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Jordan

Main attractions

Scenery in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Scenery in Wadi Rum. / Vladimer Shioshvili, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The history of civilization in Jordan goes further back in time than in most other places of the world. As a result this country has very rich archaeological heritage which puts in shadow the beautiful monuments of architecture and breathtaking natural scenery of this country. Most interesting landmarks in Jordan are:

Temple of Artemis in Jerash, Jordan
Temple of Artemis in Jerash / Dennis Jarvis, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Petra. In Jordan are remnants of many ancient cities but one stands out - Petra, the ancient capital city of Nabateans. No other city in the world is similar to this gorgeous rock-cut city hidden in the labyrinth of canyons and gorges.
  • Prehistoric settlements. Jordan is in the Fertile Crescent - the area where the civilization was born. Here are found some of the oldest towns in the world, such as Beidha (the 7th millenium BC) or 'Ain Ghazal with its unusual burial traditions and weird sculptures.
  • Prehistoric and ancient shrines. Jordan during the last millenia has stood at the crosssroads of different cultures, each with its own religious traditions. Some shrines here exist for many millenia and have served for dirrefent religions.

Natural landmarks

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Jordan
Seven Pillars of Wisdom / Guillaume Baviere, / CC BY 2.0
  • Hammamat Ma'in hot waterfalls - Madaba. Group of waterfalls created by hot springs. Waterfalls are adorned with travertine formations.
  • Jabal Umm Fruth Bridge - Aqaba. Interesting natural arch.
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom - Aqaba. Impressive, unusual mountain rising from the desert.
  • Zarqa river amber - Zarqa and other governorates. Amber deposits where one of world's oldest ambers is found - this amber was deposited in the lower Cretaceous and contains inclusions of prehistoric insects.

Man made landmarks

Megaliths, stone settings

  • Azraq geoglyphs - Zarqa. Hundreds of wheel-shaped geoglyphs made from stones. These 25 - 70 m large figures are at least 2,000 years old.
  • Al-Murayghât dolmens (Al Megheirat dolmen field) - Madaba. Large group of meghalitic structures, mostly circles and rectangular areas delimited by rows of standing stones.
  • Big Circles - Mafraq, Karak, Ma'an and other governorates. Eigth mysterious structures in different parts of Jordan - enormous rings which are made from roughly shaped, upright stones or stone ridges. These rings are very large, with a diameter from 220 to 455 m. These circles most likely were created in the time period between 4500 and 2000 BC.
  • Damiyah dolmen field (Tell Dāmiyah) - Balqa. Large group of megaliths - some 60 dolmens as well as stone circles, rock-cut tombs. At least one dolmen has an impressive opening - window - in its stone wall.
Reconstruction of Neolithic house in Beidha, Jordan
Reconstruction of Neolithic house in Beidha / Michael Gunther, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Prehistoric settlements

  • 'Ain Ghazal - Amman. Very old settlement which was inhabited sometimes around 7250 - 5000 BC and was one of the largest known settlements from this period. Area of settlement reached 15 ha and here lived some 3,000 people - some of the first known farmers. Here have been found 32 statues of humans - some with two heads.
  • Ba'ja - Ma'an. Remnants of Neolithic settlement, inhabited since 7000 BC. Ba'ja is located in a nearly inaccessible place, between santdstone clifs near Petra.
  • Beidha - Ma'an. One of the oldest known settlements in the world. First occupied by the people of Natufian culture in 11 millenium BC, but in the 7th millenium BC it was a fortified settlement, enclosed with a wall and with circular buildings inside. Houses had subterranean floors. Around 6650 BC destroyed by fire and rebuilt with rectangular buildings. Abandoned roughly at 6500 BC.
  • Iraq ed-Dubb (Cave of the Bear) - Ajloun. Remains of Neolithic settlement at the base of cliff. Sometimes around 10 000 BC here was started cultivation of the first cereals. There is a cave with remnants of adobe architecture.
  • Jawa - Mafraq. Remains of the oldest town in the area of Jordan, built in the desert in the 4th millenia BC by a group of some 2,000 migrants. There was built a wall and irrigation system (Jawa dam).
  • Wadi el Jilat - Zarqa. Site of Neolithic settlement. Here have been found some of world's oldest grains of domesticated cereal - einkorn wheat (7500 - 7200 BC).
Ruins of Byzantine church in Pella, Jordan
Ruins of Byzantine church in Pella / young shanahan, / CC BY 2.0

Ancient towns and cities

  • Abila - Irbid. Remnants of very old settlement, inhabited since 8000 BC. Most of the remaining structures were built in Roman, Byzantine and easly Islamic times. Abandoned in 746 AD. Very impressive are the columns of early Christian church from the 6th century AD.
  • Gadara (Antiochia) - Irbid. Ancient Greek and Roman city (the 3rd century BC - 747 AD), with the 3 km long city walls still visible. In the town are ruins of aqueducts (Aqueduct of Gadara), temples, basilica, collonaded street.
  • Gerasa (Jerash) - Jerash. Comparatively well preserved ruins of ancient Greek - Roman city. Settlement here existed already in the Bronze Age, but larger city was founded by Alexander the Great or one of his generals in 331 BC. This once important city declined since 614 AD. Remnants include beauditul, oval Forum, well preserved city walls and many other structures.
  • Pella - Irbid. Ruins of ancient town. Pella has been inhabited since the Neolithic times (city walls from 3 400 BC), first mentioned in the 19th century BC. Flourished in Greek and Roman times, early refuge of Christians who fled from Jerusalem in the 1st century AD and hid in the caves here. Some of world's oldest churches are here.
  • Petra – Ma’an. Ancient capital city of Nabateans, established around the 6th century BC in the site of ancient sanctuary. Contains some of the most beautiful and intricate rock-cut architecture in the world, available after walking through some 1.2 km long, narrow gorge.
  • Umm ar-Rasas - Amman. Ruins of ancient town with the remnants of Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic structures. Especially valuable is the enormous, well preserved mosaic floor in the Church of St.Stephen. This mosaic was created in 785 and overlays an older one which was made in 587. Rions of the ancient town contain remnants of fifteen more churches and military camp.
  • Umm el-Jimal - Mafraq. Ruins of ancient Roman, Byzantine and early Muslim town. Here are also traces of Nabatean activities before the Romans in the 1st century AD. Site contains ruins of Roman temples, Chricstian churches.
Amman Citadel, Jordan
Amman Citadel / yeowatzup, / CC BY 2.0

Medieval and later cities

  • Al Qastal - Amman. Oldest and best preserved Umayyad settlement (the 7th - 8th century AD) in the Near East. Most of the buildings are in ruins. Here is found the oldest Umayyad residential palace, one of the oldest mosques with minaret.
  • Amman Citadel (Jabal al-Qal'a) - Amman. Hill - historical centre of Amman, continuously inhabited since the Neolithic. Surrounded by fortification walls. Most impressive remaining strutures are ruins of the Temple of Hercules (the 2nd century AD) and Umayyad Palace (7 - 8 century AD).
  • Salt - Balqa. Beautiful, well preserved historical town. Although Salt flourished in the 19th and early 20th century, the history of town goes back into the times of Alexander the Great around 300 BC.

Ancient fortifications

  • Bashir Fort (Qasr Bashir) - Amman. Very well preserved Roman fort on the eastern borders of Roman Empire. Fort was built in the early 4th century AD.
  • Machaerus - Madaba. Huge hilltop fortification, site of historical importance. This fortification is built at the Dead Sea around 90 BC. Here was beheaded John the Baptist by Herod.
Qasr Kharana, Jordan
Qasr Kharana / Jean Housen, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Medieval fortifications

  • Ajlun Castle - Ajlun. Large and impressive castle, built in 1184 - 1185 by Ayyubids to defend their land from Christians.
  • Kerak Castle - Karak. Giant castle, built by Crusaders in the 1140s.
  • Montreal (Shaubak Castle) - Ma'an. Impressive castle of Crusaders, built in the top of mountain in 1115 AD. Current structure mostly built by Mameluks in the 14th century.
  • Qasr Al-Mushatta - Amman. Largest Umayyad palace, built sometimes around 743 - 744 AD. Castle is 144 by 144 m large, with 25 towers.
  • Qasr Amra (Quseir Amra) - Zarqa. Well preserved remnant of desert castle, built in the time period between 723 and 743 AD. Rooms in this building are adorned with frescoes of zodiac, hunting scenes, naked women.
  • Qasr Azraq - Zarqa. Enormous desert castle. Roman fort existed here millenia ago, but current castle was built by Ayyubids in the 13th century. Unusual feature is the stone doors with 1 ton heavy stone plates. These stone plates move easily if oiled with palm oil.
  • Qasr Kharana - Zarqa. Well preserved desert castle, built in the late 7th century AD. Real purpose of this building is not known but it might be a caravanserai.

Ancient shrines

  • Al Khazneh - Ma'an. Most recogniseable structure in Petra - beautiful temple which is cut in live rock. Built in the 1st century AD.
  • Migdol Temple, Pella - Irbid. Remains of very old temple which was first built sometimes around 1650 BC (Middle Bronze Age) and rebuilt several times afterwards.
  • Temple of Artemis in Jerash - Jerash. Ruins of a large temple which was built in 150 AD. 11 columns of the temple are still standing.
Map of Jerusalem in St George church, Jordan
Map of Jerusalem in St George church / Dennis Jarvis, Flickr, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Christian shrines and churches

  • Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Bethabara) - Balqa. Site on the bank of Jordan where John the Baptist baptized the first Christians.
  • Saint George church in Madaba - Madaba. Ruins of the 6th century Byzantine church. In its floor is fine mosaic - map of Middle East, the oldest cartographic depiction of this part of the world. Map is detailed and shows the buildings in nearby Jerusalem in the time period between 542 anf 570 AD. Originally this mosaic was 21 by 7 m large, with more than two millions of parts.
  • Sanctuary of Agios Lot - Karak. Remnants of a Christian monastery and basilica, which was built in the 5th - 7th century in the front of a cave. Cave has served as a shrine long before the church, in the Bronze Age, since 3000 BC.
  • Mount Nebo church - Madaba. Remnants of early Byzantine church on the summit of Mt. Nebo - a mountain where Moses granted a view of the Promised Land. Christian legends tell tha Moses was buried here nearby. Church was first built in the late 4th century and rebuilt in 597 AD. Floor is adorned with mosaic, six burials are underneath it.
  • Tell Mar Elias - Ajlun. Remains of one of the largest (approximately 33 by 32 m ) Byzantine churches in this region, constructed in the early 7th century AD.
Petroglyphs in Khaz'ali Canyon, Jordan
Petroglyphs in Khaz'ali Canyon / Berthold Werner, Flickr, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Arch of Hadrian in Jerash - Jerash. Well preserved arch outside the city walls of Jerash. Arch was built in 129 - 130 AD in order to honor Roman emperor Hadrian. Now the arch is 11 m tall, it's architecture shows local, Nabatean influences.
  • Gadara Aqueduct - Irbid. Aqueduct with the longest known ancient tunnel. Longest tunnel was 94 km long! Major part was constructed in 129 - 130 AD.
  • Jawa Dam - Mafraq. Oldest known dam in the world, built around 3000 BC as a part of water supply for the nearby Jawa town. Largest dam had some 80 m long and 4 - 5 m tall wall.
  • Khaz'ali Canyon (Jebel Khazali) - Aqaba. Numerous petroglyphs in caves and recesses of canyon in Wadi Rum region. Here are found inscriptions in Thamudic language (the 2nd - 4th century AD), depictions of humans and antelopes.
  • Punon - Arava. Copper and iron mines which have been exploited since the 9th millenium BC. Huge amount of metals was smelted in the Early Bronze Age, 3600 - 3300 BC.
  • Roman theater in Amman - Amman. Enormous, comparatively well preserved theater, built by Romans sometimes around 138 - 161 AD. Here could be seated up to 6,000 people.
  • Uyun al-Hammam - Irbid. Possible world's oldest human burial. Burial was done here some 16,500 years ago.

List of described attractions by governorates

Jordan is divided into 12 governorates. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Ajloun
Amman
Aqaba
Balqa
Irbid
Jerash
Karak
Ma'an
ArrowPetraAncient cities, Abandoned cities
Madaba
Mafraq
Tafilah
Zarqa

Map of Jordan

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