bliss.

Wadi Rum was spectacular in its own right but we received an added dimension from the obvious love of the place exuded by Hassan.  You could tell that he would never tire of its magic and felt our pleasure in witnessing it for the first time.

Petra. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

Petra in 2004. Small child stands on site on human sacrifices!


It was dark when we reached the Resthouse again and flaming torches lit up the site.  Coach loads of Hungarians had come to spend the night in rows of tents and an Arabic drummer boomed a welcome as they streamed in. The winding journey to Petra was about 1 hour 20 minutes and was the toughest part of the trip having been in a car for so much of the day.  The girls talked and sang all the way and I was desperate to get a Panadol so disconcerted when Jamal stopped the car in Wadi Musa with our hotel in sight.  He jumped out and took the girls to have a personalised sand bottle made for them.  It was one of the highlights of their trip and they welcomed Jamal like a long-lost uncle at every sighting thereafter!

The Crowne Plaza is a bit old and unprepossessing.  It has one of those restaurants that remind me of a school canteen.  The room was clean, the buffet more than adequate and we all fell into bed.

Another early start, our terrace looked over the mountains surrounding Petra – but why did we choose to go to Petra on a Friday (the Middle Eastern day off)?  I blanched at the queue for breakfast and luckily overheard a waiter taking another couple to an alternative restaurant – I quickly tagged along and a much more pleasant experience ensued.

The advantage of the Crowne Plaza is that it is the nearest hotel to the ancient site and we were taken a short walking distance to the Visitors Centre and introduced to our guide Mahmood.

A horse ride down to the main entrance is compulsory***(see note below) so we all mounted our steeds and set off.  The horses didn’t all have the look of patient old mares and we were not wearing hats.  Our leaders were a dubious looking gang of boys.  My groom was 13 years old and urged me to steer the horse myself – I declined, as it had no reins.  My rather jaded adult view did not extend to the children who thought the ride was wonderful, found out the names of their horses and were in raptures about them.

We entered into the narrow path down into Petra called the Siq, which is a deep fissure between the rocks.  It is immediately enthralling – the height of the mountains either side, the colours of the strata of the rocks, the promise of what is to come.

Carvings out of the rock show homage paid to the gods that the Nabateans worshipped.  Channels carved out of the side of the tunnel on both sides carried water, contained in clay pipes with troughs for animals along the way and reservoirs to filter silt.  Some cobbled stones remain which show the marks of the iron wheels of the chariots.  As Mahmood spoke the teaming stream of people going in and out of the city in the first century came to life. No photograph can prepare you for the first glimpse of the Treasury through the walls of the narrow shaded Siq, lit up by the full glare of the sun.  The sheer engineering feat has you marvelling throughout the tour of Petra, aside from the beauty.  The colours of the rock throughout the site are the most vivid and painterly in nature.  The girls said they felt they had poured their paint box over it.  You wander on from treasure to treasure – the theatre, the countless dwellings, and the houses of the rich, which also served as tombs with stairs above the pediments to help the spirits to heaven.  A guide was reciting from the stage in Arabic and this acted as a magnet to F.  He took the cue and started singing while she danced.

A visit to Petra in Jordan on

Petra – taken in 2016

Mahmood was knowledgeable and again quietly passionate about such a precious place.  The straightness of the columns, the symmetry, the flat planes of the floors, walls and ceilings, all achieved by hand chiseling.  The Nabateans had such vision to create such a splendid city out of the stunning but formidable rock.  The city at its peak had around 35,000 inhabitants as well as being a focus for trade.

By this point in the tour, the constant attention seeking tactics of the Bedouin touts started to get tiring.  The city was lost for centuries and over this time the local Bdul tribe made it their own.  The Jordanian government moved them in the 1980s into purpose-built settlement, but some still live among the caves.  They raise income through selling various trinkets from rickety stalls which abound throughout the city, in even the most far-flung places, or by providing donkey, camel and horse rides.  Runny-nosed ragged children were among those approaching us or just playing in the sand.  The people are nice; they will take no for an answer and are polite and well-intentioned.  A more controlled and well-planned way of channelling their energies, making Petra look less ram-shackle and providing them with a steady income would surely benefit both the people and the heritage site.  Or maybe I’ve got it wrong and the thronging sellers and the slightly wild and out-of-control movement of people and animals, bidding for your attention from all sides, is a taste of how life has always been in the Nabatean city.

We sat and contemplated the Urn Tomb while we rested.  Mahmoud’s services were over and we were on our own.  A wind blew scattering litter and sand which stung if it caught you the wrong way.  I had forgotten my guidebook and the only map I had was in Italian, but I had picked Mahmoud’s brains before he moved onto his next tour.  So we retraced our steps and started the ascent to the High Place of Sacrifice.  A gentle but persistent girl of 6 who gave the girls fragments of coloured rock joined us, for some of the way.  I gave money, which ensured that she accompanied us for some of our ascent.  The way was steep and winding, part man-made steps, part Nabatean and I kept thinking of the procession of people who would have this journey in honour of a great ceremony.  A panoramic view of the city improved at every turn, the pathway lined with greenery sprouting from among the rocks and glimpses of cavernous ravines.  Past more hawker stalls, a makeshift café (one of the few in Petra) and up a final flight of steps we reached a plateau where the High Place of Sacrifice was situated.

At this point I must tell you about Barnaby bear.  B’s class take in turns to take Barnaby on their travels.  A map in the classroom shows where he has been and photographs report his expeditions.  Barnaby’s travels in Jordan had been faithfully recorded – by the Dead Sea, in Wadi Rum and now on the altar overlooking Petra where there is a possibility that human sacrifice took place!

We took our rest, exhausted by the climb and were joined by a very persistent Bedouin lady.  She tried everything.  First beads, water, Bedouin silver, followed by entertainment – playing a primitive flute- then appeal – saying that she was expecting (under her abbaya, it was difficult to tell if this was true).  She snatched a stone from F’s palm that she had nursed for the whole journey, and flung it over the side saying it was bad for her hand. Poor F was bewildered.  I tried to placate her but the lady cottoned on to what she had done and retrieved the stone from a ledge.  We sat there in the sunshine, looking down on the magnificent view of Petra and the surrounding mountains – we had left the dust bowl behind.  It was well worth the climb and totally tranquil – except for our persistent neighbour.  She sat and sat and sat…. and won…money changed hands! We found the path that led us a different way down the rear of the mountain. The coloured rock was carved into steps.   We were the only ones taking this path – in contrast to the hub of the main thoroughfare.  We saw lizards, birds and flowers.  We pretended that we were characters from Lord of the Rings on our quest.  How did I end up as Gollom?!

The wadi we found ourselves at the bottom of our descent was like a secret valley and the carved fascia were exceptionally beautiful in the clear sunlight, the colours too bright to believe.  It was at this point my camera jammed – I couldn’t believe it – but nothing could spoil such a special day.  The only people we came across were Bedouin sellers and groups of their children. Broken pottery fragments kept the girls delving into the sand – my pockets were full of their precious ancient finds.

Horse and carriage into Petra. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

Horse and carriage into Petra – taken in 2016

As we came out of the valley we had to decide whether to push on to a different part or head back.  The girls soldiered on; we had all started to wilt in the full-on sun.  The path that appeared direct, meandered more than we would have liked but we finally made it down to the Katuteh area and into one of the restaurants for a drink under the shade of the trees.  Food and drink choices are very limited on the whole site due to the logistics of operation.  There is no ice-cream either which would have been exceptionally welcome just then!

The site is vast and you would need at least 3 days to take it all in.  One wonders at the impossible task that faces the Jordanians of cataloguing, preserving and managing this World Heritage site.

I had held out all day against a donkey ride thinking that I would save it for when it was really needed – despite the pressure from the girls and the boys (“air-conditioned taxi”).  That moment was now.  We bargained and secured two donkeys to take us back to the Treasury – uphill all the way and a good 20 minutes trudge.  KP and I walked behind, facing the onslaught of other sellers trying to persuade us that we should be on a mount too!   Drinking in a last view of the Treasury we started the 3km walk through the Siq which on the way down is simple but much more taxing after a hard days walking.

A horse-ride back for the girls –”faster, faster”.  I jogged behind as some of the boys had got a little Friday madness and galloped their horses down the hill towards us, careering wildly and shouting “lock up your daughters”.  It was good natured but rather wild and dangerous!

An ice cream at the top, a short stroll back to the hotel, a swim for the girls in the pool that overlooks the mountains ended another very special day in Jordan.

View from Mount Nebo. Visit Jordan on a family holiday -

View from Mount Nebo taken in 2016

Mount Nebo

Up at dawn again and into the restaurant before the organised groups arrived. I had cleaned the sand out of our shoes yet again and we were reunited with Jamal – big hugs from the girls.  He had bought snacks for them for the journey.

We headed through lush countryside but I was disappointed that we joined the desert road rather than taking the King’s Highway.  Jamal explained that way would take a minimum of 7 hours to reach Nebo rather than 3.  It was a bleaker view of Jordan our main sights being potash factories and battery chicken farms, plus the Hejaz railway which ran alongside the road for some of the way.  I saw an amazing amount of kestrels during the journey.

We almost reached Amman and turned off to Madaba – our view changed back to fields, cows, sheep, donkeys and goats.  People stood by the road selling mounds of freshly picked carrots complete with their green ferny tops.

Madaba was a busy town and we stopped outside the Greek Orthodox church St George’s.  We saw the remains of a huge mosaic map of the region.  It was interesting but did not compare with the mosaics of our next stop. We lit a candle in remembrance of the girls’ Great-Gran as this was her faith.  A short journey through rural Jordan took us to Mount Nebo and Moses Memorial church.  We were glad to finally stretch our legs and walked up the tree-lined approach to the monastery.  Just inside the main grounds there was a little dirt track.  Rather than carrying on the conventional route we ducked under the trees and emerged on a hillside covered with wild flowers, olive trees and birdsong.  The view over the valley was magical and the girls started making up stories about fairyland.  We walked around the side of the hill and rejoined the main monastic site by a track beside some of the ruins.

The mosaics inside were beautiful and well-preserved but the main attraction of this place is the view where it is said that God showed Moses the Promised Land.   You can see right over the River Jordan, the Dead Sea and into Israel and on a clear day to Jerusalem.

We strolled back down the hill and got in the car.  F proudly held up a fir cone that she had found and B started to whine because she couldn’t find one.  Jamal leapt out of the car, found a stick and started to beat one down from a tree for her.

Another journey taking us North past Amman, through lush rolling hills and a large Palestinian camp Baqaa.  We stopped at the Green Valley restaurant for lunch.  This was a Lebanese style place under the trees, which served, as well as the usual mezze and grill, delicious bread straight from the oven.  Chips and ketchup satisfied B.


We were introduced to our guide Akram who had been taking tours since 1963.   The girls by this time had had enough mind-improving and ran through the arches and over the cobbled stones.

This huge Roman site has been continually investigated throughout the nineteenth century and still vast amounts (our guide said 80%) lie underground. KP and I marvelled at the scale of it all.  There is a wonderful spot called the South Tetrapylon, where you stand at a crossroads and look North along the Cardo, or main street, to Damascus, West to Jerusalem, East to Baghdad, and South back into the city.  All roads are dead straight and lined with towering columns.  Never before had I had such a sense of what life was like in a Roman city, the rows of shop fronts set back from the main thoroughfare selling luxury goods, the steps leading up to temples beyond.  The theatres – beautifully restored – including one that could be transformed into a swimming pool in Roman times, the Oval Plaza, the Byzantine churches some with mosaic floors, the Hippodrome for chariot racing.

Akram, in common with our other guides, was very knowledgeable and fiercely proud of such an unparalleled treasure.  He pointed out that the people who lived in the town today (in housing built on top of the old Roman residential area) did not have the facilities or quality of life that the Romans experienced (I guess he was not counting the slaves in this analogy).  The beauty and sophistication of the city was enthralling and Akram took us on a circular tour.  Again there was no signage and the site is overgrown, the paths led through the most beautiful wild flowers we had seen.  You couldn’t help comparing it to a National Trust or English Heritage site where funds are more abundant – but what level of funding would be needed to excavate and restore on such a scale?  However this did not detract from our enjoyment in walking through this dramatic and inspirational Roman city. The weather was perfect, the girls careered wildly through the cobbled streets, up the temple stairs, onto the stage of the theatre, around the Hippodrome, scraping knees and getting breathless, talking non-stop all the way.

Akram picked up on my enthusiasm and urged us to revisit.   He also kept telling me how beautiful I was so this went down very well!

Farewell and back to Amman

Our visit to Jordan was at an end; we had one night in Amman before we flew back to Dubai.  We checked into the Radisson SAS, had dinner with B crawling under the table and falling asleep.

We said farewell to Jamal at the airport and Mohammed met us to guide us through check in (you have to pay 5 Dinars each departure tax).  The duty-free section was ridiculously expensive!

We had all enjoyed the trip.  I had seen so many incredible sights in four days that my senses were reeling. I wanted to return for a longer visit and would recommend anyone to go to Jordan at least once in his life.

Practicalities for trip in 2004

I obtained quotes through MMI Travel and Emirates Holidays but eventually booked the tour through Jordan Direct (now rebranded Jordan Select) – a company that I had found on the Internet.  I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Their in-depth knowledge of the country and the best places to stay meant that the itinerary was well planned and every e-mail I sent in the run up to the trip was answered comprehensively on the same day.  Our trip was seamless; our driver was always punctual and provided us with information throughout the trip.

Their MD, Seif Saudi, met me in Amman and I felt we were valued customers.  Our trip included all entrance fees, guides and half-board. This meant that we had to budget only for lunches and tips.

Jordan Select Tours (formely Jordan Eco-Tours) Tel: +962 6 5930588

Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea Tel: +962 5 3561111

  • Guide – I bought The Rough Guide to Jordan (ordered from Magrudys), which was reliable and comprehensive.  The price guides have changed since it was published in early 2002; Jordan is quite an expensive place to visit**  I took Dinars with me and I recommend you carry small denomination notes with you at all times.
  • Dress code – The Rough Guide advised on quite modest dress and against shorts for men, but I think this was over cautious on the type of trip we did.
  • Flights – We flew Emirates, but Royal Jordanian also flies from Dubai to Amman. The prices were similar, but Emirates flies more often.
  • Visa – It took a morning to get visas to Jordan at the Embassy in Dubai.  It is located on Bank Street near the Omani, Indian and Egyptian embassies.
Visit Jordan on

Travel guides, a souvenir book and our room key folder from our visit in 2004

Updates for 2016

*The Movenpick has a robust environmental (with particular attention to water) and social policy now. Top line read here or download the sustainability booklet here – not just lip service as I grilled the MD about it.

** Prices have remained stagnant and in 2016 Jordan is now a very cost-effective place to visit.

*** A horse ride is NOT compulsory into Petra. This was a sales pitch! In 2016 I walked into the Siq!

I contacted Seif Saudi, head of Jordan Select Tours and asked him whether I was correct in my impression that Jordan had not changed much since 2004. This is what he said:

I am glad that you still have fond memories from your first visit to Jordan with us!
You are right about Jordan not having changed much. I think we are more interested in conserving our heritage and archaeological sites than building the newest and flashiest (which we cannot afford to do anyway).
I believe people should visit Jordan because despite all the turmoil around us, Jordan is proof that the middle east can still be a warm, friendly and safe destination. A visit to Jordan will ensure that the people who rely on tourism here will be able to sustain themselves and continue this tradition of hospitality, especially during these difficult times.

Next time, let me show you around Petra… a look inside the rose-coloured city by day and night….

  1. The Real Geordie Armani permalink
    May 21, 2016 8:47 am

    I have to admit Jordan has been on our list of places to visit, lovely review and fabulous memories. Thanks 🙂

  2. May 21, 2016 1:38 pm

    What a place to visit and such memories. I loved looking through all the photos. So evocative. I now want to visit Jordan.

  3. May 21, 2016 2:25 pm

    Jordan is on the bucket list for sure…I like the images you have put together of previous visits and then the more recent ones…bookmarking this for when we do eventually plan our trip Sally:))

  4. May 22, 2016 2:35 pm

    Oh Sally. I want to go even more so now. Have been wanting to do this for years and years. Such a wonderfully detailed post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your memories xx

  5. May 22, 2016 4:42 pm

    Pete and I visited Jordan in 2003 and we really loved it too. Our timing was good for us, bad for the Jordanian people – America were on the verge of invading Iraq and most international travellers cancelled travel to the entire region. We were determined to go – our only rule was that if the UK Foreign Office advised against all travel, we would not be covered by travel insurance and would therefore reluctantly cancel. Luckily, though they advised caution, we were still able to travel. Our group was tiny and we had most sights to ourselves. Selfishly, I can’t regret too much that chance to wander around Petra with so very few people there, but of course, it was an enormous blow to those in the tourism industry and I was glad when travellers returned to the country in higher numbers. We adored Wadi Rum, Jerash and of course, Petra. I would so very dearly love to go back.

  6. hannahsrockingkitchen permalink
    June 1, 2016 11:27 am

    Loved the way you described my home country. Memories poppin`up and leaving me homesick behind. Anyway…the country is changing though. Slowly…but steady.

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