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Jordan in Depth: Petra, Desert Fortresses, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea 2025

Status: open

1 Apr – 16 Apr 2025

Overview

Jordan in Depth: Petra, Desert Fortresses, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea 2025
Tour Highlights

Travel with Dr Christopher Tuttle, an archaeologist whose research focuses on the Hellenistic and Roman periods in the Middle East. Chris is considered a world authority on the ancient kingdom of the Nabataeans and their capital city of Petra, on which he wrote his PhD, and where his fieldwork has been centred for nearly 20 years. He was the Associate Director of the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan from 2006–2014. Chris has recently been the field director for a large archaeological survey of the landscape around Mada’in Saleh, the Nabatean city near AlUla in Saudi Arabia that was designated a World Heritage Site in 2008.

  • This 16-day tour features spectacular architecture and natural scenery and visits to outstanding prehistoric, Biblical Nabataean, Hellenistic, Roman, Early Christian, Arab, Turkic, Crusader and Ottoman archaeological sites and monuments.
  • Spend two days exploring Jordan’s magnificent Nabataean Petra.
  • View a rich collection of artefacts and art works in the Jordan Museum and the Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth.
  • Explore Graeco-Roman Jerash, Ancient Gadara (Umm Qais) overlooking the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights, and Pella – one of the most ancient sites in Jordan.
  • At Al-Salt, explore fine examples of Ottoman architecture and wander its original bazaar, the Souq Hammam.
  • View the magnificent Early Christian and Byzantine mosaics of Umm ar-Rasas, Madaba and Mount Nebo, seedbeds of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
  • Journey to the atmospheric Umayyad desert fortresses including Qasr Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage site whose unique and exceptionally beautiful wall paintings are currently being restored.
  • Visit the great 12th-century crusader castles of Kerak and Shobak, impressive examples of medieval military architecture.
  • View the beautiful 2nd-century palace at Iraq al-Amir, one of the few survivors of the Hellenistic period, and Machaerus, the Herodian fortified hilltop palace overlooking the Dead Sea.
  • Enjoy views of the blood-red sand and dramatic rock formations of Wadi Rum, a desert valley frequented by Lawrence of Arabia.
  • From Aqaba enjoy a cruise of the Red Sea, which harbours spectacular coral reefs, and visit Saladin’s Citadel on Pharaoh’s Island located off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula.
  • Travel through Biblical landscapes to monuments associated with such figures as Lot, Moses and John the Baptist.

Overnight Amman (6 nights) • Petra (3 nights) • Aqaba (3 nights) • Dead Sea (3 nights)

View Chris’s lecture “The Nabataean Kingdom: Part I and Part II” here:

 

Introduction

Join this fascinating tour surveying the history of the Middle East through an in-depth exploration of the Kingdom of Jordan. Visit prehistoric sites; journey to monuments from the Hellenistic, Roman, Nabataean, Byzantine, Arab, Seljuk, Crusader and Ottoman cultures; and trace the emergence of the modern nation state. Events in this region shaped world history: the rise of Semitic and Hellenic culture, the triumphs of the Persians and the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Nabataeans formed a state and constructed Petra. Roman imperialism evolved into a distinctive Byzantine culture. Islam changed the region forever. Crusaders invaded the Holy Land to protect Christian pilgrims and founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem protected by castles we visit. When the Crusader States collapsed, the Islamic Ayyubids, Mamluks, and Seljuks held sway. The Ottomans dominated the region for centuries and when Ottoman power waned, French and British interference was followed by the emergence of modern Middle Eastern States. We journey through Jordan to Roman Jerash; to fascinating Pella and Gadara; and spend two days investigating the rich rock-cut architecture of unforgettable Petra. In Amman and at Jordan’s atmospheric desert palaces we explore the culture of the Umayyad Caliphate and at Kerak explore one of the greatest Crusader castles. At the American Centre for Oriental Research we examine the fascinating Petra scrolls and from the Dead Sea we explore Madaba’s lustrous Early Christian mosaics. We visit Mount Nebo, where Moses gazed upon the Promised Land, and the cave where Lot sheltered after fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah.

Testimonials

I found the Jordan tour very interesting, it provided an excellent overview of the country, including wonderful sights, both well known and lesser known – its stark and beautiful countryside, its ancient and modern history and its evolving place in a very complex region.  Rose, QLD.

Itinerary

Itinerary

The following itinerary describes daily activities which may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and flight schedules etc. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

Amman, Jordan - 6 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 1 April, Arrive Amman
  • Tour commences at 2.30pm in the foyer of The House Boutique Suites
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Roman Theatre of Amman
  • Short coach orientation tour and walk through downtown Amman
  • Light Dinner at Levant Restaurant

Meeting Point: The tour commences at 2.30pm in the foyer of The House Boutique Suites, located near 2nd Circle on Abdullah Abu Qurah Street.

Following a short welcome meeting we begin our program with a visit to the beautifully preserved 2nd-century AD Roman theatre of Amman, or Philadelphia, as it was known to its Roman and Greek-speaking inhabitants. Philadelphia was an integral unit of the ‘Decapolis’, an informal league of ten Greek-speaking cities of the eastern Roman Empire that were linked by geography, culture and language. Philadelphia’s theatre was constructed during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 AD), seating 6000 citizens and orientated north to protect theatregoers from the glare of the harsh desert sun.

We end our day with a short coach tour of the city, and a walk through downtown Amman, finishing at the famous Levant Restaurant celebrating flavours of Armenian/Lebanese cuisine with a modern twist. (Overnight Amman) D

Day 2: Wednesday 2 April, Amman
  • Qasr Amman
  • The Jordan Museum
  • American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR)
  • Welcome Dinner at the Fakhr El-Din Restaurant

We begin our day with a visit to the Umayyad Qasr Amman, or Citadel of Amman. Built on high ground at the centre of the old medieval city, the fortress constitutes a square audience hall with four iwans constructed in the Sasanian (Persian) style. Within the citadel is a small museum and from the fortress’s commanding heights we look down upon the modern city of Amman and the remnants of Roman Philadelphia.

We then drive to the Jordan Museum, recently expanded and modernised, with a collection covering 1.5 million years of human activity. The museum visit is designed to illustrate and contextualise the many cultural and archaeological sites we shall visit on our exploration of this fascinating country and includes some of the priceless Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered by a Palestinian shepherd in 1947.

We enjoy lunch in Amman before heading to the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), one of the most active archaeological and historical research bodies in the Middle East. Part of our private tour includes an examination of the famous Petra Scrolls, dated ca. 537 to 594 AD. The Petra scrolls vary in size from a single sheet listing stolen goods (P. Petra 6, L. 28 cm), to the exceptionally long P. Petra 2 (L. 8.5 m), an agreement concerned with inherited property. The cache of scrolls deals with real-estate transactions, legal disputes, contracts, division of property, marriages, dowries, and inheritance. The central figures of the archive are Theodoros, son of Obodianos, who was deacon and later archdeacon in Petra’s church, his extended family and social peers. The language of the scrolls indicates that the people of Petra at this time were speaking an early form of Arabic.

This evening we dine at the Fakhr El-Din Restaurant, one of the leading Lebanese restaurants in Amman, located in a house once owned by Jordan’s first Prime Minister, Mr Fawzi Al-Mulki. (Overnight Amman) BLD

Day 3: Thursday 3 April, Amman – Iraq El-Amir – Al-Salt – Amman
  • Qasr Al-Abd (Hellenistic palace complex)
  • Iraq El-Amir Women Cooperative Society
  • Beit Abu Jaber (Historic Old Salt Museum)
  • Walking tour of Al-Salt, including Souq Hammam
  • Salt Archaeological Museum

The gentle hills which roll westward from Amman down to the Jordan Valley through the historic Balqa region – of which the graceful old town of Salt is capital – are laced with lush valleys and dotted with quiet, pleasant towns such as Wadi Seer and Fuheis.

Near Wadi Seer we visit one of the few examples of Hellenistic architecture surviving in Jordan – the impressive white palace of Qasr al-Abd. We also visit the women’s cooperative, which makes paper and practises other crafts in the nearby 19th century stone village of Iraq El-Amir.

For many centuries, Al-Salt was the only settlement of any size in Transjordan. A regional capital under the Ottomans, the town – whose name derives from the ancient Greek santos, (‘thick forest’) – came into its own in the late 19th century, when merchants from Nablus arrived to expand their trading base east of the river. Into what was then a peasant village of shacks boxed between precipitous hills, the merchants brought sophisticated architects and masons to work with the honey-coloured local limestone; buildings were put up in the ornate Nablusi style to serve both as grand residences and as merchandise centres. With open trade to and from Palestine, Salt’s boom continued into the 1920s; the new Emirate of Transjordan, precursor of the Kingdom, was formally proclaimed in 1921 in the town’s main square, but by then the railway from Damascus had reached nearby Amman and Emir Abdullah chose better-connected Amman to be his capital. As quickly as Salt had flourished, it went into decline: superseded by Amman, it was cut off by war in 1948 from its traditional trade outlet to the Mediterranean at Haifa, then again in 1967 from its Palestinian twin, Nablus.

As a consequence, Salt has seen none of the headlong modernisation that has so completely changed the capital: much of its Ottoman architecture has survived. We shall stroll up Dayr Street and through the crowded central streets to the graceful arched façade of the Abu Jaber House, one of the city’s most beautiful residences, built over 20 years from 1886 using local sandstone, Belgian stained glass, Italian marble and hand-painted Jerusalem tiles. Newly restored, it is now the home of the Historic Old Salt Museum, with interesting displays presenting local history and trade. It offers splendid views from the top-floor frescoed salon and has a fine café.

From Al-Ain square, we enter narrow Hammam Street (the eponymous hamam was razed in the 1930s for lack of customers). It is lined with buildings dating from Salt’s golden age, including a wonderful old mosque. The street has Jordan’s oldest – and, some say, best – souk (Souk Hammam), a small market selling food and household goods that is full of atmosphere, wreathed in the aroma of spices and flanked by gorgeous honey stone Ottoman architecture.

At the end of Souk Hammam we reach the Salt Archeological Museum, housing a fascinating collection that includes a working model of a Mamluk sugar mill and a representation of a Neolithic dolmen landscape. The Ottoman-era building is equally interesting. Known as Beit Touqan, it was once the stately residence of the Touqan family (King Hussein’s third wife, Queen Alia, was a Touqan). (Overnight Amman) BL

Day 4: Friday 4 April, Amman – Ajlun – Jerash – Amman
  • Ajlun Castle and Mosque
  • Graeco-Roman city of Jerash

This morning we drive 68 kilometres north from Amman to explore Ajlun Castle and Mosque. Izz al-Din Usama, a commander and nephew of Salah ad-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin), constructed Ajlun castle (1184-1185). He built it in response to attacks by crusaders from the Latin Kingdom of Transjordan who were based in the castles of Kerak and Belvoir. Ajlun Castle successfully dominated much of the Jordan Valley for the Ayyubid dynasty, controlling three key trade routes leading into the valley (Wadi Kufranjah, Wadi Rajeb and Wadi al-Yabes) and vital communication links between Damascus and Ayyubid dominions in the south. The citadel also protected rich iron mines at Ajlun, vital for the production of famed Damascene steel swords. The original square keep with walls protected by four corner towers and a fosse was extended by the Mamluk governor Aibak ibn Abdullah in 1214-15, but the citadel lost strategic importance with the eviction of crusader knights from the castle of Kerak. Like so many fortifications in the Middle East, Ajlun was partly destroyed by a Mongol assault (1260), but was repaired and rebuilt. The fortifications then continued in use as an Ottoman stronghold until the successful Arab revolt led by T.E. Lawrence in 1918.

In the afternoon we explore another Graeco-Roman city of the Decapolis: Jerash was founded by the Seleucid Hellenistic Kings who took power in the Middle East and Central Asia after the death of Alexander the Great. It was incorporated into the expanding Roman Empire and with the other nine Greek-speaking cities of the Decapolis formed a buffer zone between Roman imperial dominions, the Nabataean Arab kingdom to the south, and the Parthians (Persians) to the east. After Trajan subjugated the Greek-speaking cities of the Middle East, and conquered the rebellious Jewish Kingdom and the wealthy mercantile Nabataean state, in the 2nd century AD, Jerash was made capital of the phenomenally wealthy Roman province of Syria.

The city’s famed prosperity developed from international trade based on exploitation of its local agricultural base and its role as centre of Imperial Roman government. The Emperor Hadrian resided in the city for a period and a great deal of construction was undertaken during his reign. Unlike Palmyra or Petra, Jerash did not preserve its pre-Roman character; the city plan is exclusively Roman, making Jerash one of the purest and most complete extant examples of Roman urban planning. Its most important architectural remains include a large triumphal arch dedicated to Hadrian’s visit in 129/130 AD, a large hippodrome, a colonnaded cardo (main street), an almost unique colonnaded oval forum and grand temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis.

In the late afternoon we return to Amman, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Amman) BL

Day 5: Saturday 5 April, Amman – Desert Fortresses – Amman
  • Azraq Wetland Reserve
  • Qasr Azraq
  • Qasr Amra
  • Qasr Kharana

We depart early this morning for a visit to the Azraq Wetland Reserve, run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. The easy Marsh Trail boardwalks enable us to view the restored portion of the disappearing wetlands. This is the first-ever nature conservation effort in Jordan and a chance to talk about the successes and failures.

The remainder of the day is devoted to an exploration of lovely Umayyad fortified palaces constructed within the desert environs of Amman. These Umayyad palaces probably were inspired by Roman and Byzantine fortresses and villas, but functioned in a roughly similar way to medieval European castles, as they combined agricultural activity with the imperial domination of local Bedouin tribes. They not only functioned as agricultural and political centres but also as hunting lodges and as elegant resting places for Umayyad dignitaries travelling their domains.

We head into the desert to visit Qasr Azraq, which is constructed from the region’s black basalt. It dominates a local oasis and was watered by four strategically located, abundant springs.  The fortress was probably founded during the 2nd century BC by the Romans, and was ultimately used by T.E. Lawrence as his military base during the winter of 1917-18.

After lunch we continue to Qasr Amra, a small and enigmatic foundation consisting primarily of an audience hall and a series of hamams, or bathing rooms. Qasr Amra’s audience hall is decorated with startling frescoes of hunting parties, beautiful women and contemporary rulers paying homage to the Umayyads;  astronomical and astrological designs decorate a dome in a hamam.

Our final visit is to Qasr Kharana, built in the style of a small square Byzantine border fortress. Its primary purpose was probably military, but it could also have been a political and agricultural centre, a hunting lodge and a place of respite. (Overnight Amman) BL

Day 6: Sunday 6 April, Amman – Pella – Umm Qais – Amman
  • Ancient Pella
  • Umm Qais: Graeco-Roman city of Gadara

An early morning departure takes us through the Jordan Valley to the ruins of the ancient city of Pella (Arabic: Taqabat Fahl), another of the ten cities of the Decapolis. Although not as spectacular as Jerash, Pella is particularly important to archaeologists as it reveals evidence of 6000 years of continuous settlement. In fact, it’s regarded as the most historically significant site in all Jordan. It centres on a large tell and is surrounded by fertile valleys that together comprise a rich watershed.

Midday we continue to Umm Qais, located in the north-west corner of Jordan on the borders of Israel and Syria. Perched high on a plateau, it overlooks the edge of the Jordan River valley, offering a panorama of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. Umm Qais is the site of ancient Gadara, a member of the Decapolis. The city is mentioned in the New Testament as the site where Jesus cast out demons and sent them into a herd of pigs, which then ran into the sea (Matthew 8:28-34). Since excavations began in 1974, archaeologists have uncovered many impressive remains, including a colonnaded street, a theatre, a mausoleum and a Byzantine church. (Overnight Amman) BL

Petra - 3 nights

Day 7: Monday 7 April, Amman – Mount Nebo – Madaba – Petra
  • The Monastery of Sygha, Mount Nebo
  • Queen Noor Foundation sponsored Mosaic Workshop
  • Madaba Archaeological Park
  • Mosaic Map, Greek Orthodox Church of St George

This morning we depart Amman to visit Mount Nebo and explore Madaba, a centre of early Christianity that now shelters a large Palestinian population. Madaba was home to a very substantial Christian community and today is the seat of an Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan. Behind Madaba rises Mount Nebo, with commanding views over the Dead Sea with Palestine and Israel beyond. Mount Nebo is also known as Jabal Musa (‘Moses’ Mountain’), because, according to legend, God granted Moses his dying wish to see the Promised Land by transporting him to its summit. To commemorate this legend, a 4th-century chapel was erected at Sygha on Mount Nebo’s highest crest, which was further extended during the 6th century AD. A later Byzantine monastery was constructed around the chapel and decorated with a series of detailed mosaic floors, including a vine of life and a cornucopia of animal life.

During 20th century building work in Madaba, a number of Roman and Byzantine churches were unearthed, all of which were brightly decorated with fabulous mosaics. These churches often incorporated the architecture of earlier Roman palatial structures and one of these, the so-called Hippolytus Hall, the vestibule of the Church of the Virgin, was built above the hall of a 6th-century AD Madaba mansion. A mosaic with a border of acanthus scrolls depicting hunting and pastoral scenes is framed by images of the four seasons at its corners. All of the early churches have been successfully preserved in the Madaba archaeological park.

Without doubt, the most famous mosaic in Madaba covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St George. This is an extraordinary 6th-century AD mosaic map of Palestine, vividly depicting the holy city of Jerusalem at its centre. Comprising two million individual pieces of brightly-coloured local stone, the mosaic also depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns, as far away as the Nile Delta.

We also visit the Queen Noor Foundation sponsored Mosaic Workshop located just outside of Mount Nebo. Here we can see the training of artisans and making of mosaics in action.

From Madaba we drive south along ancient trade routes to the ancient city of Petra, which with modern Maidan Salah in Saudi Arabia, was the joint capital of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were Semitic Arabic-speaking nomads who settled in towns during the 4th century BC and quickly developed a powerful mercantile kingdom controlling the phenomenally lucrative trade in frankincense and myrrh vital for religious practice in temples from the western Mediterranean to the highlands of modern Afghanistan. The Nabataeans combined commercial acumen with a remarkable understanding of hydraulic technology, enabling them to develop agriculture in a hostile landscape and make the desert bloom. At its height, the Nabataean state stretched as far north as Damascus but Roman expansion gradually eroded Nabataean borders until Petra itself was annexed to the Empire and went into decline. (Overnight Petra) BLD

Day 8: Tuesday 8 April, Petra
  • Ancient Petra

Petra is located in a narrow valley flanked by spectacular cliffs that widens out to a broad desert floor. The streaked cliffs range in hue from sand through pink and rose to blood red. The city itself is nestled in this valley, but the Nabataeans carved a multitude of tomb chambers with monumental façades from the glowing rose cliffs above it. The spectacular beauty of these façades and their apparent antiquity led 19th-century Europeans to see Petra as a very ancient, mythic centre of civilisation, although its actual peak was reached during the Hellenistic period.

We enter Petra through a narrow winding canyon (Siq) with soaring sides that leads into the valley. The first tomb façade that we shall encounter is the sublime Khazna Fara’un, the Pharaoh’s Treasury, which suddenly appears after the final twist of the Siq. As we continue down into the valley we pass countless tomb chambers to reach the Romano-Nabataean city itself. Here we visit the amphitheatre, several royal Nabataean tombs and the mausoleum of Sextus Florentinus.

We also walk down the colonnaded main axis of Petra, visiting along the way the marketplace, the nymphaeum, the temple of Dushara, the principal Nabataean deity, the temple of the Winged Lions, and a Byzantine church with fine floor mosaics. (Overnight Petra) BLD

Day 9: Wednesday 9 April, Petra
  • Optional climb to the rock-cut façade, Ad Deir (the Monastery)
  • Little Petra (Siq al Barid)
  • Neolithic site of Beidah
  • Optional evening excursion: ‘Petra by night’

This morning there will be an optional walk up the wadi or narrow valley leading to the tomb chamber and façade known as ad-Deir (the Monastery). The ad-Deir is one of Petra’s most spectacular sites and commands a tremendous view across east Jordan. The climb involves over 900 steps and takes about 45 minutes each way.

In the afternoon we drive a short distance from the main archaeological site to ‘Little Petra’. Nabataean Little Petra, also known as Siq al-Barid (the ‘cold canyon’), is located north of Petra in the arid desert 1040 metres above sea level. Much smaller than Petra, it consists of three open areas connected by a narrow 450m long canyon. It was developed during the height of Nabataean power (1st c. AD) as a suburb of Petra and possibly also to accommodate wealthy visiting merchants. After Petra’s decline, it became a Bedouin camp for centuries. Little Petra remained known only to local Bedouin until the 1950s, when British archaeologist Diana Kirkbridge surveyed it.

Nearby we also visit the extremely important Neolithic site of Beidah. Archaeologists detected three periods of occupation here: the Natufian period in the 11th millennium BC, a Pre-Pottery Neolithic B village with masonry construction in the 7th millennium BC and a Nabataean period dating to the 1st or 2nd century BC.

In the evening there will be an optional walk (cost is approx. $25.00 USD pp), following a candle-lit path, through the Siq to the Khazna Fara’un, which may be viewed by the light of 1800 candles. (Overnight Petra) BLD

Aqaba - 3 nights

Day 10: Thursday 10 April, Petra – Shobak Castle – Wadi Rum – Aqaba
  • Shobak Castle
  • Wadi Rum: Disi Women’s Cooperative (Lunch, Thamudic Scripts class)
  • Jeep tour of Wadi Rum Protected Area

This morning we visit Shobak Castle, an early 12th-century crusader castle isolated in barren surroundings. It is perched on the side of a rocky, conical mountain at 1300m above sea level, looking down over plantations of fruit trees. Although it is not so well-preserved as Kerak Castle, its isolation creates a special atmosphere. Built in 1115, Shobak was originally called Krak de Montreal or Mons Regalis. It was the first of many fortifications constructed by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus. It successfully resisted a number of sieges before it fell to Saladin’s troops in 1189.

Much of what remains of Shobak Castle consists of Mamluk additions, but there are also numerous original Crusader elements. At the northeast corner of the enceinte there is a keep inscribed with Quaranic verses in Kufic script, possibly dating to the time of Saladin. There are two churches within Shobak Castle’s walls. The first, near the entrance, consists of an apse, two smaller niches, and a baptistery. The second church, near the southeast corner of the enceinte (next to a Mamluk watchtower with more Kufic script), has a crusader cross carved in its east wall. Beneath this church are catacombs that contain Islamic tablets, Christian carvings, large round rocks used by catapults, and what is claimed to be Saladin’s throne.

From Shobak we drive to the extraordinary landscapes of Wadi Rum, a desert valley frequented by Lawrence of Arabia and later made famous through the glorious cinematography of David Lean’s 1962 film. Here we will lunch at the Disi Women’s Cooperative and have a short class to learn about the historic Thamudic scripts that can be seen on rock-art panels throughout Wadi Rum. Later we transfer to the Wadi Rum Protected Area where we view its beautiful rose sandstone mountains (jebels), dunes, scarce water sources with nearby rock-art and inscriptions, and the remains of the Nabataean Temple dedicated to the goddess Allat, sister goddess of aI-‘Uzza (venerated in Petra), and equated with the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman Minerva. Wadi Rum became a Nabataean outpost on the trading route between Saudi Arabia and Petra in the last century BCE. Remains of several Nabataean constructions including the temple, adjoining palatial residence and luxury bath may be viewed.

In the late afternoon we continue in T. E. Lawrence’s footsteps and drive to the port city of Aqaba on the Red Sea. (Overnight Aqaba) BLD

Day 11: Friday 11 April, Aqaba
  • Morning orientation tour of Aqaba incl. market and fort
  • Lunch at the Royal Aqaba Yacht Club
  • Afternoon at leisure

This morning we take an orientation walking tour of the city. We begin with a visit to Aqaba’s atmospheric market which sells different types of fruits, vegetables, oriental delicacies, fragrant spices as well as handicrafts, jewellery, natural products and antiques.

The Aqaba Fort is a Mamluk and Ottoman fortified caravanserai built between 1510 and 1517 to host pilgrims on their way to Mecca and Medina. Famously captured by T. E. Lawrence and his Arab allies in a lightening raid on 6th July 1917, the defeat of Aqaba’s Ottoman garrison with virtually no losses energised Lawrence’s Arab allies and is the foundation stone in the edifice of the myth of “Lawrence of Arabia” in the West.

Following a leisurely lunch at the famous Royal Aqaba Yacht Club, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight Aqaba) BL

Day 12: Saturday 12 April, Aqaba – Pharaoh’s Island – Aqaba
  • Cruise of the Red Sea: Snorkelling amongst the Coral Reefs & Saladin’s Citadel on Pharaoh’s Island
  • Time at leisure

Today we enjoy a six-hour cruise of the Red Sea during which we visit the Aqaba Marine Park and the Crusader castle of Saladin located on Pharaoh’s Island, Egypt. Aqaba’s greatest asset is the Red Sea with fringing reef stretching for over 25km right down to the Saudi Arabian border. The Red Sea Marine Peace Park is known to be one of the most beautiful diving areas of the world due to the amazing combination of sea life, corals, water transparency and nice weather it offers year round. There are approximately 127 coral species found in the Gulf of Aqaba. During our relaxing cruise we visit the Aqaba Marine Park where we will have time to snorkel or swim amongst the coral. Interestingly, there are a number of Australians scientists undertaking research in this area to understand why, in contrast to the Great Barrier Reef, the coral species of the Gulf of Aqaba are particularly resilient to high temperatures.

During our cruise we also visit Saladin’s citadel on Pharaoh’s Island which is located in the northern Gulf of Aqaba approximately 200 metres east off the shore of Egypt’s eastern Sinai Peninsula. Although the site contains remnants of Byzantine-era buildings, Crusaders are believed to have built the original fort in the early 12th century during the reign of Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, to aid in defending one of the major routes between Cairo and Damascus. The Arab general and Islamic dynasty founder, Saladin, conquered the island and surrounding area in 1170-1171. Saladin ordered the Crusader fort to be consolidated and redeveloped; he left a garrison of men there. For about 150 years, it served an important strategic and symbolic role, until the nearby Crusades ended and the Mamluk governor of Aqaba moved his residence to the city on the shore. From the top of the citadel it is possible to see the countries of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list in 2003.

Following our cruise there will be some time at leisure to enjoy the facilities of our hotel. (Overnight Aqaba) BL

Dead Sea - 3 nights

Day 13: Sunday 13 April, Aqaba – Kerak – Dead Sea
  • Crusader Castle of Kerak

This morning we journey to the famous 12th-century crusader castle at Kerak. Initially constructed by Pagan, the butler of Fulk of Jerusalem during the 1140s to protect the eastern flanks of the Christian Kingdom of Outremer, Crac des Moabites (‘Karak in Moab’) is one of the largest of all the crusader castles in the Middle East, rivaling Crac des Chevaliers in Syria, for the strength, size and the completeness of its surviving architecture. The castle, which dominates the surrounding landscape, was expanded through the 12th and 13th century by local crusader ‘Lords of Oultrejordain’ (Lords of Transjordan). Besieged by Saladin after the Battle of Hattin in 1187, the castle held out for two long years before falling in 1189. Further expanded by Mamluk Sultans in the 13th century, it was only during the 19th century that Kerak finally lost its position as the dominant fortification in the region. As with Ajlun, Kerak was used by Ottoman forces until their expulsion in 1918.

In the afternoon we travel north to the Dead Sea where we check in to our luxury 5-star hotel. Situated on the edge of this famous salt lake, the hotel provides uninterrupted views across the sea towards the West Bank. (Overnight Dead Sea) BLD

Day 14: Monday 14 April, Dead Sea – Bani Hamida – Mukawir – Umm ar-Rasas – Dead Sea
  • Bani Hamida Showroom
  • Mukawir (Machaerus)
  • Archaeological site of Umm ar-Rasas

We depart the Dead Sea for a visit to the Bani Hamida Show Room. The Jordan River Foundation was founded by Queen Nour Al-Hussein, wife of the late King Talal. Queen Rania then took over this non-profit organisation that aims to empower women and children and to improve the quality of life of all Jordanians. The Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project is one of the projects hosted by the Foundation. Based in Mukawir, the project works to promote bedouin handicrafts and to improve economic and social wellbeing of bedouin women and children. Bani Hamida handicrafts are displayed in its showroom. The Wadi Al Rayan Project is also hosted by the Jordan River Foundation. A group of 165 women involved in the project make baskets, mats, and furniture from local banana leaves and cattail reeds.

Mid-morning we continue to the site of Mukawir (Machaerus). Machaerus is a fortified hilltop palace located southeast of the mouth of the Jordan River on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. The Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer Flavius Josephus believed it to be where John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed. The fortress was originally built by a Hasmonean king, Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC) in around 90 BC. Its high, rocky location was difficult to access and invaders from the east could easily be spotted from its heights. It was also in line of sight of other Hasmonean (and later Herodian) citadels, so other fortresses could be signaled if danger appeared on the horizon. It was, however, destroyed by Pompey’s general Gabinius in 57 BC. Herod the Great rebuilt it in 30 BC as a military base to safeguard his territories east of the Jordan River. It was under his son, Herod Antipas (c. 4 BC-39 AD) that John the Baptist was purportedly imprisoned and beheaded here. It eventually came under Roman control, but Jewish rebels took it during the First Jewish Revolt (66 AD). The Roman legate Lucilius Bassus besieged and retook it in 72 AD. The fortress was torn down, leaving only its foundations intact.

Before returning to the Dead Sea we drive east once more to the gloriously atmospheric and little visited archaeological site of Umm ar-Rasas. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004, most of the site, which began life as a Roman military camp and developed as a major provincial town in the 5th century AD, has not yet been excavated. Umm ar-Rasas contains remains from the Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties (3rd to 9th centuries AD). The old town has sixteen churches, most with well-preserved mosaic floors. Particularly noteworthy is the mosaic floor of the Church of Saint Stephen depicting a pictorial map of Roman and Byzantine towns in the region. Two square towers at Umm ar-Rasas are almost certainly the only remnants of stylite pillars, of ascetic monks who spent time in isolation atop a column or tower. Simeon Stylites of Antioch is probably the most famous practitioner of this once widespread Christian tradition in the Middle East. Lunch will be arranged at the Umm Rasas Women Cooperative Society.

This evening is free for you to dine at leisure. Your hotel offers a number of different dining options. (Overnight Dead Sea) BL

Day 15: Tuesday 15 April, Dead Sea – Ghwar As-Safi – Dead Sea
  • Dead Sea: Morning at leisure
  • Lot’s Cave & Museum, Ghwar as-Safi
  • Tawahin as-Sukkar (Sugar Mill), Ghwar as-Safi
  • Farewell Dinner

This morning is at leisure for you to enjoy the soothing saline waters of the Dead Sea. This is the lowest place on earth at 434m below sea level. The waters of this cobalt-blue lake, shared by Israel and the Palestinian Territories on the western side and Jordan on the east, have a salt concentration of 34%, 10 times more than ocean water.

Midday we depart for lunch at the Mujib Chalets. Located on the shores of the Madash peninsula within the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, they provide some of the best Dead Sea views along the coast. Fifty kilometres further south we reach Ghwar as-Safi where we visit Lot’s Cave and Museum. The cave purportedly sheltered Lot and his daughters after they fled from the ill-fated cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A Byzantine monastery was built there, and recently a magnificent new museum. In addition to exploring the unique environmental and geological conditions that make the Dead Sea the lowest elevation on earth, the museum showcases the rich archaeological and cultural heritage of the diverse populations that have inhabited the shores of the Dead Sea over millennia. The collection includes 4500-year-old pottery excavated from the sites of Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira, thought by some to be the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

We also visit the ancient Tawahin as-Sukkar or sugar mill. Sugar production dominated the area’s economy from the 11th to the 15th century, an industry that demanded tremendous technology and tools. The historic stone mill gives great insight into the technology of the time, revealing an elaborate system of extracting, purifying, and storing sugar from sugar canes. As recently as 2016, archaeologists discovered the complex gear system used to channel water from the Wadi Hasa across the surrounding sugar fields and the mill. The site shows that Ghawr as-Safi was the centre of the sugar industry, and that sugar was then sold across the entire Mediterranean region.

This evening we enjoy a farewell meal at the hotel. (Overnight Dead Sea) BLD

Day 16: Wednesday 16 April, Dead Sea; Tour Ends
  • Tour concludes in the morning
  • At leisure/Check out

Our tour ends after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to Amman Airport. B

Accommodation

Accommodation

All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom and Free Wi-Fi. Further information will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure

  • Amman (6 nights): 5-star The House Boutique Suites – a luxury hotel located near 2nd Circle on Abdullah Abu Qurah Street. Room type: Superior Studio suites. www.thehouse.jo
  • Petra (3 nights): 4-star Petra Guest House Hotel – situated at the entrance of ancient Petra. It offers air-conditioned rooms that overlook Wadi Musa’s mountains. Room type: Chalet. Note: Chalet rooms are accessible by staircase. IF you prefer a standard room (no staircase access) please advise ASA at the time of making a reservation. www.petraguesthousehotel.com
  • Aqaba (3 nights): 5-star Mövenpick Resort – resort in the centre of Aqaba, 500 metres from the Red Sea. Room type: Superior Seaview. www.movenpick.com
  • Dead Sea, Sowayma (3 nights): 5-star Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea  a luxury hotel situated on the edge of the famous Dead Sea. Room type: Superior Seaview. www.movenpick.com

Notehotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single use is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book

ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION FORM

Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $1000.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 16-day Cultural Tour of Jordan involves:
  • A moderate amount of walking where many of the sites are large and unsheltered.
  • Visiting sites where you will encounter steps, cobbled streets, rocky and uneven ground, slopes and steep walks.
  • Extensive travel by air-conditioned coach, excursions by 4WD in Wadi Rum and day cruise on the Red Sea.
  • Accommodation in 4- or 5-star hotels. There are three accommodation changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $11,780.00 Land Content Only– Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 March 2024

AUD $11,980.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2990.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in 4- or 5-star hotels
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Bottled water 3 x 500ml per day for excursions
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals do not include beverages.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach; some excursions made by 4WD
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Services of Jordanian National Guide
  • Entrance fees to all sites visited on program
  • Audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, National Guide and restaurants for included meals
  • Free visa to Jordan provided that we have passport details or copy in advance.
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Amman, Amman-Australia
  • Evening meals & lunches not indicated in the tour itinerary
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Gallery
Terms & Conditions
Deposits

A non-refundable deposit of $1000.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on this ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 120 days before departure: your initial deposit of $1000.00 is non-refundable.**
  • 120-46 days prior 30% of total amount due
  • 45-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**$500.00 of this amount (ie 50% of your deposit) may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 120 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 120 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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