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the four corners of the middle east

Updated: May 15, 2023

Whilst snorkeling in the Red Sea, above the Cedar Pride shipwreck, I took a minute to gaze out at the surrounding skylines of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. Such an odd sensation to be so close to these interesting countries, but unable to explore them without proper documentation.

It was during a recent 9-day tour around Jordan that I found myself at the junction of these four Middle Eastern nations. Jordan, officially called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab kingdom in Western Asia. It occupies a strategic location in the Middle East, sharing borders with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Israel/Palestine and linking the Asian and African continents.

Given the proximity of Jordan to its neighbors who are at war, it’s understandable that people have doubts about Jordan’s safety. While it is advised that all non-essential travel near the Syrian and Iraqi borders be avoided, the rest of Jordan is actually very safe. Jordanian security forces monitor conflict closely and they are committed to making security their number one priority, especially for tourists, since tourism is one of the most important elements contributing to Jordan’s economy.

In addition to making tourists feel safe, the Jordanians are wonderfully welcoming. They view tourists as their guests. It’s not uncommon for the locals to strike up a conversation, ask lots of questions, give you information about their beloved nation or invite you to join them for tea. At one point a stranger in the airport even offered to let me use his mobile to contact the driver I had arranged.

Lovely people is only one reason to visit Jordan. The real gems are the unique travel experiences and the archaeological interests including water activities in the Red Sea, visiting the lowest point on the planet, defying gravity in the Dead Sea, staying at a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum and exploring Petra (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World).

Jordan is quite small and can be navigated fairly easily by car or plane. Having now been, I would recommend some variation of the following itinerary, depending on how much time you have:

  • Fly in and out of Amman Airport, but, in my opinion, there’s no real reason to spend a significant amount of time in Amman, unless you are there for business or to catch up with friends.

  • Upon arrival in Amman, go straight to the Dead Sea. I visited both the Marriott and the Movenpick resorts there. Movenpick is much more spectacular, but the beach is quite a small area. The Marriott is also beautiful and has a bigger beach front area. Spend at least 1 day/night at the Dead Sea.

  • Then fly or drive down to Aqaba and snorkel/dive/relax by the Red Sea. Royal Jordanian offers two cheap flights each day. I stayed at the Intercontinental. But there is also a very nice Movenpick down there and a brand new Westin is opening June 2017.

  • From Aqaba, hire a driver or a car and go to Wadi Rum for a night or two. There are plenty of things to do there including: sleeping under the stars, rock climbing, trekking, horse riding, Jeep tours, etc.

  • Head to Petra on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday for Petra by Night (17 J.D.). Stay at either Petra Guest House or Movenpick. Both are very close to the entrance into Petra. Following Petra by Night, head to the Cave Bar, right at the entrance into Petra, for a drink or two. Wake up early the next morning and spend the full day exploring Petra (50 J.D.). You need a solid 4-6 hours to see Petra, and a comfy pair of shoes. One of the best parts about Petra is that you have the freedom to wander around anywhere within the confines. Don’t miss seeing the Monastery. It’s quite a hike, but well worth it. There are donkeys, mules and camels for hire, if you prefer not to climb all the stairs.

Know Before You Go:

  • Jordanian Dinar (J.D.) is the currency. At the time I visited it was 1:1 with the Great British Pound.

  • Hotels are equipped with outlets that accommodate both UK and European plugs.

  • Amman has Uber (albeit only a few drivers), but it’s a substantially cheaper option than taxi or car service arranged by hotels.

  • The Dead Sea is about 50 minutes from Amman.

  • At the Dead Sea, you will be at the lowest point on the planet – 420 meters below sea-level.

  • If you have water shoes/waterproof sandals, you might want to consider bringing them and wearing them in the Dead Sea. It’s very rocky at the entrance.

  • Don’t shave your legs before visiting the Dead Sea, ladies. Ouch!

  • Don’t wear any jewelry in the Dead Sea. The minerals will tarnish it.

  • Be prepared to be swatting a lot of flies when you’re by the Red or Dead Seas.

  • Modesty and discretion should be exercised in both dress and behavior.

  • You need your passport to buy your tickets into Petra.

  • Driving in Jordan is a bit crazy. The traffic lanes are merely a suggestion.


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