JordanMiddle East

Jordan: Storytelling of a Journey Through Time

The warmth of its people, the richness of its culture, and the unparalleled beauty of its natural and historical sites make Jordan a place that captivates the heart and enriches the mind.

One of the best ways to enjoy the view of Wadi Rum is by jeep to traverse the mounting dunes and rocky outcrops. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

The warmth of its people, the richness of its culture, and the unparalleled beauty of its natural and historical sites make Jordan a place that captivates the heart and enriches the mind.

A land steeped in history and brimming with natural wonders, Jordan beckons travellers from across the globe to embark on a journey of discovery. This timeless land needs no introduction, as many travellers, including me, have this destination on their definite bucket list. So, imagine how thrilled I was when I had the chance to experience the best of what Jordan has to offer along with other members of the media and tour agents, courtesy of a meticulously curated Familiarisation (Fam) Trip organised by MATTA in collaboration with Jordan Tourism Board.

I had a great time exploring Jordan despite the crisis happening in the bordering countries, which ramifications affect the whole world. Despite the tumult, Jordan remains peaceful, hence safe for international travellers like me.

My trip coincided with the end of winter, therefore it did get a little too cold for me in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert at 5° Celsius during the night , but I enjoyed the weather when the temperature hovered between 16° Celsius and 21° Celsius at other places. I reckon February might be one of the best times to visit this country in the heart of Middle East.

Join me as I recount the highlights of this unforgettable eight-day expedition through Jordan.

Madaba – The Ancient City of Mosaic Art

Our exploration in Jordan began in the ancient city of Madaba, home to Mount Nebo, an elevated ridge about 45 minutes from Amman city centre. It holds historical and religious significance, being mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted the view of the Promised Land before he passed away.

Mount Nebo’s summit offers panoramic views of the Holy Land, with Jerusalem and Jericho visible on clear days. The site is also home to a Byzantine church and the serpentine cross sculpture by Italian artist Gian Paolo Fantoni, symbolising Moses’ bronze serpent and the crucifixion of Jesus.

Intrigued to learn more, I spent quite some time at the Mount Nebo Interpretation Centre, a modest yet significant museum-like establishment housing a collection of mosaics salvaged from churches in Khirbat al-Mukhayyat and ‘Ayoun Musa, including Roman milestones that directed pilgrims to the site, and artefacts from the Iron Age.

I even visited the monastery, known as the Memorial Church of Moses, to admire the vast collection of beautiful mosaics adorning the walls and the floor. This monastery stood strong for almost 600 years and is now managed by the Franciscan Archaeological Institute to ensure the legacy of this sacred place continues for future generations.

On the way to Madaba city centre, we stopped by The Handicraft Centre Mosaic Workshop, located inside Jabal Beni Hamida Antiques, to see how the ancient art of mosaic-making is kept alive.

This handicraft is part of a tradition that dates back to the Byzantine period, therefore most of the artworks here draw inspiration from that period, especially from the surrounding areas like Mount Nebo, The Valley of Moses and the ancient city of Madaba. Tourists can witness the art of mosaic-making, as well as involved in hands-on experience, or shop for souvenirs like mosaic paintings, crafts, and carpets.

This workshop is part of a programme under the Queen Noor Foundation to train and nurture more inspiring artists, especially women, to subsequently create more job opportunities and sources of income, while preserving this ancient craftsmanship.

We had lunch at Haret Jdoudna before leaving Madaba. This was a special experience for us because Haret Jdoudna is a well-known restaurant in Madaba that offers a rich dining experience, combining delicious food with a touch of history.

Even the building, in which this restaurant resides, is an old house built by Madaba’s first mayor Ibrahim Jumean together with world-renowned architects, now transformed into an atmospheric setting that reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region. It is now a landmark of Madaba, known for its Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, with vegetarian, vegan, halal, and gluten-free options available.

Petra – The Rose-Red Ancient City

No journey to Jordan would be complete without a visit to Petra, the crown jewel of the country’s archaeological treasures. On the second day of the trip, I was overwhelmed with excitement because Petra has always been on my bucket list.

Petra is an ancient city that was once the capital of the Nabataean kingdom; it is famous for its rock-cut architecture, water conduit system, and rose-red sandstone cliffs.

It was a prosperous trading hub until it declined due to changing trade routes and natural disasters. This city had almost lost through time in the desert until it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812.

Petra is located in Wadi Musa, named after the Valley of Moses, where Moses is said to have struck water from a rock. The spring water still runs through Wadi Musa today, using a sophisticated water system through pipes and tunnels constructed by The Nabateans. The water system was one of the reasons why Petra thrived as a trade centre in the desert.

Petra is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its exceptional rock-cut architecture and ancient water management system. The site reflects the artistic and engineering achievements of the Nabataeans, Romans, and Byzantines, showcasing significant cultural heritage. Petra is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

We rode a buggy to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra as we did not have much time for our journey. Between the Visitor Centre and the entrance to Al Siq, we passed notable facades such as Djinn Blocks, Obelisk Tomb, Bab as-Siq Triclinium, and Aslah Triclinium Complex.

We also passed through Al Siq, the main entrance to the ancient city, which is a narrow, winding gorge that stretches about 1.2 km and leads directly to Al Khazneh (The Treasury). This geological formation was created by tectonic forces and later smoothed by water erosion.

Then, we arrived right in front of The Treasury, one of Petra’s most iconic and elaborate rock-cut tombs. I was totally overwhelmed and in awe! Despite its name, The Treasury was likely not used to store treasure; instead, the moniker was derived from the carving in the shape of an urn at the top of the façade believed to hold treasure belonging to an Egyptian pharaoh.

The total distance from the visitor centre to the city centre is approximately four kilometres, so it is advisable that you wear comfortable clothes and a pair of good walking shoes when visiting this place. The entrance fee starts from JOD50 (MYR329) for one-day entry, JOD55 (MYR361) for two-day entry, and JOD60 (MYR394) for three-day entry, using the prevailing exchange rate of MYR6.58 to JOD1.

Wadi Rum – The Valley of the Moon

Leaving Petra behind, on the third day, we ventured into the otherworldly realm of Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon, a vast desert landscape that has captured the imaginations of travellers for centuries.

Since it was still winter, the temperature change was extreme; it was 16°C during the day to 6 °C at night. So, lying on the sandy ground while waiting for sunset became a truly amazing first-hand experience for us travellers who hail from equatorial climate.

This valley was formed by sandstone and granite rock, creating a surreal landscape spanning approximately 720 square kilometres, making it the largest wadi (river valley) in Jordan. It boasts tough rocky outcrops of red rock, flat sandy areas, and salt pans. Towering sandstone mountains, narrow canyons, and vast, wavelike dunes contribute to its appeal.

Due to these features, Wadi Rum was selected as the film location for blockbuster movies like Dune (2024), The Martian (2015), Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Prometheus (2012) and more.

The Wadi Rum Protected Area is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011. Prehistoric civilisations have left their mark in Wadi Rum through petroglyphs, rock inscriptions, and ancient ruins.

The village of Wadi Rum is home to several hundred Bedouin inhabitants who live in traditional goat-hair tents and concrete houses.

Our accommodation at Sun City Camp offered a luxurious yet authentic Bedouin experience, with Martian-like dome tents providing a cosy retreat beneath the star-studded desert sky.

We explored the desert of Wadi Rum by jeep, traversing dunes and rocky outcrops, including discovering ancient petroglyphs etched on stone by civilisations long gone.

We also visited a Bedouin camp that provided insight into the traditional way of life that still thrives in this remote corner of the world, and savoured the hearty and delicious local dish called Maqluba rice for lunch.

The Dead Sea – The Lowest Land on Earth

In the morning, we left Wadi Rum and headed to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth and a natural wonder like no other. It is a landlocked salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and the West Bank to the west.

The weather here somehow gets hotter between 21°C in the day and 18°C at night compared to Wadi Rum. So, remember to stay hydrated and bring sunblock to protect your skin from the sun if you were here.

The Dead Sea is renowned for its high salinity, which allows effortless floating, and its mineral-rich waters and mud are believed to have therapeutic properties. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
The Dead Sea is renowned for its high salinity, which allows effortless floating, and its mineral-rich waters and mud are believed to have therapeutic properties. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

The sea is renowned for its high salinity, which allows effortless floating, and its mineral-rich waters and mud are believed to contain medicinal properties. The unique composition of the Dead Sea’s water and mud – with mineral concentrations up to 80 times higher than the other seas – makes for a particularly potent ingredient in health and beauty products.

We stayed at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa, so we had the privacy of dipping into the therapeutic seawater at a private beach. There are hotel beach boys cum lifeguards monitoring the activities at the beach, and at the same time offering to put on specially produced mud products on you. They also make sure you understand the correct way to enjoy getting soaked in seawater.

I tried to get into the water, and it was true that the salt concentration was so dense that I could float on my back effortlessly. However, I noticed a few sensations on my skin where I felt like being poked with needles, but at the same time, I liked that my skin consequently felt soft and smooth. This experience differs from dipping into the typical seawater; it felt almost spa-like.

At the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa, we had the privacy of dipping into the therapeutic seawater at a private beach. Photo by Ed Junaidi/Gaya Travel Magazine.
At the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa, guests have the privacy of dipping into the therapeutic seawater at a private beach. Photo by Ed Junaidi/Gaya Travel Magazine.
The guide at Elmar Factory was giving information about Elmar's products made from Dead Sea. Photo by Ed Junaidi/Gaya Travel Magazine.
The guide at Elmar Factory explaining about Elmar’s products made from the Dead Sea mud and salt. Photo by Ed Junaidi/Gaya Travel Magazine.

While in the area, we visited the Elmar Factory and had a fascinating glimpse into the production of skincare products made from Dead Sea mud and salt, highlighting the region’s unique natural bounty and its centuries-old tradition of wellness and healing. The factory also includes a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase these products, often at discounted prices.

As we departed for Amman on the next day, we had a stop in the southern region of Al-Salt to visit The Maqam of Prophet Shuaib, a revered religious site significant to Muslims, Christians, and Jews and is associated with Prophet Shuaib, who is mentioned in the Quran.

This site is believed to be the burial place of Shuaib – also known as Jethro – and is considered a place of pilgrimage and prayer. The shrine, including the accompanying mosque, dates back to the Umayyad era and houses the tomb of Prophet Shuaib, along with several other archaeological landmarks. Though the mosque was under renovation during our visit, we learn that visitors to the Maqam can engage in prayer, and reflection, and learn about the story of Prophet Shuaib and his teachings.

Makam Nabi Shuaib. Photo by Ed Junaidi/Gaya Travel Magazine.
The Maqam (tomb) of Prophet Shuaib, also known as Jethro. Photo by Ed Junaidi/Gaya Travel Magazine.

Amman – The White City

Our Jordan familiarisation trip concludes in the bustling capital city of Amman, also called The White City because most buildings were built using limestones, where ancient history meets modernity in a vibrant tapestry of sights, sounds, and flavours. From the historic downtown area to the majestic Amman Citadel, there’s no shortage of treasures to uncover in this dynamic urban centre.

As we wandered the lively streets of Rainbow Street, sampling authentic Jordanian cuisine and browsing artisanal shops, we couldn’t help but marvel at the juxtaposition of old and new that defines Amman’s uniqueness.

We had lunch at Sufra Restaurant & Café, renowned for its wide variety of traditional Jordanian homemade dishes served in an authentic setting in a charming old villa on Rainbow Street. The restaurant offers a lovely garden setting and is known for its elegant traditional ambience. If you’re planning to come here, we recommend that you make a reservation in advance due to its popularity.

The most prominent and intriguing structure in Amman Citadel is The Temple of Hercules, due to its impressive size, which is larger than any surviving temple in Rome. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
The most prominent and intriguing vestige at Amman Citadel is the ruins of The Temple of Hercules, due to its impressive size, which is larger than any surviving temple in Rome. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Later that day, we had the opportunity to visit Amman Citadel, a historical site located at the centre of downtown Amman. It’s situated on an L-shaped hill, one of the original seven hills that made up the city. The site has been occupied by various civilisations, with evidence of human presence dating back to the Neolithic period. The Citadel’s history includes periods under the control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Neo-Babylonian Empire, Ptolemies, Seleucids, Romans, Byzantines, and Umayyads. Key structures at the site include the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace.

The most prominent and intriguing structure for me is The Temple of Hercules, due to its impressive size, which is larger than any surviving temple in Rome, although this one is mostly in ruins today. One of the most striking features of the temple is the surviving remnants of what was a colossal stone statue of Hercules, now only in the form of three fingers and an elbow, suggesting that the original statue would have been over 12 metres tall.

The Temple of Hercules stands as a testament to the Roman architectural prowess and the historical significance of the Amman Citadel as a cultural and religious centre throughout the ages.

We culminated our day in Amman with a brisk walk in the Downtown, known as Al-Balad. It is the historic heart of the city and is believed to have been inhabited since the Neolithic period.

Downtown Amman has a very contrasting environment compared to the new town, where it is bustling with a mix of traditional markets souqs and modern shops, reflecting the city’s rich history and contemporary culture. The area is also known for its food scene, offering a variety of local and international cuisines. If you were keen to try the local delicacy, it is worth swinging by Habibah Sweets for its kunafeh and Hashem Restaurant for its delectable fare.


As the sun set on our final day in Amman, it marked not just the end of our journey but the beginning of a lifelong appreciation of Jordan. The warmth of its people, the richness of its culture, and the unparalleled beauty of its natural and historical sites make it a destination that captivates the heart and enriches the mind.

The participants of MATTA and Jordan Fam Trip took the opportunity to take a photo at Amman Citadel. Photo by Ivan.
The participants of MATTA and Jordan Fam Trip took the opportunity to take a photo at Amman Citadel. Photo by Ivan.

Reflecting on this unforgettable expedition, it’s clear that the essence of Jordan cannot be fully captured through words or pictures alone — it must be experienced first-hand. The memories made, the sights beheld, and the knowledge gained on this trip will resonate with me forever. For those seeking adventure, history, or simply a connection to a land that has been the crossroads of civilisations, Jordan offers an experience unlike any other.

I must thank our guide Mr. Basel Al Haj Ahmad for sharing his informative, extensive, and valuable knowledge regarding Jordan during this trip.

To Jordan, I say, shukran (thank you) for the memories, the lessons, and the hospitality.

Gaya Travel Magazine team extends its heartfelt gratitude to Jordan Tourism Board and the Malaysian Association of Travel and Tour Agents (MATTA) for making the writer’s trip possible and smooth-sailing.

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