Jordan Historical Sites
is a land steeped in history. It has been home to some of mankind's
earliest settlements and villages, and relics of many of the worlds
great civilizations can still be seen today.
As the crossroads of the Middle East, the lands of Jordan and Palestine have served as a strategic nexus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe. Thus, since the dawn of civilization, Jordan's geography has given it an important role to play as a conduit for trade and communications, connecting east and west, north and south. Jordan continues to play this role today.
Take an interactive tour through Jordan's history starting from the Paleolithic Era, right up to modern day with our Interactive Historical Timeline .
Take a look at some of Jordan's historical treasures and learn more about the history of Jordan's major attractions by selecting a destination from the list below:
Home to almost half the country’s population, and often referred to as the ‘White City’, Amman is a perfect base for exploring the sites of northern Jordan. While not a highlight in itself, the city has an ancient foundation, and some notable attractions. Much of the classical city known as Philadelphia has been built over, but the ancient Citadel of Amman with its temple attributed to Heracles and the Umayyad Palace complex, together with extensive fortifications and a Roman theatre dating from the reign of Marcus Aurelius still survive. The Folklore Museum gives an interesting insight into the more recent past, but perhaps a walking tour of old Amman is the best way to experience the city and discover its little shops, and quaint cafés. The glistening gold souq, with its great variety of silver and gold pieces is particularly memorable as is the tantalizing aroma of hot shwarma and the strong and sweet scent of Arabic coffee. A half-day tour will offer visitors a rare opportunity to get a feel for life in contemporary Jordan.
Jerash is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved ancient cities in the Middle East. The extensive ruins are located 50 minutes drive north of Amman. A visit normally occupies half a day. Ancient Gerasa came to prominence during Hellenistic times, but her golden age came in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D when the city was an important member of the Decapolis confederation. The visit of the Emperor Hadrian to Jerash in 129 A.D. sparked a wave of building activity including an enormous monumental arch that has survived almost intact. The oval forum with its beautiful ionic colonnade is one of Jerash’s most distinctive features. Leading from here is the Cardo which is lined by columns along its entire 800 metre length to the North Gate. Other notable monuments include two well preserved theatres, the Hippodrome and the Nymphaeum. The most splendid of Jerash’s monuments is the Temple of Artemis. This huge building was designed to impress and stands on a high podium. The capitals of the 13 surviving columns are masterpieces of carving.
The extraordinary coloured rocks, celebrated tombs, and grand carved façades of the ‘rose-red’ city of Petra are among the world’s most impressive archaeological treasures. Ancient Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe who ruled a kingdom covering the greater part of Arabia. A shift in trade routes then led to the city’s demise, and for a thousand years Petra then lay forgotten to the West until rediscovered in 1812 by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. The site is approached via the Siq, a dramatic narrow gorge of striking beauty hemmed-in by cliffs up to 80 metres in height. After 1.5 kilometres, the stunning Treasury (Al Khazneh) emerges dramatically through a narrow gap in the rock. Carved in the 1st century B.C. for an important Nabataean king, the massive façade draws its artistic influences from ancient Alexandria and is incredibly impressive. Further on, the giant Royal Tombs once rivalled the Treasury in their beauty. Along the Street of Façades, rows of rock-carved, multi-hued, tombs vie for your attention, as does the extensive rose-red theatre. A colonnaded street then takes you through the former city centre to the Qasr al Bint. This was probably the main temple of Petra and is the only freestanding structure to have survived centuries of earthquakes and floods. Petra’s second most famed attraction, the Monastery (Ad-Deir) is reached by means of some 800 steps to the top of a rocky outcrop. This huge building is larger than the Treasury and resembles it in architectural style. Throughout this vast site there are innumerable places of interest. A minimum of a full day, preferably more, should be allotted to exploring. The unforgettable spectacle of Petra by Night occurs three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday). Petra is located 3 hours drive south of Amman and 2 Hours from Aqaba Red Sea City.
Wadi Rum has some of the most dramatic desert scenery in Jordan. It is a vast, timeless and starkly beautiful place where massive, uniquely shaped mountains rise out of the rose-red desert. A visit to the valley, which is best explored on camel back or by 4WD jeep, casts one back to a time when vast caravans of merchants plied the desert carrying spices and exotic goods from the Indies to the Mediterranean. The area is still the preserve of the Bedouins and their low black goat-hair tents can be seen dotting the landscape. During the First World War T.E Lawrence made his home in the valley. David Lean’s epic film about the exploits of Lawrence features many dramatic sequences that were shot in Wadi Rum. The valley is best experienced in the early morning or late afternoon when the lighting is at its best. The adventurous may be interested in spending a night under canvas in a specially prepared private camp and gazing at the stunning night sky, or enjoy the dramatic experience of a hot-air balloon journey at dawn. Rum is a truly unforgettable and authentically Arabian experience.
Aqaba Red Sea
Surrounded by rugged purplish mountains, Aqaba enjoys good weather year round and is Jordan’s outlet to the Red Sea. The clear waters of the resort offer many forms of water-sports including scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, and waterskiing. Aqaba has an ancient foundation and was once an important point on the incense trail bringing frankincense and myrrh up from southern Arabia, though little now remains of Aqaba’s historic past. Visitors considering a stay in Aqaba should be aware that the beaches are of varying quality depending on your chosen hotel and that the city is an important container port for Jordan. The sea views from your hotel are thus highly likely to include a cargo ship.
No one can sink in the waters of the Dead Sea, one of the world’s saltiest bodies, with a salinity level more than ten times higher than the Mediterranean. The unique characteristics of this body of water, which at more than 360 metres below sea level is the lowest dry point on earth, have attracted visitors for centuries. Several deluxe hotels with on-site spas have been built at the northern end of the sea. These offer guests the opportunity to experience the unique sensation of floating like a cork in the Dead Sea’s saline and buoyant waters, indulging in spa treatments, and experiencing the regions special dry climate which benefits from weakened ultraviolet radiation and is characterized by a high oxygen content. The Dead Sea Panoramic Complex sits on a dramatic cliff high above the Dead Sea and has some of the best views in the country. The site is an interpretive centre dedicated to describing the origins, geology and cultural history of the Dead Sea. Just to the north of the Dead Sea is the important biblical site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan which tradition holds was as baptism site of Jesus of Nazareth. There are Byzantine remains on the site and it is possible to walk right down to the banks of the River Jordan.
Just 30km from Amma
n, along the 5,000-year-old Kings´ Highway, is one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land. After passing through a string of ancient sites, the first city you reach is Madaba, known as the “City of Mosaics."
The Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which is located northwest of the city centre. The church was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. The mosaic panel enclosing the Map was originally around 15.6 X 6m, 94 sq.m., only about a quarter of which is preserved.
Mount Nebo, one of the most revered holy sites of Jordan and the place where Moses was buried. A small Byzantine church was built there by early Christians, which has been expanded into a vast complex. During his visit to Jordan in 2000, the Late Pope John Paul II held a sermon here that was attended by some 20,000 faithful.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Dana Biosphere Reserve is an area of staggering beauty, history, and biodiversity. The only reserve in Jordan that encompasses the four different bio-geographical zones of the country (Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian), it is a melting pot of species from Europe, Africa and Asia. Such a combination of natural communities in a single area is unique in Jordan and many of Dana Biosphere Reserve’s animals and plants are very rare. So far, a total of 800 plant speciesand 449 animal species have been recorded in the Reserve, of which 25 are known to be endangered, including the Sand Cat, the Syrian Wolf, the Lesser Kestrel and the Spiny Tailed Lizard.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
The site of John the Baptist's settlement at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, has long been known from the Bible (John 1:28 and 10:40) and from the Byzantine and medieval texts.
The site has now been identified on the east bank of the Jordan River, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and is being systematically surveyed, excavated, restored, and prepared to receive pilgrims and visitors. Bethany Beyond the Jordan is located half an hour by car from Amman.
Jordan's desert castles, beautiful examples of both early Islamic art and architecture, stand testament to a fascinating era in the country's rich history. Their fine mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carvings and illustrations, inspired by the best in Persian and Graeco-Roman traditions, tell countless stories of the life as it was during the 8th century. Called castles because of their imposing stature, the desert complexes actually served various purposes as caravan stations, agriculture and trade centres, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local Bedouins. Several of these preserved compounds, all of which are clustered to the east and south of Amm
an, can be visited on one - or two-day loops from the city.