Jordan, Amman & Petra “The Rose City” – A Bucket List Destination

Jordan
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Pic Credit: Taskeen Joosab Patel

Author: Taskeen Joosab-patel 

Instagram: @the_hungry_hostess

How did we get to Amman?

We flew with Saudi Airlines – from Jeddah it’s a short  2 hour flight to Amman. 

On arrival we were charged for visas, then realised that visas are free for South Africans and got an immediate refund. 

How was our experience with hiring a car?

We opted to hire a car which turned out to be quite an adventure. The car hire offices are located 2 km outside the airport but if you book in advance online they will send a car to pick you up to take you to their offices. You do not need an international licence, a valid South African licence works just fine. They will loan you a garmin which kind of helps with directions & I say kind of because the roads have changed so much and the garmin we were loaned wasn’t updated, nevertheless it added to the fun. It also gave us the opportunity to experience the hospitality & friendliness of the Jordanian people, who went out of their way to not only give us directions, but to the extent of even getting into their cars & saying follow us. Driving on the other side of the road was a bit of a challenge but we slowly got the hang of it. We had a great few laughs and good memories were made. 

The roads in Amman are filled with potholes, so don’t be alarmed when you leave the modern airport & a mere 2-3 km out, it can get rather bumpy. 

First stop for us was the King Hussein bridge also known as Allenby bridge which is the border crossing between Amman & Jerusalem, where we parked our hired car in a parking lot that closely resembled a scrap yard. (I was expecting the likes of OR Tambo so this was a shock for me, chickens running around and parked cars were almost completely covered in sand).

We left the car here for 3 days, while we toured Jerusalem. 

On our return (it was a Friday) the parking lot was shut & there wasn’t a soul in sight. 

We waited for about 45 min & by waited I mean, hubby frantically searching for something to break the lock on the flimsy gate that stood between us and our ride. Eventually we spotted a car on the road, flagged it down and the gracious inhabitant managed to locate the individual in charge who told us the key to the lock was literally under a mat, lol.

We were charged 3 Jordanian Dinars for 3 days which was about R60 (not bad for 3 days of parking).

Petra- “The Rose city”

From the border crossing we drove straight to the stone city of Petra, which boasts iconic ancient ruins dating back to more than 2000 years, also called “the Rose City” because of the colour of the stone from which it is carved. This is located about 250km away, from the Allenby Bridge and also a 3 hour drive from Amman city centre. In Petra we checked in at the Marriott hotel located a few km above the Stone City so it’s not walking distance,  but the hotel does have a shuttle for its guests to travel back & forth. We chose this hotel because of its great reviews – it was modern,clean with a luxury spa, that offered a Turkish hammam experience, delicious dining, with spectacular mountainous views, while enjoying a Bedouin dinner under the stars. The hotel breakfast was really good too. 

Our trip to the ancient city started early morning where we found parking easily then proceeded to buy entrance tickets which costed 50 Jordanian Dinars (JD) for a 1 day pass 

Kids under 12 are free so yay for that bonus.

Inside we were offered a ‘free’ ride on horses, but it wasn’t actually free, because they expect a really big tip at the end. It was 2km to the treasury with beautiful & breathtaking views most of the way. 

Also, I’d like to pause here and add, it’s scorching hot with very little to No shade inside so make sure to wear a sun hat, sunblock & carry lots of water.

You can purchase these things here but they are almost triple the price you would pay elsewhere. 

The walk through the Siq, a narrow canyon passageway, which is 1.6 km long & with a height of 80m, was a highlight for me. It leads out to the Treasury, a place that resembles an old market place with Bedouins selling souvenirs and the hiring of camels takes place here. Inside this rock facade is a royal tomb but tourists are not allowed to enter the area. 

We hired camels for the long toasty 2,5 km walk to the bottom of the monastery stairs then hired donkeys to climb the 850 stairs to get to the top. It was a long way & we were glad for the donkeys in the heat. Along the way you can stop to support the Bedouins selling souvenirs. Keep going, the view at the top is worth it (wink wink). We then climbed the stairs back to the bottom which was quick & easier than the ride up. We took the camels back to the treasury then walked back to the exit. You can stop to take in the sights and for pictures along the way.

We made our way through the quaint little town and found a restaurant for a late lunch, then back to the hotel for a shower, to wash off all that donkey sweat, lol. 

Hubby and I booked the Bedouin sunset dinner experience for 2 which was set up at the back of the hotel. It was interesting to watch them cook. Meat is prepared in a traditional underground oven called a Zarb.

You can also visit the ancient city at night, you will need to pay separately for this experience  – the canyon is lit with fire torches, you aren’t allowed to sleep over though. 

What I would recommend: 

From Petra it’s a 115 km drive on kings highway to Wadi Rum which is also a great tourist attraction, spend a night here in a Bedouin camp then go on an off road adventure in a 4×4 jeep. Then drive on to Aqaba and check into one of its beautiful resorts for a few days of snorkelling in the Red Sea (which is rated amongst the best in the world) and chilling by the pool, before heading back to the hustle bustle streets of Amman. 

Amman

In Amman we stayed in the tourist area at a hotel called Boulevard Arjaan by Rotana. The location was excellent and the rooms worthy of their 5 star rating. The tourist area is modern, with a similar vibe to Melrose Arch in Gauteng, with an abundance of cafes & coffee shops including a huge shopping centre called Abdali Mall all within walking distance – it will make you forget about all the potholes and traffic circles you had to endure getting there.

A few points to note :

  • Our kids were with us their ages were 11 and 13. 
  • South Africans’ entry visa is free.                         
  • The currency is the Jordanian Dinar and the rate to ZAR is R22 for 1 JD . This seems rather steep but when you convert food and accommodation is reasonably priced. 
  • There are signs all over Amman that read: “Sleepers Cave” or “Cave of the Seven Sleepers” This is where it is believed that story of Surah Kahf  took place but there is no evidence to prove that it is the actual cave – it is a touristic place partly man made. 
  • You can travel to Jerusalem from Amman by crossing the border gate which is about 30-40 min drive from the airport, so if you’re keen on visiting, factor this into your itinerary. 
  • The best time to visit Petra is in Autumn & in Spring after the rainy season & before it gets too hot. 
  • I’m including a list of Top Attractions to see in Amman that we were too tired to do and skipped.

The top attractions to visit in Amman are:

  • The Citadel
  • Royal Automobile Museum
  • Roman Theatre
  • Al Balad – Downtown Amman
  • The Jordan Museum

You can read up more about them on Trip advisor 

Do Not underestimate the heat during the summer season – it’s a scorcher 

Recommended time in each place:

Amman 2 days 

Petra 2 days 

Wadi rum 1 day 

Aqaba 2-5 days 

Disclaimer: This was my experience, I really enjoyed it because I love visiting places I can explore & I especially love to experience the culture of people from different parts of the world and all walks of life. If you’re a shop till you drop person this destination may not be for you 🙂

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