DESTINATION GUIDE: JORDAN

When one hears the word “Jordan” one can be forgiven for thinking about internal strife, alliances with neighbouring countries, and religious fundamentalism. But the county is, to put it mildly, astonishing. From the majestic, rose-tinted facades of Petra to the vast monoliths of Wadi Rum the one-time playground of England’s Colonel TE Lawrence; Lawrence of Arabia – Jordan is a country steeped in other-worldly appeal. It’s a land of contrasts, with a treasure trove of archaeological treats and jaw-dropping desert landscapes. It’s also a modern country. We are talking internet, A1 communications and transport links, and a people who love their Western tourists.

Many people don’t know much about Jordan at all, save to say that it is vaguely in “the Middle East”. It is a big country- the size of Austria, and despite all the problems of its neighbouring countries, Syria in particular, it still has a cohesive tourist network policed by a dedicated security force who’s aim is to guarantee your safety and enjoyment.

Having been to Israel and Lebanon recently as well as Jordan, in my humble opinion I can say that Jordan has a great deal to offer the average tourist and even the non-average tourist. Of course there are beaches to die for by the Dead Sea and water-sports galore. And if you like your food you will have come to a foodie Mecca. And we are not just talking figs.

Somewhere you must plot on your Jordan radar is a place called Feynan Ecolodge. This beauty spot is located in a mountainous wilderness at the heart of the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Both the scenery and the people are so welcoming. All the staff come from local Bedouin families and the women make and deliver the hotels’ candles, water jugs and freshly baked bread. In a way it is super-eco-friendly because electricity consumption is kept to a minimum-at night, the area comes alive with a fantasy-like trail of paper lanterns and candles. It’s a tranquil and strangely hypnotic effect, especially come bedtime when your cave-like room is lit up by a host of candles dotted around in mirrored enclaves. Words cannot adequately describe what your eyes can see. If you don’t want to go to bed then there are sunset hikes out into the desert and even Bedouin make-up sessions for both the men and the women. Perhaps the best place to hang out here after sundown is on your hotel or lodge’s large flat roof. Relax and pamper yourself with refreshing hot tea and a state-of-the-art telescope for you to see the stars and more. Because there’s no light pollution you’ll have an unblemished view of the night sky. With an even average telescope you should be able to see Saturn, Venus and the North Star.

Jordan is a country that loves Kofta (grilled lamb ground with spices) and other meats, there are a surprising number of vegetarian options. Those who shy away from meat or fish can tuck into platefuls of delicious Baba ghanoush, dough balls filled with creamy white cheese and plump, herb-infused Dolmades.  Superb!

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