By Michelle Karaman-Jones
If you love the cinematic masterpieces of The Sheik (1921), The Ten Commandments (1956) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and you picture yourself immersed in the magnificence and beauty of the Middle East, then Jordan awaits with its stunning attractions and 500,000-year history.
That was how I felt when I joined a touring group and rediscovered Petra, the Dead Sea and an eco lodge in the middle of nowhere.
The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks and Crusaders traded, built cities, fought wars and left behind everlasting cultural influences in Jordan.
My unforgettable adventure began with Roman ruins – the temple of Hercules on Citadel Mountain – in Amman, the capital and largest city.
Next stop was the 500-year-old village of Dana, on the edge of a large natural gorge, Wadi Dana.
Our first night was spent at Feynan Eco Lodge in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, a non-governmental organisation devoted to the preservation of Jordan’s natural resources and operated by Eco Hotels.
The company took over the lodge in 2009 so guests could experience the wilderness, meet Bedouins and re-discover the rich history, with a minimum impact on the environment.
A pleasant surprise was waiting for us when we arrived: a candle-lit dinner under the stars and visiting a Bedouin tent to hear folk stories over excellent coffee.
The lodge rooms delighted guests because of their spaciousness, generator-powered lights and free Wi-Fi hotspots. Unbelievable!
We visited two historic sites on the second day: Wadi Rum and Petra.
Wadi Rum is 720 square kilometres of desert wilderness, dwarfed by 1700-metre high sandstone and granite mountains.
The narrow canyons and fissures cut deep into the mountains and if one looked carefully and confidently, he or she would find ancient rock drawings.
We rode on a camel or in a jeep to explore one of the Middle East’s most fascinating regions.
Petra, 262 kilometres south of Amman and dating back to 312BC, is a UNESCO world heritage site and classified as one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Before we settled at the Petra Marriott Hotel, we went for a 1.5 kilometre walk along a narrow gorge through The Siq and became mesmerised by Al Khazneh (the Treasury), glowing with hundreds of candles.
The local theatre group welcomed us to this ancient temple, and they sang to us and told Bedouin fairytales.
The final highlight of this incredible journey was the Dead Sea, 400 metres below sea level and sharing its water with many rivers, including the Jordan River.
Where to stay;
Amman: Le Royal Hotels & Resorts Amman, www.leroyal.com/amman
Petra: Marriott Petra, www.marriott.com/hotels/
Dead Sea: Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, Anantara Spa at Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, Dead Sea,www.kempinski.com/en/dead-sea/
Wadi Rum: Captain’s Desert Camp, www.captains-jo.com
Details: Tourism Jordan, http://www.visitjordan.com/