THE SOLO DRIFTER: Just Jordan, Simple yet Elegant – A Humble and United Country | A Travel Guide

Here’s another entry for my ‘The Solo Drifter’ section! Last year’s Eid Al-adha, I visited Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. This time during Ramadan 2023, I travelled in one of the countries in the Levant region – Jordan. It was one of the best. Jordan is my third best country to visit (next to Thailand and Switzerland – both on top) out of 23 (when I write this travel blog). In my one week of stay in Jordan, I was able to visit all its three regions. Staying in Jordan made me understand the Palestinian situation and I am hoping to make a vlog about this sooner.

What you need to know about Jordan

  1. Located in West Asia, it is officially the  the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  2. The sovereign state is a constitutional monarchy, but the king holds wide executive and legislative powers.
  3. Jordan takes its name from the Jordan River, which forms much of the country’s northwestern border
  4. The dominant majority, or around 95% of the country’s population, is Sunni Muslim, with a mostly Arab Christian minority. Initially, the Edict of Thessalonica made Christianity the official state religion in 380 AD
  5. An estimated 2.1 million Palestinian and 1.4 million Syrian refugees are present in Jordan as of a 2015 census; with most Palestinian refugees holding Jordanian citizenship. The first wave of Palestinian refugees arrived during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and peaked in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1990 Gulf War.
  6. The country is a major tourist destination, also attracting medical tourism due to its well developed health sector. The tourism sector is considered a cornerstone of the economy and is a large source of employment, hard currency, and economic growth.
  7. The Treaty of London, signed by the British Government and the Emir of Transjordan on 22 March 1946, recognised the independence of the state upon ratification by both countries’ parliaments. Much of the area that makes up modern Jordan was historically called Transjordan, meaning “across the Jordan”; the term is used to denote the lands east of the river.
  8. On 25 May 1946, the day that the treaty was ratified by the Transjordan parliament, Transjordan was raised to the status of a kingdom under the name of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Arabic, with Abdullah as its first king; although it continued to be referred to as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan in English until 1949.
  9. Summers are between May and September, with an average temperature of 32 °C (90 °F), sometimes exceeding 40 °C (104 °F) between July and August. Winters are from November to March, with temperatures averaging around 11.08 °C (52 °F). Winter also sees occasional snowfall in some western elevated areas.
  10. The official currency is the Jordanian dinar
  11. The official language is Modern Standard Arabic
  12. The most distinctive Jordanian dish is mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. It consists of a plate of rice with meat that was boiled in thick yogurt, sprayed with pine nuts and sometimes herbs.

The Central Region

What you need to know about Amman

  1. The country’s capital
  2. It shares an international border with Saudi Arabia from the east

What you need to know about Madaba

  1. Many sites are considered biblical sites – Mount Nebo, Kastron Mefaa, Mukawer (where the Body of Saint John the Baptist supposedly lies after he was beheaded at the request of King Herod Antipas’ niece) and Madaba Map (the only complete mosaic map of Jerusalem from the Byzantine era).
  2. Due to its richness of historic sites, and natural sites such as the Ma’in Hot Springs and the Dead Sea, Madaba Governorate depends mainly on tourism as a main source of income

Southern Region

What you need to know about Ma’an

  1. The land of Ma’an Governorate was under the Edomite rule. The Edomites were then replaced by the Nabateans who built one of the most significant archaeological and historical sites in the Middle East, the ancient city of Petra.
  2. It has international borders with Saudi Arabia from the east and south

What you need to know about Aqaba

  1. The port at the Red Sea
  2. Two of Jordan’s top three tourist destinations lie in Aqaba Governorate, Wadi Rum, and the port city of Aqaba

Northern Region

What you need to know about Jerash

  1. Smallest area of the 12 governorates of Jordan, yet it has the second highest density in Jordan after Irbid Governorate
  2. In the first century of the Christian era this insignificant city (then Gerasa) experienced a fast ascent under Roman rule and the Pax Romana

Visa

Jordan was supposed to be part of my tour with UAE and Bahrain. However, due to miscommunication with the agency about visa requirements, I postponed it to this year. Then after reading more information, I realized that as Saudi resident, I can apply for an eVisa or I can even have a visa on arrival.

GCC citizens, including those citizens from Egypt (one month), Lebanon, Palestine (one month), Tunisia and Turkey, have visa-free access.

Passport holders from most countries can obtain visa on arrival. This includes the Philippines, only if holding residence permits issued by, a GCC Member States, Switzerland an EEA Member state, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea or a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) issued by the USA. 

However, to be sure, I recommend that you get an eVisa. You may apply here. You only have to pay around JOD40 (USD56). Multiple entry visa costs JOD114 (USD160). I received my eVisa quickly within a minute.

I must also say that the Jordan Ministry of Interior is very quick in responding to your concerns and queries. They responded to my emails less than eight hours. I did not expect receiving a customized email (not an automated response) from a government authority within that period of time.

Transportation

If you have a license, I recommend that you rent a car. But Uber is way more cheaper than countries in the Middle East.

Where to stay

If you are looking for 3-5-star hotels that offer affordable prices, you can go to Bristol Hotel, Almond Hotel Apartments, Amman Marriott Hotel, La Casa Hotel Amman by FHM, Rayshan Hotel, Shams Alwelbdeh Hotel Apartments, Sama Paris Hotel, The Conroy Boutique Hotel, The Castle Hotel, Amman West Hotel, Toledo Amman Hotel and Larsa Hotel.

My friend and brother, Hasan, picked Centro Mada Amman by Rotana from the full list of options I gave him. I booked 7-12 April for JOD344. The receptionist told me that I got a cheaper price from Booking.com as compared to the normal hotel price. He didn’t know that I am a Genius Level 3 member of Booking.com.

I had the best experience at Centro Mada Amman. Staff were really helpful and they have high security. I was not able to check out their pool and rooftop garden as these were under maintenance when I stayed there. I only had breakfast there once as most of the time, I would leave the hotel early in the morning for tours. Variety is not that much so I did not really enjoyed the breakfast there.

By the way, Hasan is from KPMG in Jordan. He was a participant in many trainings I conducted for the Levant cluster of the firm. He was the one who really pushed me to visit Jordan. I can say that Jordanians are like Filipinos, they are hospitable. Hasan embodies this. He is a nice guy. Khadeeja (who was an audit senior manager at KPMG in Jordan) hosted a dinner and toured me around the old Amman. Talal (Central L&D manager of KPMG Saudi Levant Cluster) and Rakan (audit manager at KPMG in Jordan) picked me up and brought me to my hotel, respectively, after a dinner hosted by KPMG in Jordan for all its professionals. I was not supposed to be part of it but when Khadeeja, Talal and Rakan knew that I was in Amman, they really made an effort to invite me and bring me to the said event.

Flight to Jordan

Flight to Sharjah

As mentioned, I was to supposed to go to Jordan last year. I cancelled my flight. Thankfully, AirArabia has this cancellation policy that if you don’t use your flight, you can use it as a voucher within a year. I upgraded my flight to Jordan and only paid AED29. The customer service was really helpful when I asked them to change the details of my flight. I took a 6 April 2023 17:00 flight to Sharjah, UAE.

Transit in Sharjah

I want to experience having a transit in Sharjah so my next flight, and that would be to Amman, was 7 April 2023 08:25. I stayed at the Airport Hotel of Sharjah Airport. It offers offers Deluxe rooms (half-day single – AED400, full day single – AED660), Executive pod rooms (half-day double AED380, full day double – AED570) and male or female Dormitories in a sharing room, onsite café, and free high-speed Wi-Fi. I took a single executive pod and it cost me AED250 for a half-day (12 hours). You can have breakfast, you only need to pay additional AED25. But I did not take the opportunity because I can roam around the airport check other restaurants. The Airport Hotel services and amenities are worth the price. When you check in, the receptionist would only request for your passport and flight ticket. It’s better if you tell the receptionist your preferences in the room so (s)he can suggest for the type of room.

Flight to Amman

For me, Air Arabia is the best low-cost airline I’ve ever tried. No doubt, it is the first low-cost carrier in the Middle East and Nort Africa, and has won the ‘Low-cost Airline of the Year’ accolade at the 2023 Aviation Achievement Awards.

Queen Alia International Airport

I arrived in Amman at 10:25. It has the most calm environment. No rush. The airport has a nice exterior. At the Immigration, they were a lot of immigration stations but passengers were confused where to go. Though there are some signages, it would be better if there is one person or group (because during my time, there is none) checking the documents of the passengers, then refer them to the right immigration officer or station. But again, the whole process was smooth.

What to do

Baptism Site and the Jordan River

All private tours I booked for my Jordans were with GetYourGuide. R&H VIP Transportation Services was really helpful. I booked a Dead Sea and Baptism site tour. Three days before my scheduled flight, I contacted the agency. I am really thankful to Rod. He was quick in responding to my requests. The supposed start of my tour was 11:00am but my arrival at the airport is 10:25. Obviously, they won’t be able to pick me up from my hotel at 11:00. I requested that I’d be picked up from the airport. I also requested to add locations in my itinerary. Younes, my driver, was there waiting for me.

Our first stop was the Baptism Site. From the airport going to the location, I knew that I’d love Jordan. The country did not fail me. I love the environment and its vibe. Younes stopped the car and showed me the “sea level”.

Jesus left Nazareth, until he reached Bethany beyond the Jordan and went to John for baptism. In the 3rd century, holy places became of interest from a scholarly perspective. The most important teacher of the time, Origen, went to Palestine for the purpose of studying and tracing the steps of Christ and the Prophets. In his writings, he mentioned Bethany across the Jordan, and he believed that it was the same as Bayt ‘Abara (The Place of Crossing) where John was baptizing.

The Baptism Site is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm (last entry to the site). Due to the sanctity and delicacy of the site, smoking is strictly prohibited. You are also advised to commit to modest dress. Entrance fee is JOD3 for nationals of the Arab League Countries, JOD12 for other nationalities, and free entry for children under 12 years. The shuttle bus and local guide are included in the entrance fees. Expect a walk of approximately 2km. Club cars are available upon request , it can serve seven people with a total cost of JOD30.

There are currently two openings on the River Jordan itself where you can be baptized. One place is beside the Greek Orthodox church, and the other is near the Catholic church. All water comes directly from the River Jordan.

The site is a few kilometers from the Dead Sea, and Mount Nebo.

Dead Sea

Its shores is the lowest land-based elevation on Earth. It is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. It is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water – 9.6 times as salty as the ocean – and has a density of 1.24 kg/litre, which makes swimming similar to floating. The sea is called “dead” because its high salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organisms, such as fish and aquatic plants, from living in it, though minuscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi are present.

The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea, although there are small perennial springs under and around the Dead Sea, forming pools and quicksand pits along the edges.

Nine international franchises have opened seaside resort hotels near the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center, along with resort apartments, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Younes recommended that I stay at Holiday Inn to experience Dead Sea. My booking includes buffet lunch and access to the resort.

Benefits of the Dead Sea include enhanced hydration, fight back against chronic skin conditions, helps relax muscle cramps and relieve soreness, helps remove blemish, helps rid your scalp, reduces appearance of existing wrinkles, win the battle against bad breath, detoxifies body, can be made into a high quality texturizing hair spray.

Putting a Dead Sea mud in your whole body is a must experience. Before leaving for Mount Nebo, Younes took me to Almar Shop where I bought some Dead Sea mud and sand for my skin.

Mount Nebo and the Madaba Map

Mount Nebo is steeped in religious significance as it is believed to be the place where Moses stood to view the Promised Land before his death. According to the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses died on Mount Nebo and was buried in Moab. In the 4th century, a small monastery was built by Egyptian monks on the mountain peak in memory of Moses, now called Memorial Church of Moses. After its reconstruction in the 5th century, the Memorial Church was turned into a basilica and still stands on the zenith of Mount Nebo today, with a stunning collection of Byzantine mosaics and an elaborate baptistry. Though little remains of the early buildings, the mosaics can be seen inside the present-day shrine. The main mosaic, about 9 metres by 3 metres, depicts monastic wine-making, hunters and various animals.

On a clear day, today’s pilgrims can see the panorama Moses viewed – the Dead Sea, the Jordan River valley, Jericho, Bethlehem and the distant hills of the Promised Land.

The site is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Entrance fee is JOD3.

That was the end of my itinerary for Day 1 but before we left for my hotel, Younes took me to Tree of Life Mosaic and Handcrafts. Mosaic represents artistry of Madaba people. I bought two frames. To be honest, each frame are expensive (one was made of stones and sand, the other one was made of Jordan precious stones and pearl). You need to negotiate with them when you buy. I also bought here my shemagh, ready for my Petra and Wadi Rum adventure.

Arab people would notice my shemagh. They would always tell me that it was purely handmade. Thanks to the mosaic shop! Plus, thanks to them for giving me a private mosaic workshop.

Petra

The city of Petra, capital of the Nabataean Arabs, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century BC, which grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices. The earthquake combined with changes in trade routes, eventually led to the downfall of the city which was ultimately abandoned. In 1812 a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to ‘rediscover’ Petra; he dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city, After this, Petra became increasingly known in the West as a fascinating and beautiful ancient city, and it began attracting visitors and  continues to do so today. On December 6, 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site, also Petra was chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the 28 places you should visit them before you die.

Several scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed in Petra. The site also appeared in films such as Arabian NightsPassion in the DesertMortal Kombat: AnnihilationThe Mummy ReturnsTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Samsara.

If you are into hiking, Petra is for you. But you need time to complete all the trails. Not a half day, maybe three days or a week! The shortest trail that you could have is 2.5-3 hours which is the Main Trail and the Beidha (The First Trail). The longest one could take you 8 hours and that is Ad Deir to Kharubat Al-Fajjah.

If you are looking for Instagrammable locations in Petra, I recommend the following:

Bab Al Siq. Arabic for gateway to the ‘siq’. Here you will see three massive Djinn blocks, which are squared monuments carved out of the rock. You will then come across the Obelisk Tomb, which was carved by the Nabataeans in the 1st century AD. Above the tomb are four pyramids (‘nafesh’) as well as a niche with a statue in bas-relief that is a symbolic representation of the five people buried there.

The Siq. It is the ancient main entrance leading to the city of Petra, starts at the Dam and ends at the opposite side of the vault, a split rock with a length of about 1200m and a width of 3 to 12m, and height up to about 80m; most of the rock is natural and another part was sculptured by the Nabataeans.  The Siq, the main road that leads to the city, starts from the Dam and ends at the Treasury.

The Treasury (Al Khazna). The purpose of the Treasury is unclear: some archaeologists believed it to be a temple, while others thought it was a place to store documents. However, the most recent excavation here has unearthed a graveyard beneath the Treasury. 

The Theatre. Carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice, the theatre consists of three rows of seats separated by passageways. Seven stairways ascend the auditorium and it can accommodate 4000 spectators. the monument was carved in the the mountainside during the reign of King Aretas IV (4BC-AD27) the Romans rebuilt the stage back wall.

The Colonnaded Street. The street represents an original Nabataean creation,later refurbished during the period of Roman occupation. It would have been one of the principal shopping streets of ancient Petra.

The Great Temple. The “Great” Temple Complex represents one of the major archaeological and architectural components of central Petra. With its red-and-white-succeed exterior, the ` Great ` temple must have had a dramatic impact when set against its rose-red environment.

The Monastery. A columned portico extends of the façade; the interior is occupied by two side benches and altar against the rear wall. It was used as a biclinium for the meetings of religious associations. And dates to the early 2nd century AD, during the reign of King Rabel II. In the hall was reused as a Christian chapel and crosses were carved in the rear wall thus the name “Monastery” (Dayr in Arabic).

One-day entrance fee is JOD50, two-day fee is JOD55 and three-day fee is JOD60. There is a night show called “Petra by Night”, Jordan Pass does not include this.

Younes told me that I should be careful when talking to strangers. He told me to only get an accredited tourist guide by asking the tourist center that I’d be availing tourist guide services. I got one for 4km and cost me JOD50. We ended at the main trail and the tourist guide recommended other trails after the main trail. You can also extend a tourist guide service up to 8km (includes The Monastery) and it would cost you JOD100.

Wadi Rum

If you ask me what was the best experience I had in Jordan. Wadi Rum! It was made special by Yehiah, my tour guide. And I am really excited to meet him again. He invited me to experience the Bedouin lifestyle when I get back to Jordan. He promised to ask his mom to prepare maqluba for me.

Yahea told me that “wadi” means valley and “rum” means moon. But I will never forget what Yahea told me, “You are a nice person. I just can feel it. I feel like you are one of the best people in the world. People like you.” Instead of an hour trip, he extended his time with me and told me, “You are a great storyteller.” He was able to say that to me even though he does not know about me much.

Virtually all the people living in and around Wadi Rum are of Bedouin origin and, until recently, led nomadic lives, relying on their goat herds. They belong to seven tribal groups, of which the three largest are the Zalabia tribe who make up the majority of people living in Rum Village.

Visitors to Wadi Rum usually see very few animals because most desert creatures are nocturnal, to avoid the daytime sun, and many of the larger ones are now reduced to very low numbers. 

The striking red sandstone desert, celebrated for its Lawrence of Arabia fame, is certainly worth a trip while you are in Jordan. Wadi Rum is best experienced with an overnight trip, where you can take in the sunset and sunrise, and enjoy a night in a traditional Bedouin tent and learn about the unique culture and hospitality of the wonderful people who live in this desert.

Here are the sites of interest in Wadi Rum:

Lawrence’s spring: where Lawrence of Arabia reputedly washed during the Arab Revolt. Has an attractive rock inscriptions on nearby rocks.

Khazali canyon: deep, narrow fissure in the mountain side, containing many rock inscriptions.

Rock bridge: spectacular natural rock arch, with great views.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom: famous landmark, named after the book by T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

Here in Wadi Rum, it was my first time to see a white camel.

Downtown Amman and the Arab Bank Building, the Hashemite Plaza with the Roman Theatre

Khadeeja took me to the old Amman. The experience was wonderful. At night, you can see a lot of colors and lights. Downtown Amman is an old, central commercial area in Amman. Al Balad is the oldest section of the city. The Al Husseini Mosque, the oldest mosque in Amman, is a major local landmark and can be said to divide the Balad into two (West and East). The area’s long history, having been built up over ancient ruins, leaves a large number of historical sites, such as the nearby Amman Citadel with the Umayyad Palace, the Hashemite Plaza with the Roman Theatre and the Odeon, and the Roman Nymphaeum.

Arab Bank Old Downtown Headquarters is considered the finest heritage office building of its kind of its location in the middle of downtown Amman. It was built in the early 1950s of reinforced concrete and carved stone facades of highly artistic details and patterns. This building is highly admired by lovers of the traditional architecture of Amman. It went through several renovations and still in use as one of the main branches for the Arab Bank. The main entrance and double-leafed gate are one of the famous elements that are associated with old Amman architecture. The Arab Bank has had a profound impact on the Middle East. Founded by Abdel Hameed Shoman in 1930 in Jerusalem, the Arab Bank was the first private sector financial institution in the Arab world. The headquarters were moved to Amman in 1948 as the result of the war. Today it has the largest Arab banking branch network world-wide, and has helped thousands of Jordanian businesses develop.

Near the Arab Bank headquarters, I saw the oldest book shop in Amman and I was able to buy a book there. It’s close to Habibah Sweets.

The Hashemite Plaza is a plaza in Amman that spans over an area of 20,000 square metres. It was renewed in 2014 and is named after the Jordanian royal family, the Hashemites. The Hashemite Plaza includes open spaces, fountains, gardens, parking lots and cafes. It is equipped with a centre that hosts cultural activities like the Amman Book Festival. The plaza is flanked by two of the most popular Roman ruins of Amman, the Roman theatre and the Odeon, while the Nymphaeum is just a short distance away. Roman Theatre of Amman is a 6,000-seat, 2nd-century Roman theatre. A famous landmark in the Jordanian capital, it dates back to the Roman period when the city was known as Philadelphia.

Amman Citadel

If a journey through history is what you’re looking for then the best place to start would be the Citadel. Located on a hill it gives visitors a glimpse into the evolution of Amman and provides stunning views of downtown Amman. This historic site comprises a 1700 meter wall that dates back to the Bronze Age, the iconic Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace, and the Byzantine Church. The Amman Citadel is located on top of Jebel Al Qala’a, a hill in the city of Amman. The hill is situated 850 meters above sea level and overlooks the old city. It is located in the downtown area of Amman.

Entrance to the Citadel is JOD3.

Jerash

The history of Jerash is a long and detailed one that is best discovered whilst exploring the ruins and museums of the city itself. The city was conquered by General Pompey in 64 BC when it was named Gerasa. Gerasa grew in wealth and later became a colony in the third century. Due to an earthquake and a number of crusades leading up to the 12th Century, the city’s ancient sites were not discovered again until the end of the 19th century.

Although the sheer amount of statues, plazas, and museums can seem daunting, the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash are very easy to navigate. Thanks to my guide, Muhammad, who has been doing this for 44 years. He taught me a lot about the history of Amman, Jerash and Jordan, and the importance of Jerash during the early period of trading.

A great starting point is Hadrian’s Arch which was built in 129 AD to greet Emperor Hadrian during his visit. From this point you will find the remains of the Hippodrome; a former sporting arena that now holds chariot races to recapture the imaginations of visitors. Inside the ancient city, the Temple of Zeus at the south end of the cardo overlooks a vast colonnaded Oval Plaza that served as Jerash’s forum.

Another notable site is the 3,000 seat South Theatre which is still used today for productions and concerts. The theatre’s remarkable acoustics allow a speaker at the center of the orchestra floor to be heard throughout the entire auditorium without raising his voice. I was able to experience that. Again, thanks to Muhammad.

Sadly, I was not able to have a Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE). Because of COVID, they temporarily stopped the show. RACE is the biggest regular show of any kind in the Middle East and the only large scale Roman re- enactment performance in the world. The show contains a performance of twenty-four fully equipped legionnaires showing their battle formations and tactics. The narrative explains the history of the Roman Army and their traditions and customs. The show also includes gladiator fights and chariot races.

Entrance to the sites and museum cost 10JD (15USD). Jerash opens at 8:00am.

King Abdullah I Mosque

The blue-domed King Abdullah I Mosque, built in the 1980s by the late King Hussein as a memorial to his grandfather, is open to Non-Muslim visitors. It is open to non-Muslims as visitors between Saturday and Thursday, in the morning and again around lunch time. On Friday, the Islamic day of worship, the mosque is open only to Muslims who wish to pray, while it sometimes closes for Muslim holidays and special events.

King Abdullah I is the founder of the family that rules Jordan to this day and the first King of Jordan. Close to the entrance, there is a small Islamic Museum, including personal acquisitions and photos of the late King Abdullah Bin Al-Hussein. There is also a shop where you can buy souvenirs. Here, I was able to buy a ring and bracelet made of Jordan’s precious stone, Blue goldstone, and silver. I also bought a vase and a traditional elegant hand crutch.

Here’s an interesting fact to note – there is a Christian church in front of the mosque.

Aqaba

My last stop and one of the best experiences is Aqaba, particularly my first scuba diving! Aqaba is the only coastal city in Jordan. Aqaba’s strategic location at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea between the continents of Asia and Africa has made its port important throughout thousands of years. Close to Wadi Rum, Petra, and the Israeli/Egyptian borders, Aqaba is a haven for travellers. With the red mountains of Wadi Rum in the background and the Red Sea in the foreground, the stunning Aqaba boasts a beautiful setting. This port city is laden with luxurious resorts and hotels, ensuring a restful place to return to after a long day of touring Jordan. Most European tourists visit Aqaba for the winter months, taking advantage of the warm sunny weather.

For only almost PHP3,000, I was able to have a private Red Sea diving experience. The feel includes Scuba equipment, professional guide, wet suits, and high quality photos and videos. Thanks to Aqaba Leaders Dive Center for allowing this wonderful experience. It’s a must! And I think I need to do it again with them.

Where to eat

Mzayen Restaurant

I have a favorite restaurant. Younes took me there after a long trip from Wadi Rum. And the day I asked him to drive me to Aqaba, I asked him again to bring me to this restaurant. At JOD12, you can have a buffet lunch. And it is also known for oud, traditional dress and traditional items. I can say it is an Instagrammable place. I met the owner of this restaurant during my first visit. His name is Motasem, who is a popular tour guide in Jordan.

Habibah Sweets

One of my favorite Arabic food is knafeh. When we were at the Old Amman, Khadeeja took me to the oldest knafeh store in Jordan, Habibah Sweets. Don’t expect that it is spacious, you need to find a space outside. That’s how Habibah Sweets is famous in Amman. Before you get to order, you have to fall in line! The story began when Al-Haj Mahmoud Habibah chose to work in the field of sweets industry. He came from Nablus and started his job at a small Kunafa shop at Bab Al-Khalil. In the year 1948, he moved to Amman. In the year 1951, Al-Haj Mahmoud Habibah and his brother Ahmad established “Al-Haj Mahmoud Habibah Sweets“ at a small humble shop down town, on a side lane by the Arab Bank.

The Nub Garden

It’s warm, old school and underground vibes have given people the ideal space to enjoy good drinks, food, and fun games; while finding the perfect balance between vintage and modern pubs. 

Cafe Almadina

An old house turned traditional Jordanian restaurant. Old Amman view. In front of the oldest Arab Bank building. What more to expect from Cafe Almadina? Of course, the food, coffee and shisha!

Tipsy Cow

If you are looking for a place to hang out, you may consider Tipsy Cow. Set in a cozy, vintage-inspired bar, the Tipsy Cow promises to give you the best alcohol-infused culinary experience – from salads to burgers to desserts.

Media Cafe

I asked Hasan to take me to a shisha place. He took me to Media Cafe, owned by his friend Bader Halteh. Without bias, it’s one of the best places to chill. But it’s more than a coffee shop. You can play card and board games there, and watch sports on big screens.

Here, I was able to meet some of Hasan’s friends.

Flight from Jordan

My flight from Jordan to the Philippines was not a good experience. As a traveller, I decided to try a different airline, Oman Air. I was supposed to leave Jordan 9 April so that I can still have time in the Philippines to take a rest before having my annual vacation/tour in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. On the 5th of April, I received a different itinerary/ticket, Oman Air changed my flight to 12 April. They did not provide any reasons, I only knew that my 9 April was cancelled when I received an SMS from the airline on 7 April. They did not give me any options to rebook my flight nor compensate me. The customer service agents (I had three calls with them) were not helpful. Every request that I had, they would always tell me that they cannot do something but I can have my requests processed at the counters. But I also need to commend their cabin crew. They have more business class cabin crew members compared to other airlines. They have big serving and good plating. The crew is helpful and the counter and transfer desk staff at the airports offer quality service. Plus, Muscat’s first and business lounge is the best!

But I am missing Queen Alia International Airport. Both arrivals and departures are very calm, considering the number of tourists going to Jordan. It has also a great lounge – more seats and food selection.

I would like to thank and commend Younes for a job well done. He would always exceed my expectation. He would always ensure that I am safe. He would always tell me “I want you to be happy. I want my client to be happy.” If you want him accompany you in your visit in Jordan, I can share his personal number with you.

Jordan Pass

The Jordan Pass is the ultimate sightseeing package that has been especially tailor-made for visitors to the beautiful Kingdom of Jordan. It gives pass holders the ability to make the most out of their trip visiting top sights and attractions while saving time, money and efforts. It is a hassle-free prepaid entry to over 40 attractions in Jordan. And tourist entry visa fees are waived if you purchase the Jordan Pass before arrival to Jordan and stay a minimum of three nights (four days). It costs JOD70 (Jordan Pass Wanderer) or if you want to stay in Petra longer, you may opt to Jordan Pass Expert which costs JOD80 (three consecutive days to Petra).

Itinerary and Budget

Before laying down my itinerary and budget, let me tell you something about Jordan. It’s not an overstatement when I say that Jordan is one of the best Arab countries I’ve ever visited. Maybe because I’m not a fan of modern cities, but a country that preserves culture, history and diversity. Jordan’s diversity of culture is truly amazing. I can only wish the best for this humble country. What make this country humble and united are the people itself. Maybe this is how a country with rich tourism industry teaches its people – be hospitable and humble. I remember what Muhammad told me before we part ways, “Jordan does not have oil unlike the Gulf and other Levant countries. But this (Jordan and its tourism) is more natural than oil.” If you are a traveller and explorer, you deserve Jordan. Now, here is an untold story – when I was with Khadeeja in Downtown Amman, I saw a black and white scarf. I asked her what does it mean. She said its keffiyeh, Palestine’s headdress worn by men. Without doubts, I took it and wore it during my tour in Jerash. Without writing it, I hope you understand where I stand.

Below is a suggested itinerary (not my actual itinerary, it has been improved based on my experience). Below assumes that you are obtaining a Jordan Pass.

TimePlaceJOD USD SAR/AED PHPRemarks
       
VISA        40.00       56.40     208.00     3,109.20eVisa
FLIGHT – FROM RIYADH      241.35     340.30  1,255.00   18,759.84 
JORDAN PASS        70.00       98.70     364.00     5,441.10 
       
DAY 1 – CENTRAL REGION      
12:00Hotel (1 night) – Dead Sea area     162.00     228.42     842.40   12,592.26 
14:00Mount Nebo and Madaba         3.00         4.23       15.60       233.19Not included in Jordan Pass
17:00Dead Sea    Included in hotel. Put an allowance for dinner
       
DAY 2 – CENTRAL REGION AND DOWNTOWN AMMAN      
8:00Bethany beyond the Jordan/ Al-Maghtas       12.00       16.92       62.40       932.76Not included in Jordan Pass, Arab nationalities pay only JOD5
13:30Hotel (2 nights) – Amman     137.53     193.92     715.16   10,690.21 
15:00The Jordan Museum    JOD2 if no Jordan Pass
16:30Royal Film Commission     
17:30Rainbow Street     
18:00Nabad Art Gallery     
19:30Souk Jara     
21:00Habibah Sweets    Allowance
       
DAY 3 – NORTHERN REGION      
8:00Jerash    JOD10 if no Jordan Pass. Leave Amman hotel at 7:00
11:00Ajloun Castle    30-40 minute drive from Jerash
 As-Salt    1 hour and 20-minute drive from Ajloun. Places to visit: Prophet Joshua Shrine, Prophet Job’s Tomb, The Religious Harmony Trail, Heritage Houses
 or     
13:30Baraka Destinations       35.00       49.35     182.00     2,720.551 hour and 20-minute drive from Ajloun. Things to do: Beekeeping and Honest Harvest (JOD20), Hadab Making (JOD15), Stone Masonry (JOD15), Seed Bombs Making (JOD15)
       
DAY 4 – AMMAN      
7:30Grand Husseini Mosque     
8:00Hashemite Plaza and the Roman Theatre    JOD2 if no Jordan Pass for Roman Theatre
10:00Amman Citadel    JOD3 if no Jordan Pass
12:30King Abdullah I Mosque     
      The remaining days are dedicated to the Southern Region. You have two options: If you are renting a car or have a driver, I suggest that you take a stop first in Petra area. There are also cheap flights (AMM-AQJ v.v.) at JOD55, in this case Aqaba would be your first stop.
Car rental (Airport-Central Region-Northern Region-Southern Region-Amman)      230.77     325.38  1,200.00   17,937.69For six days

If you prefer a car with a driver, cost would be around JOD 520. From Amman to Petra, drive would take 3 hours.
 Hotel (2 nights)       80.00     112.80     416.00     6,218.40This is assuming that you have taken option one (drive) than option 2 (taking a flight to Aqaba). If you are taking a flight to Aqaba, look for hotels there and stay longer than in Petra area). If staying in Petra area or Wadi Rum, I suggest taking camps or Bedouin-style accommodation
       
DAY 5 – PETRA      
8:00Petra    JOD50 for one day, JOD60 for three days
20:30Petra by Night       17.00       23.97       88.40     1,321.41Not included in Jordan Pass
       
DAY 7 – WADI RUM AND RED SEA      
8:00Wadi Rum    Put allowance for tip for local guide
15:00Aqaba       36.51       51.48     189.86     2,838.00One-hour drive from Wadi Rum
       
DAY 7/8 – DEPARTURE      
FLIGHT – TO THE PHILIPPINES      289.90     408.76  1,507.48   22,533.93Based on economy fare only
       
TOTAL   1,355.06  1,910.63  7,046.29 105,328.53 

ALSO READ:
The Solo Drifter in the UAE
The Solo Drifter in Bahrain

TRANSPORTATION

R&H VIP Transportation Services
Website | Facebook | Contact Number: +962776000016
Or if you are interested about my driver, Younes, you may contact me so I can send you his personal number

Air Arabia
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Oman Air
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

VISA

Apply here for eVisa

ACCOMMODATION

Booking.com

Centro Mada Amman
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

RECREATION AND ADVENTURE

Get Your Guide

Visit Jordan
Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

Jordan Pass

Petra
Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

Wadi Rum Adventures and Jeep Tours
Instagram | Facebook

Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea
Website | Instagram

Aqaba Leaders Dive Center
Website | Facebook | Instagram

The Baptism Site
Website | Facebook

The Royal Film Commission
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

The Jordan Museum
Website | Facebook | Twitter

SOUVENIRS AND FOOD

Tree of Life Mosaic and Handcrafts
Facebook
Location: Al Qudus street – Nebo, Madaba, Jordan, 33611
Contact Info: +962 7 9948 0426

Habibah Sweets
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Media Cafe
Instagram

Cafe Almadina
Location

The Nub Garden
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Tipsy Cow
Facebook | Instagram

About the Author

Paul Michael Jaramillo
Paul Michael JaramilloChief Executive Editor
PJ is a CPA, writer, storyteller, environment and youth advocate. As a writer, his articles on national development were published in a Spanish newspaper and local news network Rappler. As a storyteller and environment advocate, his documentary films on mining and environment were featured by ABS-CBN News and GMA News. He launched his career as a CPA at KPMG in the Philippines in late 2015. He started his professional journey as an external auditor of a global workspace provider (the largest audit client of KPMG in the Philippines), global bank, leading MFCG in the Philippines and a number of shared service centres. As an auditor, his team won the KPMG Asia-Pacific Data & Analytics Challenge and coached the Philippine team that placed third to the KPMG GlobalRunner Cup. More than two years later, he led KPMG in the Philippines’ Network of Audit Innovators and Data & Analytics Champions and its academic arm, while serving as a member of the KPMG Asia-Pacific Audit Digital Transformation Workstream. He served as a member of the Audit Methodology Group and Root Cause Analysis Team of KPMG in the Philippines. He was a regular training facilitator of KPMG on audit methodology, innovation, data and analytics, professional standards and regulatory updates. He also served as a coach for newly promoted supervisors. PJ was also the Firm’s System of Quality Management Implementation Manager and a Workforce of the Future Champion. He was also a Sampling Specialist of the Firm. In 2019, PJ was a member of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)’s Technical Working Group on Audit Methodology. PJ led in developing some of the innovative solutions of KPMG in the Philippines. Above all, PJ is a people investor. He invests on people who have potential and talents. That makes him a coach and mentor to some young professionals in the profession and served as a People Committee member of KPMG in the Philippines. He leads advocacy projects that help communities. He produces vlogs thru his YouTube channel, PJspirations which features stories of different individuals. As a volunteer, he is the Academic Master and Head Coach of PREMIER International Learning and Development Center, which provides coaching, mentoring, training and learning programs and platforms that promote growth and development in every individual’s life and career. He is also with the Middle East and Caspian regions of KPMG as a member of its Professional Practice group and Audit L&D for the Saudi Levant Cluster, providing subject matter knowledge and guidance on audit methodology, and learning and development programs to its offices. He is a proud Ilocano and a graduate of Northwestern University.

He also conducts #IamRemarkable sessions, a program initiated by Google for women and underrepresented groups.