If there ever was a modern day, Petra-style hidden treasure, swamped by a tidal wave of media paranoia, then Jordan is it. It has magnificent scenery, a rich culture and more ancient relics than Lawrence of Arabia could shake a camel at.
Travelling the length and near breadth of this Hashemite Kingdom last week I was reminded of what an appealing destination it is. I felt safe, excited and charmingly underwhelmed by the unusually low tourist numbers.
As well as re-visiting the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, the Dead Sea and the stupendous desert landscapes of Wadi Rum and Feynan, I retraced my steps up and down Kings Highway, Desert Highway and the Jordan Valley escarpment.
I urge you to visit Jordan as soon as possible. Not least so you can delight in visiting their world renowned heritage sites, all relatively tourist-free. Our local tourism-dependent colleagues are reporting a drop in visitor numbers of up to 70% in the last two or three years. As this will no doubt soon change, this means the opportunity to explore sites such as the ancient wonder of Petra has never been better.
Since the site of Petra is so huge (extending at least 6o sq kms) you have a rare chance to imagine how it must have felt when the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt first stumbled upon it in 1812. During my visit across the mountain path last week, I entered at the Monastery end of Petra. By the end of the day I was able to duck and dive around the Royal Tombs, Theatre, Street Facades and Treasury, relatively crowd-free. Indeed when I climbed to the High Place of Sacrifice I was all but alone, apart from my travel industry companion Chris Rowles and our guide.
Don’t be mistaken: the majesty of Petra is not the only reason to visit Jordan. As these photos – all taken last week – show, a multitude of adventure experiences, historical sites, cultural phenomena, culinary treats and grand standing landscapes also await.
I can also guarantee that one of your abiding memories of a trip to Jordan will be of the friendliness of the people. Their warm welcome to travellers is as enthusiastic as it has ever been.
Truth is, while the rest of the world freaks out at all the doom and gloom in the Middle Eastern neighbourhood, Jordan’s charm will only be enjoyed by those in the know.
So, now that you are in the know… go!