Crossing Jordan:
Wisdom, Enlightenment, and Euphoria in the Hashemite Kingdom

Middle Eastern Perceptions and Perspectives
by Peter Flaherty

“Plucky little Jordan. In the middle of a tough neighbourhood, stuck between 'I-raq' and a hard place (Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia), surrounded by political extremism and the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, devoid of the region’s great oil reserves and running out of water, it’s been a tough few years for the tiny kingdom” — Bradley Mayhew, Lonely Planet Guide to Jordan, April 2006.


When I first learned that I had been invited to participate in a media trip to Jordan, to be hosted by that country’s tourist board, I was sitting in a hotel room in Rome, Italy. It was mid-summer 2006, and the always-troubled Middle East was erupting into an even greater state of fury than usual. Israeli forces were battling against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and also engaged in a tense standoff with the radical Hamas government of the Palestinian territories over the capture of one of their soldiers. Bombs were falling on Beirut, and it looked as if the entire region might explode into a wider conflict at any moment. Needless to say, I was surprised, intrigued, and somewhat apprehensive about the prospect of a visit to Jordan, a country that was right in the middle of that violent part of the world, at that particular moment.

There had been some preliminary discussions of a tour a few months before, but once the hostilities started, I was almost certain that the prospect of an early trip to Jordan would be placed firmly on the back burner until the situation calmed down, whenever that might be. But true to its plucky, take-risks image, the Jordan North America Tourist Board had decided that this was in fact the best time to challenge some widespread misperceptions about the country. The first of these, of course, was that it was in fact a dangerous place for foreign travellers to visit because of conflicts raging in other parts of the Middle East. Our group was especially invited to see for itself the many fascinating and diverse attractions of the Hashemite Kingdom, which are more specifically profiled in the articles accompanying this overview. But we were also being given the first-hand opportunity to gain a new perspective as to just how different this country is from the rest of that conflict-plagued region, and why it was indeed a stable and safe destination for prospective tourists to consider for an unforgettable visit.


Jordan is indeed a small country, only 96,188 square. kilometres in area. It is almost landlocked, bordering Israel and the Palestinian Territories to the west, Syria to the north, and Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the east. The port of Aqaba, at the northern tip of the Red Sea, is the country’s only access to salt water. From that historic city, where the Arab revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule began during World War I, one travels north along the banks of the Wadi Araba to the shores of the Dead Sea. From there the Jordan River stretches north to the Sea of Galilee, forming the long and sometimes tense border with Israel. Jordan’s population is approximately six million, with an estimated 1.7 people of Palestinian origin now citizens of the country. In addition, there has been a large wave of Iraqi immigration since the beginning of the conflict there in 2003. Amman, the country’s capital and by far the largest city, is home to almost a third of its total inhabitants, with a growing population of almost two million. Jordan is a predominantly Muslim country, with 80 per cent of its people adhering to Sunni Islam and another 15 per cent professing the Shi’ite branch of the faith. The country’s small minority Christian population (about 5 per cent), enjoys complete religious freedom and is prominent in the country’s economic, social, and political life. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, under the rule of King Abdullah II, who ascended the Hashemite throne following the death of his father, the world-renowned and much beloved King Hussein, in 1999.


As the Royal Jordanian aircraft carrying the group from New York to Amman crossed the eastern Mediterranean, I realized with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I was indeed entering the Middle East. After the rugged Greek islands passed from view, the incredibly blue waters of the Mediterranean gave way to a stretch of sandy seacoast and a modern city below. We were flying directly over Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel. Only a short distance north of that city, Hezbollah rockets had recently been flying, until the late-summer cease-fire had finally taken effect, making our trip actually possible. From there we crossed the craggy, arid, and mountainous terrain of the West Bank, and from the plane’s window I could spot both the isolated, neatly-laid-out Jewish settlements occupying the high ground and the sprawling Palestinian towns stretched out in the valleys below. The political geography of that long, bitter, and seemingly intractable conflict was there before my eyes as the plane began its final descent into Amman’s modern Queen Alia International Airport. As it touched down on a runway that appeared to have been built in the middle of the desert, my sense of anticipation mounted. This was my first visit to the Middle East. Most of the people I had talked to in the weeks before the visit, including close friends and family members, had expressed strong reservations and concerns to me about my plans. What would I experience here in Jordan? How would our group be received? Would we find ourselves on the immediate fringe of a war zone? What indeed would the next two weeks hold for us?


Jordan is a relatively new country occupying an ancient land. It only gained its independence from British rule in 1946, having been ruled by that country as a League of Nations mandate since the end of World War I. King Abdullah I, the great-grandfather of the present monarch, became the nation’s first ruler. Along with his elder brother Faisal, Abdullah had played a major role in assisting British forces struggling against the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East during the war. It was at this time that the legendary British officer T.E. Lawrence, or “Lawrence of Arabia” had allied himself with the two brothers in their campaign for an independent Arab state in the Middle East. But instead of full self-government, Faisal and Abdullah had to settle for limited autonomy as rulers of the new states of Iraq and Transjordan, which the British authorities established as their mandated territories under the terms of a secret agreement with France, which was in turn given control over Syria. Iraq, and Jordan thus became separate entities, each one ruled by a different member of the Hashemite royal family, and this was to remain the case until a bloody coup in 1958 toppled the monarchy in Iraq, paving the way for the eventual rise to power of dictator Saddam Hussein.

But Jordan has been the site of continuous human habitation since before the dawn of recorded history. The remains of some of the oldest Neolithic (new stone age) settlements in the world have been discovered near Petra, and along the banks of the Jordan River, dating back over 9000 years. Throughout the course of ancient history, Jordan has tended to find itself on the margins rather than at the centre of the succession of great empires that have risen, ruled, and fallen over the millennia. Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and European Crusaders have all crossed through Jordan throughout many centuries of history, fighting, trading, establishing settlements, and leaving their own religious, cultural, and architectural traces that can still be seen across the country.

During the Bronze Age, 3000-2100 BCE, a Semitic people known as the Canaanites emerged as the dominant force in the area, establishing important trade links with their Egyptian, Syrian, and Palestinian neighbours. Between 1500 and 1200 a number of tribes, including most notably the Hebrew-speaking people who came to be known as the Israelites, had entered the region. As the Iron Age progressed, from 1200 to 330 BCE, three kingdoms dominated Jordan: the Edomites in the south, the Moabites in the centre, and the Ammonites to the north. Each kingdom had its own capital, and it was during this period that Biblical scholars believe the journey of Moses and his Hebrew followers to the Promised Land may have occurred. To this day it is possible to visit Mount Nebo, where it is believed God showed Moses the “land of milk and honey,” now a part of the Palestinian Territories, stretching into the distance from the summit of Mount Nebo, one of the holiest sites in Christendom.

Over the following centuries, Jordan fell under the rule of the great Hebrew King Solomon, the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar, and finally the legendary Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who took control of the region during his campaigns against the Persians in 333 BCE. Following Alexander’s early death, one of his trusted generals, Seleucus, established a dynasty that was to rule Jordan and much of the Middle East until the advent of Roman domination, beginning in the first century before the birth of Christ. It was at this time that the great city of Petra was literally carved from the pink rocks of the mountains of southern Jordan. The Nabataeans, the mysterious people who built Petra, were an Aramaic-speaking tribe whose control of the key trade routes between the Arabian Peninsula and the Red and Mediterranean seas gave them great economic and political influence in the region. The high point of their civilization occurred during the reign of the great kind Aretas IV, during the first century BCE, shortly before the Nabataean kingdom fell under the domination of Rome.


Traces of the Roman Empire can still be found throughout Jordan. The impressive ruins of the city of Jerash, north of Amman, known as Gerasa in Roman times, are among the best preserved in the entire Mediterranean region, and stand as a silent testimony to the extent and power of that great empire. Once the Roman Empire became officially Christian, under the reign of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, thousands of pilgrims began to flock to the major Biblical sites dotted throughout Jordan. These include Mount Nebo, Lot’s cave, and most significantly Bethany beyond the Jordan River, where John the Baptist is supposed to have baptized Jesus Christ. Some of the earliest churches in Christianity were built on these sites and their ruins, many adorned with beautiful mosaics, can still be seen and marvelled at today. But the era of Christian domination came to a sudden and decisive end by the middle of the 7th century, when the forces of Islam swept out of the Arabian Peninsula to gain control of the entire Middle East and North Africa, eventually advancing as far as Spain.


Jordan’s Islamic heritage is profound but its traditional tolerance of other religions, most notably Christianity probably dates from the period of the Umayyad dynasty, that held sway over the Middle East from its glittering capital of Damascus in Syria. The Umayyads practised a moderate, enlightened form of Islam that encouraged culture and the arts, and was open-minded in its dealings with Jewish and Christian minorities under its rule.


Cultivated Amman, by Bob Fisher

Amman is a vibrant and modern city but one that, at the same time, has preserved many historical and cultural treasures. Read more...

To view a slideshow of Amman, CLICK HERE

The Many Lives of Jerash, by Bob Fisher

One of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the Mediterranean area, Jerash is notable especially for its openness and visual beauty. Read more...

To view a slideshow of Jerash, CLICK HERE

Mosaics and Moses: The View From Jordan, by Peter Flaherty

Jordan is Biblical history and the crossroads of many ancient cultures, religions, and civilizations. Three of the most spectacular historica and archeological sites in Jordan are Mt. Nebo, Madaba, and Kerak. Read more...

Incomparable Petra, by Peter Flaherty

The world-famous “rose city” of Petra is one of the greatest and most beautiful archeological sites in the world. Read more...

To view a slideshow of Petra, CLICK HERE

The Silence and Serenity of Wadi Rum, by Bob Fisher

To travel through — and to spend the night in — this vast and monumental landscape is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Read more...

To view a slideshow of Wadi Rum, CLICK HERE

From the Red to the Dead, by Peter Flaherty

Travelling the length and breadth of Jordan is an opportunity to contextualize the geography and topography of the Middle East — and to gain a new visual and cultural perspective. Read more...

A Medley of Images from Jordan

Jordan is a non-stop photo-op, and a visual metaphor-a-minute experience.

To view a slideshow of various images from Jordan, CLICK HERE

The Jordan Travel and Tourism Industry

To watch a short video of Jordan, CLICK HERE. (With a high speed Internet connection, this video opens in QuickTime. Please be patient as the video is about 36 minutes in length.)

This video has been provided to Talking Travel by the Jordan North American Tourism Board. In addition to the beautiful images of Jordan, the video also gives insight into the travel and tourism industry in Jordan.

As is the case in other sectors of Jordanian society we observed, this nation is progressive and forward-thinking in terms of the travel and tourism industry. Its “National Tourism Strategy 2004 - 2010" is a comprehensive and laudable business plan that has identified the following as priority niche markets: Cultural Heritage (Archeology); Religious; Eco-tourism; Health and wellness; Cruising; Meetings, incentives, and events (MICE); Adventure; and Summer and Family holidays. The plan also emphasizes "sustained growth" and that "tourism should deliver the optimum benefit to the economy, people, and communities of Jordan."

The document also contains a section devoted to Social Equity in which, among other stated priorities, the travel and tourism industry In Jordan will emphasize that "Tourism should contribute to poverty alleviation...," should be "inclusive and involve people, culture and communities," should "always consider social impacts and the potential deterioration of underlying resources and should plan to minimize them...," and "should invest in skill development and training to enhance human resource development..."

One particular statement contained in the document struck a chord with us:

"In this very fragmented and complex industry, the single universal commonality shared among all public and private stakeholders is the traveler who seeks to navigate seamlessly around the globe from destination to destination and supplier to supplier, and complete multiple transactions in a secure environment."

When in Jordan, Do as the Jordanians

Roy, Peter, and Bob personally recommend the following:

  • A walk in the Souq in Old Amman
  • Blue Fig restaurant and night club
  • Visit a local school if you can arrange it.
  • Dinner or lunch at the Kan Zaman restaurant in Amman
  • Lunch at the UM Khalil House when visiting Jerash
  • A real Turkish bath (The Salome) in Petra, especially after the arduous but once-in-a-lifetime five-hour hike from Little Petra to The Monastery
  • A cruise with lunch and snorkeling from Aqaba on the Red Sea (see You will marvel at the fact that you are looking at Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
  • Dinner under the stars at The Grill at the Moorish-style Mövenpick hotel at the Dead Sea.
  • Covering yourself with the mineral-rich black mud from the Dead Sea and then floating on the top of the latter

Looking for a Tour to Jordan?

For a list of tour operators who specialize in Jordan CLICK HERE.


See Jordan (The North American Jordan Tourist Board Website)

Visit Jordan (The International Jordan Tourist Board Website)

Royal Jordanian Airlines

The King Hussein Website (the Father of Modern Jordan)

The Middle Eastern Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibits (MICE) Website for Jordan

The Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

First Jordan: Multilingual Business and Tourism Portal

Jordanian embassies around the world


Interesting and important remains of the Umayyads can be found to the east of Amman in the form of a series of “desert castles” where Ummayad caliphs repaired for pleasure and relaxation, escaping the duties and pressures of office. The beautiful frescoes of Qusayr Amra, one of the best preserved of these “pleasure palaces,” depicts scenes of musicians, nude women bathers, hunters, banquet scenes, and scantily-dressed dancing girls. All of this appears to be in stark contrast to traditional Islamic artistic prohibitions, and is an indication of just how liberal the Ummayads were in their approach to the enjoyment of good living.

In the centuries that followed a series of rival Islamic dynasties struggled for control of the Middle East. Among them were the Abbasids of Baghdad, the Fatimids of Cairo, and finally the semi-nomadic Seljuk Turks, who swept out of central Asia to control the region by the end of the 10th century. This period had seen the flowering of Islamic culture throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Muslim Spain, which included the preservation and translation of a number of nearly-lost Greek and Roman classical writings, such as those of Plato and Aristotle. Arab doctors, scientists, philosophers, and engineers made startling advances in their respective fields of study at a time when most of Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages. The debt the West owes to Islam for nurturing and enhancing the cultural achievements of antiquity is great indeed, and not always recognized to the extent it deserves.

However, despite these significant cross-cultural exchanges, the Christian and Muslim civilizations were destined to enter into a prolonged and bitter struggle. The conflict was to be fought over control of the holy places of Jerusalem during the Crusades, and it began in 1095 when Pope Urban II called on the feudal knights of Europe to recapture them from the Islamic “infidels.” For the next 200 years, Jordan and the rest of the Middle East became a battleground between the clashing armies of the Christian cross and the Islamic crescent. Perhaps the most important historic site from this dramatic era is the imposing castle of Karak located on the King’s Highway south of the city of Madaba. Karak was a Crusader stronghold, built by a French nobleman known as King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1142. The castle’s next ruler was the sadistic Renauld de Chatillon, who enjoyed tossing prisoners over the steep castle walls into the abyss below. The great and chivalrous Saladin, the Kurdish-born Muslim leader who battled against Crusaders such as Richard Coeur-de-lion, captured Karak after an epic seige in 1183. Upon discovering that a wedding celebration was taking place inside the castle, Saladin asked in what part of the building the newlyweds were spending their wedding night. He then instructed his catapult engineers to avoid targeting that part of the castle. For this the bride’s mother rewarded the Muslim leader and his troops with some of the delicacies from the wedding feast!

Following the end of the Crusades and the departure of the Christian knights from the Middle East, Jordan was ruled by the Mamluks, a group of ex-slaves from Cairo who had risen up against their overlords and established their own Islamic kingdom. The Crusader castles were recaptured and turned into staging posts for message-bearing pigeons. But the Mamluks, fierce and disciplined fighters, who had been able to withstand the onslaught of the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, eventually fell to the advancing Ottoman Turks by the early 16th century. The succeeding centuries of Ottoman rule, from the splendid capital of Istanbul in Turkey, brought some important economic and social changes to Jordan, although it was not an important part of their empire. By the early 20th century, the Arab peoples of the Middle East were becoming restive and resentful of their Turkish overlords, and during World War I the “Arab revolt” against Ottoman rule, aided by Britain, spread throughout Jordan. The huge flag of that revolt dominates the harbour of Aqaba to this day, in honour of the fighters who first raised their standard against the Ottomans in 1915.


Confronted by the more technologically advanced civilizations of Europe, the Arab world faced some serious dilemmas regarding how to respond as the 20th century progressed. One group of Arab scholars and leaders advocated a policy of westernization and modernization that would enable the region to advance and defend itself against further encroachments of European colonialism. But another faction argued that the only hope for the Arabs lay in a return to the fundamentals of their Islamic culture, and a firm rejection of western ways. It is obvious from contemporary events that this struggle for the soul of the Arab peoples has still to be resolved. But in Jordan, at any rate, the forces of modernization, coupled with a strong determination to preserve the essentials of the country’s Arab identity and Islamic tradition and culture, appear to be on the ascendant. Since 1946, they have been strongly promoted by the country’s two main rulers since independence, the father and son team of Kings Hussein and Abdullah.

Under Hussein’s rule Jordan’s troops twice took up arms against Israel, during the 1948 struggle after Israel’s creation under United Nations auspices, and again in the Six Day War of 1967. Both of these military conflicts brought serious hardship to the country, with thousands of Palestinian refugees flooding into Jordan for safety ahead of advancing Israeli forces. After the 1967 defeat, Jordan lost control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which fell under Israeli control. In addition, the country’s political situation was further complicated and destabilized by the presence in Amman of Yasser Arafat’s guerrilla group, the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Hussein finally expelled from Jordan during after a bloody month-long struggle known as “Black September” in 1970. Since then, both King Hussein and his son Abdullah have been forces for restraint and moderation in the Middle East, a region where the shrill voices of extremism are all-too-frequently heard on both sides of the yawning Arab-Israeli divide.

Jordan’s rulers in the post-independence era have faced a number of serious challenges, some of which continue to confront King Abdullah and his ministers today. Lacking the bountiful oil reserves of neighbouring Arab states, Jordan has been obliged to adopt other strategies for economic development. Among the most important of these is of course tourism, which accounts for approximately 10 per cent of its GDP and is growing steadily. Water has also been a serious resource problem, for Jordan is a primarily arid, desert country with scanty and infrequent rainfall. The Jordan River, which it shares with Israel, is its primary source of that precious commodity, and much of the country’s thriving agricultural activities in the Jordan valley in the north depend on it. One of the most important clauses in the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement dealt with just how the waters of the Jordan River were to be equitably shared between the two countries. The country’s welfare state, a model for much of the rest of the Arab world, is administered by a number of agencies sponsored by various members of the royal family. Education, health care, and other social services are available to citizens throughout the country, and Jordan stands at 90 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, one of the best scores for any Middle Eastern country with the exception of Israel and the oil-rich Gulf states.

Jordan is certainly an oasis of peace in a very troubled region of the world. The basically pro-American foreign policy, and its willingness to sign a comprehensive peace treaty with its former enemy Israel in 1994 has won it generous grants of foreign aid from the United States and other western countries. However, as an Arab nation, Jordan has firmly endorsed the demands of the Palestinians for their own viable and independent state, and has strongly criticized Israeli policies, such as the summer 2006 war against Lebanon and the continuing occupation of Palestinian land. Both King Hussein and his son Abdullah have sought tirelessly to use their good offices with Washington, Tel Aviv, and other western capitals to bring about a comprehensive resolution to this ongoing conflict that would be acceptable and just to both parties. To date, however, there is unfortunately very little progress to show for these efforts. In an interview with western reporters during the summer 2006 war, King Abdullah expressed the view that if this dispute were not solved soon, it could drag on for decades, with negative impacts not only for Jordan, but for the entire Middle East region.

Since the introduction of a limited form of parliamentary democracy, leading to the enfranchisement of women and the formation of political parties, it has been possible for ordinary Jordanians to express their views on important national issues. The main opposition group in Parliament is a fundamentalist faction known as the Islamic Action Front (IAF), closely linked to the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood. However, the power of the elected Parliament to influence the King and his ministers in their formulation of government policy is limited. For this reason, it is difficult to determine the extent of the influence of Islamic fundamentalism over average Jordanians today.


However, I was able to derive some impressions from the frequent and very open conversations with a number of Jordanians from all walks of life that I was able to have during my visit. Most of them, from Palestinian-born taxi drivers to middle-class tourism professionals, view themselves as Arab “moderates,” strong supporters of secular democracy at home and a just settlement of the Israel-Palestine dispute. These are the very people whose interests and goals U.S. President George W. Bush claims his policies are designed to promote throughout the Middle East. But the common thread of all these very interesting discussions was a growing sense of frustration on their part that the unbalanced, unquestioning pro-Israel policy of the current American administration was in fact backfiring, playing directly into the hands of Islamic extremists and making their own moderate position increasingly untenable. They could only hope that a more equitable viewpoint might emerge from whatever president entered the White House after the 2008 election.


In November 2005 Amman was rocked by a deadly series of bombings that took over 60 lives and damaged three of the capital’s major hotels. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for these terrorist acts, intending to harm Jordan’s lucrative tourist industry and punish King Abdullah’s government for its pro-American policies and diplomatic ties with Israel. While we were in Jordan, we were aware of the impressive security measures that the government had taken in the wake of these tragedies, including armed guards and metal barriers in front of the hotels we visited. Security checks at the major historic and archaeological sites, such as Petra, were also very thorough, although never intrusive or intimidating.

A tragic and unfortunate incident did in fact take place in Amman while we were visiting the country. An apparently deranged individual opened fire on a group of tourists who were touring the impressive remains of the Roman theatre in Amman, killing one British man and wounding a few others. It was indeed a bitter irony that this incident should have occurred in the middle of our visit to Jordan, and we received news of it while touring the magnificent ruins of Petra. The reaction of the entire group to this event was unhesitating and unanimous — we wanted to continue with our tour without any changes in itinerary, no additional security and ample opportunities to meet and converse with ordinary Jordanians. In fact, while we had visited the old market area of Amman, a neighbourhood very close to the Roman theatre, we had been struck by the degree of friendliness and courtesy with which we had been received by local merchants and shoppers. Later, when I heard news reports that this area was perceived as a “hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism,” and “hostile to foreigners,” I had to wonder whether I had been in the same part of Amman that these very distorted and uninformed reports were describing.

Jordan’s government and people are aware of the difficulties they face in overcoming negative perceptions of their country and its tourist potential. In meetings we held with a number of senior political officials, including the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of the Environment, and a senator and close advisor to King Abdullah, these issues were raised and addressed in a very open and frank manner. As part of its effort to promote its many and fascinating tourist attractions, Jordan is ambitiously developing a number of “market niches” for potential visitors. Among these are eco-tourism, concentrated in spectacular nature preserves such as Dana, archaeological travel, with sites such as Petra and Jerash at the top of the list, and finally Biblical or religious tourism, based in holy sites such as the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and Bethany. Jordan’s tourist infrastructure is world-class, and the country offers a wide range of accommodations from five-star hotels to more modest guesthouses scattered across the country. One of the most memorable of our nights in Jordan, however, had to be the night we spent sleeping out under the stars in the magical, moonlit desert of Wadi Rum. Most of the major tourist sites are easily accessible by car or bus. While most first-time visitors to Jordan would probably opt for an organized tour, the country’s transportation infrastructure is advanced enough to offer ample opportunities for the independent traveller to explore the country on his or her own.

Jordan’s cuisine is also varied and always delicious. Middle Eastern food is of course the main staple, but it is possible to sample dishes from other parts of the world, including Italy and China, in cities like Amman. There were two memorable meals that particularly stand out among the many we enjoyed during our visit. The first of these was definitely the mensaf, or chicken with rice, which the group had the opportunity to prepare for itself in the Petra Kitchen, under the watchful expert supervision of the assembled cooking staff. The second was zerb, a feast of chicken, lamb, and rice that was cooked in a huge cauldron beneath the baking desert sands of Wadi Rum. When it was ready to eat, our Bedouin guides dug it out of the sand after nightfall, their efforts illuminated by the headlights of the four-wheel vehicles that had transported us to that marvellous desert oasis. Feasting on this delicious dish alfresco and under the stars was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the last day of our visit, as the bus took us from our Dead Sea hotel back to Amman for the flight home, I felt a strong desire to continue my visit to Jordan. Failing that, I hoped at least to return sometime soon to see the places I had been unable to visit this time. The JNTB had provided us with a very thorough and well-organized itinerary, enabling the group to visit some of the most interesting and impressive sites Jordan has to offer. But there was still so much more that I wanted to see, especially the desert “pleasure palaces” and the spectacular nature preserve of Dana. Jordan is a small country with much to offer the visitor, but perhaps its most attractive feature is the genuine warmth, generosity, and hospitality of its wonderful people. During our trip, we were invariably greeted with the expression, Ahlan wa sahlan! This means “Make yourself at home and be at your ease!" We were always made to feel that way in Jordan. I am sure that anyone who is able to move beyond the misperceptions he or she may have of this delightful country will come away with an entirely different and positive perspective on the Hashemite Kingdom and its many rich and varied charms.