Jordan and its History

Jordan is a land steeped in history. It has been home to some of mankind's earliest settlements and villages, and relics of many of the world's great civilizations can still be seen today. As the crossroads of the Middle East, the lands of Jordan and Palestine have served as a strategic nexus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe. Thus, since the dawn of civilization, Jordan's geography has given it an important role to play as a conduit for trade and communications, connecting east and west, north and south. Jordan continues to play this role today.

Because of its centralized location, the land of Jordan is a geographic prize which changed hands many times throughout antiquity. Parts of Jordan were included in the dominions of ancient Iraq, including the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Mesopotamian Empires. From the west, Pharaonic Egypt extended its power and culture into Jordan, while the nomadic Nabateans built their empire in Jordan after migrating from the south of the Arabian peninsula. Finally, Jordan was incorporated into the classical civilizations of Greece, Rome and Persia, the relics of which are scattered across the Jordanian landscape. Since the mid-seventh century CE, the land of Jordan has remained almost continuously in the hands of various Arab and Islamic dynasties.

The second geographical factor which has helped shape the history of Jordan concerns climate. Only the northern highlands and the Jordan Valley have received enough rainfall to support large populations. Therefore, this area has always been more settled by farmers, villagers and townspeople. Most of the urban civilizations of Jordan have been based in these fertile lands. To the south and east, meanwhile, there is very little rainfall and no rivers for irrigation. These desert areas, which comprise the majority of Jordan, have rarely supported large settled populations. In some periods, there appears to have been no settled population at all. The lifestyle of the Bedouin inhabitants of these desert lands has remained similar in some respects to that of their Edomite or Nabatean predecessors. The contrast between the pastoral "desert" and agriculturally fertile lands is particularly pronounced in Jordan, and much of the area's history can be linked to population shifts between large urban centers and more dispersed, nomadic tribal groups.

Sharif Hussein bin Ali, King Abdullah bin al-Hussein King Talal bin Abdullah King Hussein bin Talal
King of the Arabs and King of the Hijaz Circa 1950   Circa 1951 Circa 1953

 King Abdullah 2

1999 February: King Hussein dies and is succeeded by his son, Abdullah.

 

About Jordan

 

Amman

Formerly the Ammonite capital city of Rabath Ammon and later the Graeco Roman City called Philadelphia, was originally spreading over 7 hills like Rome and crowned by a citadel the still visible ruins of the Temple of Hercules and a museum with artifacts (Umm Ayyad Palace) dating back to the earliest settlement in the region some 6000 years ago. At the foot of the citadel is the 5000 seat Roman Theater. As the capital of Jordan, Amman surprises you with its hospitality and grace, and mystique. Further it provides Modernism and Antiquity at the same time; ruins of Assyrians, Babylonians, Ammonites or Romans are spread all over the area.

Nature And Adventure

Jordan is more than a desert, with four seasons ranging from hot, dry summers, to cool, rainy and often snowy winters. These seasons have helped to shape some of the wondrous beauty of Jordan which regrettably, many visitors miss.

The Middle East offers a fascinating Eco-system unique to this region. Intense heat, the presence of vast stretches of desert and low annual rainfall have all contributed to create this fragile environment filled with fascinating indigenous species of plant and animal life.

The Dana & Shaumari Wildlife Reserves are home to some of Jordan's living national treasures, like the red fox & striped hyena. Many indigenous species, like the Arabian Oryx, ostriches & gazelles have been saved from extinction. On a Discovery tour you can catch a glimpse of burrowing badgers, witness the prickly porcupine in their natural habitats, or come face to face with a lion fish in the crystalline waters of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

For bird watchers, Discovery will take you to the best places at the best times. See thousands of storks on their annual migration or the elusive Little Green Bee-eater hiding in a desert bush.

Flora in Jordan offers an unimaginable variety, from Jordan's national flower, the beautiful Black Iris, to species not found anywhere else in the world. Each year, the fields and hills of Jordan explode in breathtaking panoply of wild flowers. Climb hills dotted with cyclamen, or stroll through fields awash in crown anemone.

Discovery will take you where you can experience the wondrous beauty of Jordan, in a natural and unhurried way. "We won't just show you some animals; we'll help you understand all the facets of Jordan's magnificent environment.

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea eastern coast in Jordan is one of the most spectacular natural and spiritual landscapes in the whole world. A series of new roads, hotels and archaeological discoveries are converging to make this region, the lowest spot on earth at 410 meters below sea level, as enticing to international visitors today as it was to kings, emperors, traders and prophets in antiquity. The Dead Sea's total appeal is due to its unique combination of several factors: the chemical composition of its water, the filtered sunrays and oxygen-rich air, the mineral-rich black mud along the shoreline, and the adjacent fresh water and thermal mineral springs.

The leading attraction at the Dead Sea is the hot, soothing super-salty seawater, which is four times saltier than normal seawater. It is rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine and several others. This unusually salty, buoyant and mineral-rich water has attracted visitors since ancient times, all of whom have floated effortlessly on their backs while soaking up the water's healthy minerals along with the gently defused rays of the Jordanian sun. The water, rich in mineral salts, contains four times the amount of sodium chloride as is found normally in ocean water, making it unsuitable for plant and animal life, but ideal for spas and medical treatment.

Aqaba

Aqaba, with its preserved coral reefs, clean sandy beaches and transparent waters, is an ideal location for both relaxation and water sports.

Sunbathing, swimming, Para-sailing, water skiing and scuba diving, are just some of the activities that can be enjoyed in this famous Red Sea Resort.

The absence of stormy weather, coupled with the mild water currents contribute to clear waters, one of Aqaba's exceptional environmental conditions. Warm, clear waters provide a hospitable environment for the growth of corals, and favorable salinity levels provide an environment for myriad varieties of marine-life forms. Contrary to what many people think, corals are not plants but very delicate animals. Due to their slow rate of growth (About 1 cm/year), the corals that are seen today in the Gulf are centuries old. Besides being a main tourist attraction, the coral reef plays an important role in supporting the survival of various life forms. Thousands of marine creatures coexist in a complex ecosystem ranging form almost invisible species to huge fish and mammals. The warm and clear waters of Aqaba provide a perfect habitat for an array of unique and dazzlingly colored fish that can be experienced without even having to enter the water. The shores of the Gulf are also frequented with friendly sea turtles that spend their time swimming amongst the swirling schools of fish. Whales, dolphins, and sea cows are also often spotted visiting the gulf.

Corals, coral fish, reptiles and mammals are only a few to be named of the countless marine creatures living in the waters of Aqaba. Nocturnal animals such as the crab, shrimp and lobster come alive in search of food in the dark hours of the night.

Besides its natural wonders, Aqaba also boasts a historical dimension. The Mameluk Fort, One of the main historical land marks of Aqaba was originally a Crusader Castle, rebuilt by the Mameluks in the sixteenth century. Square in shape and flanked by semicircular towers, the fort is marked with various inscriptions marking the latter period of the Islamic dynasty. The fortress was originally a crusader castle, extensively rebuilt by the Mameluks in the sixteenth century.

Petra

First settled around 800 BC. by a Semitic tribe from northern Arabia, Petra reached its zenith under the Romans in the second century. The city experienced a succession of habitation, development & leadership but its importance slowly dwindled. It became lost to memory & was only rediscovered when a Swiss explorer stumbled on it in 1812. Fortified behind a narrow, deep Siq (gorge) that slowly winds through a massive rock wall, the majestic facade of the so-called Treasury (Al Khazneh) rises up as if out of a story book. Even a few hours will give you an appreciation for the grandeur which can be created when human-kind work in hand with nature, & produce a spot that exudes hundreds of years of history against a backdrop of aesthetic perfection. The Deir ( Monastery ) & Little Petra, the Neolithic Village of Beida are no question, but that together with the Treasury are also the most unique and striking monuments in Petra.

Hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains, the rock-carved city of Petra is full of mysterious charm. The approach through the cool gloom of the Siq, a long narrow gorge whose steeply rising sides all but obliterate the sun, provides a dramatic contrast with the magic to come. Suddenly the gorge opens into a natural square dominated by Petra's most famous monument, the Khazneh, whose intricately carved facade glows in the dazzling sun.

More facades beckon the visitor on until the ancient city gradually unfolds, one monument leading to the other and so on. The sheer size of the city and the quality of beautifully carved facades is staggering and leads one to reflect on the creativity and industry of the Nabateans who made Petra their capital more than 2,000 years ago. From this capital city they established an elaborate network of caravan routes which brought spices, incense, myrrh, gold, silver and precious stones from India and Arabia , to be traded onto the west.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum, a desert of sand dunes and mountains of sandstone, is situated about 300 Km south of Amman . The beautiful harmony between the mountains and the sand dunes has given Wadi Rum a magical touch that can bewitch its visitors!

Rum is famous to British visitors as the setting of David Lean's epic film Lawrence of Arabia, but it has history also. There are rocks covered in Thamudic inscriptions here, a Nabatean temple and Islamic inscriptions. Massive, weathered rocks stand majestically out of the sands and stretch down avenues of wide sandy valleys as far as the eye can see. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom (a book written by Lawrence of Arabia), Lawrence wrote:"… Rum was vast and echoing and God-like. " The dramatic combination of massive rocks and canyons, sandstone over basalt and granite weathered into weird shapes and colors surrounded by desert sands, rivals Petra in magnificence.

After rain, the scrubby bushes are briefly green and in spring you may find the desert blooming. Broom and thorn bushes grow in the sand with tamarisk and other shrubs, many of them being used by Bedouin for food, soap, teas and medicine. Wadi Rum is a great place for adventure activities; including sand skiing, mountain climbing, micro lighting and camel trekking, in addition to being a relaxing place for harmony and meditation.

Jerash

The ancient city of Jerash boasts as unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years.

The city's golden age came under Roman rule and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East , comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.

Beneath its external Graeco - Roman veneer, Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of east and west. Its architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed and coexisted, The Graeco - Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.

The Jerash festival, held in July every year, transforms the ancient city into one of the worlds liveliest and most spectacular culture events. The festival features folklore dances by local and international groups, ballet, concerts, plays, opera, popular singers and sales of traditional handicrafts, all in the brilliantly floodlit dramatic surroundings of the Jerash ruins.

Although sometimes overshadowed by Petra, the ancient city of Jerash is a highly rewarding experience of great historic significance. Today, it is acknowledged internationally as one of the largest and most well preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy. This fascinating city makes a great day trip from Amman, particularly in spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom. The drive may take you less than an hour. But will transport you 2,000 back in time.

The Desert Castles

Various ancient castles were built by Khalifeh Umayyad in the late 7th and the early 8th century's ad as fortresses. Qasr Amra, the most impressive of the Desert Castles is an early 8th century bath complex in a triple vaulted building covered with lively frescos and fragments of mosaic. Qasr Kharaneh once thought to be built for defense was probably a former caravansary, where camel caravans pulled in for a rest on their way between Arabia, Syria and the north. Qasr Mushatta interesting for its use of fire bricks its huge vaulted roofs and its 23 semi-circular towers was such an ambitious undertaking that it was never completed. Qasr Hallabat, the most ruined of the Umayyad desert complexes was first used as a 2nd century ad roman fort which was rebuilt in the reign of Emperor Caracalla in the early 3rd century ad. Its Umayyad Patrons turned it into a finely decorated building full of mosaics, carved stucco, woodwork and frescos. Qasr Azraq located in the middle of the Azraq Oasis was originally built as a Nabatean or Roman fort and rebuilt in its present form in the early 13th century ad by the Mamluke Governor of the area Izzedin Aybak.

Religious Sites in Jordan

Garden Of Eden

Adam in the garden of Eden

For Christians, this region inspires their faith. This is the place where God first spoke to man. It is the Holy Land where God gave his Ten Commandments to Moses, where Job suffered and was rewarded for his faith, Where Jesus was baptized by John, and where Jacob wrestled with the angel of God. In the Book of Genesis, God refers to the Jordan River Valley around the Dead Sea, as the “Garden of the Lord”, and it is believed to be the location of the Garden of Eden.

Madaba Madaba The City of Mosaics

Madaba’s history goes back 3,500 years. Referred to the Madaba of the Bible was the primary settlement of the Israelites on the Moabite Plateau ( Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9-16). The roman conversion to Christianity gave Madaba a new lease of life. Besides its mosaics, Madaba was subsequently to in King Mesha’s Stele, a memorial inscribed with his greatest achievements.

Mount Nebo

The Byzantine Church at Mt. Nebo

It is there were Moses is said to have stood forbidden by good to enter the Promised Land and where Pisgah in Bible, where he has lived out his days and finally interred. During the middle of the sixth Century, when Byzantine work was at its height, a small church was built at al Mukhayyat, dedicated to the Saints Lot and Procopius and apparently constructed by the native folk of the area. The Ruins of Mt. Nebo reach back to the pages of the Old Testament.

To the east of Madaba, is Umm Ar-Rasas, a very ancient site that is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The rectangular walled city is mostly in ruins but does still include several buildings, as well as four churches and some beautiful stone arches. The main attraction is outside the city walls within the Church of St. Stephen, which contains a very large, perfectly preserved mosaic floor laid down in 718 AD. It portrays fifteen major cities of the Holy Land from both east and west of the River Jordan. This magnificent mosaic is second only to Madaba’s world famous mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Kerak

Qir Moab as it is called in the Bible has been the prized possession of a multitude of forces. Almost a thousand meters above the plateau of the Dead Sea Valley, as well as on the main biblical trade routes assigned Kerak a strategic position and made it the jewel in many conquerors’ crowns. The first part of the fifth century AD witnessed the arrival of Christianity in the city. In 1136 it is recorded that Payen, the Cupbearer, constructed the great fortress of Kerak under the instructions of Baldwin I, the Monarch of Jerusalem. By the death of Baldwin III, he left a sole heir, who was too young to rule, and appointed therefore a regent, who then died, leaving a widow, Stephanie, who was by then one of the wealthiest and most powerful dowageress in the Holy Land. A Nobleman, Reynaud De Chatillon, who had came to the Holy Land with the second crusade, proposed to Stephanie and married her. With his brutal and sarcastic habits he ruled with his inhumanity and sadism acts. When the young heir of Baldwin III became sixteen, he saw little hope for the Kingdom, which was divided by internal disputes and threats of war with Muslim forces, so Baldwin IV went to Saladin appealing for peace, which was then established. Now it was safe for Christians and Muslims to travel in each land, until Rained attacked and plundered a Muslim caravan heading towards Mecca. In respond to this act, Saladin also attacked Christian Pilgrims en route to Jerusalem and continued then with Kerak itself, when additional support for the Christians’ aid arrived from Jerusalem. At the battle of Hittin, Kerak was captured and Reynaud executed by Saladin. A year later, in 1187, Kerak finally fell into the hand of the Arabs.

IRBID, UMM QAYS, AL-HIMMA & PELLA

IRBID

Jordan's second largest city is situated at an equal distance from Pella and Umm Qays, and is a bustling community with a large university. Though not an important city for sightseeing, Irbid houses two very worthwhile museums, and forms a good base from which to explore the northern Jordan Valley or to start a trip to Syria. In addition to Jarash and Amman, Gadara (modern Umm Qays) and Pella (known as Tabaqat Fahl) were once Decapolis cities, and each has unique appeal.

UMM QAYS (GADARA)

Site of the famous miracle of the Gadarene swine, Gadara was renowned in its time as a cultural centre. It was the home of several classical poets and philosophers, including Theodorus, founder of a rhetorical school in Rome; one poet called the city "a new Athens". Perched on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, Umm Qays boasts an impressive colonnaded terrace and the ruins of two theatres. You can take in the sights and then dine on the terrace of a fine restaurant with a breathtaking view of three countries.

AL-HIMMA

Therapeutical hot springs located about 10 km north of Umm Qays and highly regarded by the Romans. There are two bathing facilities: a privately run, high quality complex and a public bath complex with separate timetables for men and women.

PELLA (TABAQAT FAHL)

A favourite of archaeologists - it is exceptionally rich in antiquities, some of which are exceedingly old. Besides the excavated ruins from the Graeco-Roman period, including an Odeon (theatre), Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, the remains of Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches and houses, an Early Islamic residential quarter, and a small medieval mosque.

Pella: there are many interesting archaeological sites, many of them still under excavation. Important are the 6th century West Church, 6th century Civic Complex Church, 1st century Odeon (Theatre), Roman Nyphaeum and East Church.

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