Monthly Archives: September 2019

Festive in Jordan

Celebrating Christmas and New Year, Jordanian Style

Christmas is very visible in Amman and both Christians and Muslims enjoy celebrating the festive season. The shopping and dining complex at the Boulevard in Abdali area turns into a strip of kiosks and markets with lavish decorations and carol singers. This year The Boulevard hosts its third Christmas festivities, with groups singing traditional English carols (along with some Arabic versions), gift stalls, visits from Santa and the lighting ceremony of a 15-meter-high Christmas tree. Similar scenes are found across the country, plus Christmas Eve services in Jordan’s churches, which are some of the world’s oldest and most revered. The capital makes the perfect winter base for exploring the region. A popular day trip from Amman is to the town of Fuheis, in Balqa, 20km northwest in the Valley of Jethro (Wadi Shueib). Famous for its fresh-grown fruit and 19th-century churches, Fuheis’ history dates back to around 2000 BC. While its residents are predominantly Christians, local Muslims join them in celebrating the festive season.

A popular event is the Fuheis Christmas Festival, with a huge decorated tree as its focal point, traditionally members of Jordan’s royal family attend the tree-lighting ceremony. In 2008, HRH Queen Rania lit the tree, marking the festival’s official opening, and her sons, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah and Prince Hashem did the same in 2013. Local restaurants such as Zuwwadeh enter the party spirit with short days and cold nights.

Petra winters can be taxing but there is still much of this historical gem to enjoy in winter. After a bracing walk through the mile-long Siq valley, climb to ad-Deir (the Monastery), Petra’s largest carved facade. In the evening, join as people gather for a festive cuisine course at Petra Kitchen, which runs regular cookery residential courses, where you’ll help prepare a Jordanian Christmas feast. The concept involves cooking your own dinner under supervision from the chef with her own traditional recipes. Then it’s time to feast on such winter specialties as makloubah (a dish of rice, lamb, and vegetables) and warm lentil soup enjoyed by all Jordanian families.

Every year there is a huge Christmas celebration in Madaba, 30km southwest of Amman, throughout December. It features horse-drawn carriages carrying a gift-laden Santa Claus, who hands out chocolates to children. Every weekend there is a musical extravaganza with songs from a violinist and choirs. The main pedestrian-only street that goes from St George’s Church to Madaba’s Visitor Centre becomes a bazaar selling local products.

For a uniquely Jordanian New Year’s Eve, make a late afternoon Jeep tour of the moonscape desert terrain at Wadi Rum, arriving at a remote campsite deep in the heart of the protected area. Where better to see out the old year than a Bedouin party tent with folk dancing and musicians, then learning first-hand how to make a traditional Bedouin coffee and bread. All this before a countdown and fireworks beneath a beautiful sky of stars.

As seen on screen

Wadi Rum is one of Jordan’s main tourist attractions and a favorite location for filmmakers. It was a filming location for many blockbusters which helped raise the international profile of the beautiful, mountainous desert region of Wadi Rum, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hers is a  lowdown on five decades of movies filmed on location in Jordan.

2000s

Wadi Rum’s labyrinth of valleys formed by steep red-colored rocks has been attracting film crews ever since Lawrence of Arabia. Its extraordinary landscape has even been used to represent planet Mars. In the last decade, it’s been the location for films including sci-fi blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, and Gerry, a cult movie directed by Gus Van Sant about two friends (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck) getting lost in the wilderness. In Prometheus, the 2012 prequel to the Alien series by director Ridley Scott, Wadi Rum makes a return to our screens. The sci-fi adventure is about a team of explorers discovering a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. As a cinematic credit to Wadi Rum’s movie heritage, there’s a scene in Prometheus where lead character David (Michael Fassbender) is watching Lawrence of Arabia!

1990s

Films shot in Jordan in the 1990s include Son of The Pink Panther. Italian star Roberto Benigni replaces Peter Sellers as the comic hero, playing Inspector Clouseau’s son on the trail of a kidnapped Middle Eastern princess. His farcical capers take him to Monte Carlo, Nice and also Jordan, with locations including the narrow back streets of Amman and Petra, the ancient rose-red city carved into Jordan’s desert rocks.

1980s

Not surprisingly, Petra, as one of the New Wonders of the World, figures prominently in several international movies. Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction is forever linked with Steven Spielberg’s 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, starring Harrison Ford as a 1930s adventurer archeologist. Petra is the perfect setting for a plot about Indiana’s search for the mysterious Holy Grail before the wicked Nazis find it first. The Grail could have no more fitting home than within this Lost City’s Treasury, carved out of the rocks of Jordan’s Edom Mountains over 2,000 years ago.

1970s

The special effects involving men fighting giant monsters in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger seem unsophisticated in today’s age of advanced computer-generated imagery. One scene of ships was actually filmed in a huge water tank in a studio. The live-action was, however, also filmed with a backdrop of real ancient castles, desert wildernesses and seascapes, located in Spain and Malta as well as Jordan. And yes, Petra’s beautiful Treasury is used yet again.

1960s

Back to where we started and the visual splendor of Lawrence of Arabia lies in the breathtaking deserts and cliffs of Wadi Rum. We also see the black basalt landscape of Jabal Tuwayq, near Jordan’s Saudi Arabian border, whereas the camel ride entrance of Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) used the mudflats of the lair. However, some scenes claiming to be Jordan were actually shot in Spain. The town of Aqaba, for example, was built at a beach near Almeria.

Muddy Healing

What if we told you there is a product out there that can tackle acne, cellulite, hair loss, and arthritis? Wouldn’t it be at the top of your wish list? Ours too! Mud from the Dead has stood the test of tune in terms of effectiveness and is still being used for a myriad of skin illnesses, bone disorders, and exfoliation treatments. Today Due to high concentrations of magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium, Dead Sea mud is rich in healing properties and is perfect for those seeking natural remedies for a change.

Those suffering from psoriasis (plaques of red skin), eczema (rough and inflamed skin) and acne (we all struggle with our own version of this) can find some relief in the mud. It’s unbelievably soothing and can be applied easily all you have to do dwelt a few minutes after application and you’ll notice a difference. It’s always a good idea to do some light maintenance every few weeks. So keep the mud handy in case an emergency exfoliation is required. The best part is that Dead Sea mud works on all types of skin. From oily and dry, to a combination of both. Dead Sea mud can take you back in time given that it is the ideal natural remedy for wrinkles. So skip the hundred dollar products and let some mud save the day (and your wallet). A mud mask can minimize pores, facial lines, and even recover your face’s elasticity. Try to ignore the burning sensation, because the more the mud dries, the more toxins it kills. Take a little discomfort for a fully refreshed and clean face you’ll see a dramatic difference in the tone, texture and clarity at your skin after just one application.

Hair loss is something both men and women can relate to, whether the case is heredity stress or the wrong product. We’re all actively looking for a solution. For long-term hair care, Dead Sea mud prevents further loss by stimulating blood flow and circulation. Which brings vital nutrients and oxygen to hair follicle cells and carries away toxins to stop the fallout. Just leave the mud in your hair for 10 minutes, then rinse and apply your shampoo and conditioner.

Another pro for the Dead Sea’s miracle mud is that it can help those experiencing severe cases of cellulite. Which unfortunately is one of life’s more difficult disorders to deal with. As it does with hair follicles. Dead Sea mud contains minerals that promote blood circulation, which relaxes the nerves in the affected areas, fight those built-up fats and body fluids by massaging the mud in the problem area in order to cleanse toxins out through the pores. Say goodbye to those offending bumps and say hello to smoother more radiant skin.

Looking for arthritis pain relief?  Mud extracted from the Dead Sea can help ease the pain of knee aches and other pangs by relaxing the body’s nerves and generally stimulating the circulatory system. The therapeutic product can also treat rheumatic conditions. sports injuries, and tendonitis, so athletes can also find comfort thanks to the mud’s high concentration of minerals. It can tackle the ailing parts of your body after just one massage.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get muddy!

Feasting your way around Jordan

With 1,001 different delicacies to try when visiting Jordan, here is a look at the best venues to feast on regional delights.

Beginning on the southernmost tip of this small kingdom, the Syrian Palace Restaurant in Aqaba manages to concoct dishes that arc the very essence of Middle Eastern cuisine, generous, sumptuous and served with unwavering Jordanian hospitality. The setting is very seaside-inspired, with shells and aquariums everywhere you look. It would be slightly kitsch if it wasn’t done with such sincerity, the food itself will keep visitors coming back for more. For starters, the choice ranges from cold mezze such as traditional hummus and fiery Muhammara (a pepper dip made with ground walnuts) to hot appetizers including Kebab (Meat parcels made of bulgur wheat, onions and Iamb). There’s also a hearty lentil soup to warm you up on cooler seaside nights, and the fish dishes are particularly enticing, especially the fried calamari, and always have a plate of the Aleppo olives.

Heading up north, December is one of the busiest times for the town of Madaba, about 30km south-west of Amman. It attracts visitors from around the world who come to tour its Biblical sites, including the mosaic map of the Holy Land. Most visitors walk away with beautiful handicrafts made in the town, some of which are available at restaurant-cum-boutique Haret Jdoudna. Made up of a complex of small shops with tables set around an attractive courtyard, it’s an absolute must-visit. The restaurant is built on the site of an ancient house, with rooms and floors preserved in their original state and rich woven carpets covering the floors and walls, alongside portraits of the family who built the house. The food there is exquisite, with a vast array of comprising fresh bread, barbecued meats and traditional Jordanian dishes such as Kifta (meat tray in yogurt sauce) and Yalanji (stuffed vine leaves). After a warm mint tea, pop into the shops to buy some delicate pottery or a mosaic wall-hanging as a lovely souvenir.

Back in the capital, sample understated Levantine fare at B, a tiny gem of a bakery near the city center and key to street food culture. Its size means it’s very sparsely furnished, with only a few people able to eat sitting down, but its giant wood-fired oven produces such amazing treats that you’ll dig in without minding about being on your feet under the fresh winter sky. Lebanese bakes are the order of the day at B, such as traditional thin pastry smothered in (a mix of oregano, thyme and sesame) and akkawi cheese, a Middle Eastern staple. The highlight is lahmacun — flat bread topped with ground lamb, herbs and spices. There’s even a pastry version of knafeh — the classic Levant dessert made of syrup-soaked pastry and string cheese — that’ll satisfy any sweet tooth.

Also in Amman is the family-run Beit Sitti cooking school, where authentic Middle Eastern home cooking comes to life for locals and tourists. ‘What we want to do is transfer our passion for food to anyone interested in ‘real” Arabic cuisine,’ says Maria Haddad, who is one of the school’s founders. The concept has proved incredibly popular, with classes taking place throughout the year in different languages, including English, German and French. There are three lessons a day to cover each of the main meals, and the emphasis is on fresh produce, with guests starting off by doing their own shopping in Amman’s downtown market.

Beit Sitti also supports local women by using and selling their homemade spices, making it one of the most responsible ways to cat in Jordan. From Amman, it’s less than 100km south-west to the shores of the Dead Sea, one of Jordan’s most spectacular tourist destinations. This is the perfect time of year to visit and take an early-morning float in the highly salty waters to relax. You can indulge your taste buds at Movenpick Hotel’s smart Al-Saraya restaurant, which boasts a Mediterranean kitchen and live cooking station. The aubergine salad with grenadine sauce and beef pastrami makes for a delicious start to any meal. For those whose appetites have been whetted, the Oriental mixed grill is a feast of shish kebab, beef medallion and chicken, served with cucumber yogurt, and of course you should taste the traditional mansaf (lamb cooked with rice and fermented yogurt).

South of the Dead Sea, yet more culinary wonders can be found in Petra at The Rock Camp, amid the mountains of the nearby Beidha area. The local Nabataean architecture – named after the area’s ancient population – will tempt you on a voyage of discovery that will end with the camp’s unique dining experience under lamp-lit, hand-woven tents. There’s freshly baked Shraak bread and mezze, but the real treat is the traditional Zarb dinner composed of local meats, vegetables, and rice covered in herbs and spices, slow-cooked on large trays in an underground fire pit for hours before being ceremoniously dug out. Afterwards, relax with a cup of cardamom-spiced Bedouin coffee with traditional oud and music around the campfire – the ideal way to end a delicious adventure.

Jordan Pass

Jordan Pass is great for visitors to save time and money when traveling to nearly 40 of the country’s best-known sights. The new Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ scheme is the best way for visitors to maximize their Jordan experience during a visit to the Kingdom. Perks of the pass include skipping the ticketing Queues, and free entry into Jordan’s best destinations, including Petra. It also waives the tourist visa fees if the Jordan Pass is purchased before arrival to Jordan, and visitors are staying at least three nights.
The range of attractions available to pass-holders is vast and varied, from natural beauty to biblical history and medieval artistry. Explore the ancient city of Petra crammed with rock-hewn treasures and the poker-straight Roman columns crash. Umm al-Rasas, which dates back to 7th century BC has previous excavated Mosaics from two local churches. For unique natural beauty, Wadi Rum shows off the deep red sandstone mountains rising from the desert floor. In the heart of the capital is the Roman theatre Umayyad Palace complex at Amman’s hilltop citadel. This sightseeing package comes in three options, all of which include the visa waiver, downloadable digital brochures and free entry to the attractions. The variation in pricing depends on how many nights you wish to stay at Petra from a 1-day visit to 3 days). The pass costs between 70JD ($99) and /30 JD ($113).
It’s easy to use, once advance online payment has been made, the receipt and PDF of the pass will immediately be emailed. This can then be printed or downloaded onto a Smartphone and shown at each venue for instant entry.
The pass is seen as a way of further promoting the country’s wonders.
 Mr. Nayf H. Al Fayez, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities explains “‘The importance of the Jordan Pass is to save tourists time, money, and stress during their visits around the country, giving them the ability to make the most out of their trips. Through this pass, we are reflecting the hospitality of the Jordanian people, a large characteristic of what makes Jordan such a unique destination”.

Care for Petra

Petra is the most famous archaeological site in Jordan. Its worldwide reputation is due to the funeral monuments carved into coloured sandstone cliffs by an ancient caravan people, the Nabataean.
Petra site was occupied since the prehistoric time and became during the Antiquity an important crossroad between the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and the Mediterranean world. Nabateans elevated the place to the rank of capital around 200 BC and developed a unique funeral architecture mixing styles of diverse origins. An ingenious hydraulic system extended to the mountains and gorges surrounding the site allowed a wide urban development during the Nabatean. Roman and Byzantine times. Due to its rich historical remains as well as to its surprising geology. Petra is a unique and valuable treasure that thousands of visitors come to admire every year. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and one of the Seven Wonders in 2007. Protecting this huge site from the impact of mass tourism doesn’t go without challenges. With time going. Experts noticed impacts induced by the continuous and increasing presence of the tourists in the archaeological park. The erosion of the fragile sandstone is accelerated under the steps of the visitors and loaded animals. The working animals are subject to overworking and the local communities incur the pernicious effects of commercial activities involving their children. It became clear that efforts must be conceded for preserving not only Petra treasuries but also the balance of the communities living from it and the welfare of the animals conveying the tourists on the site. Care for Petra is a large scale responsible tourism initiative, which results from the collaboration between governmental and non-governmental organizations and the tourism industry. The campaign has been officially launched under the patronage of His Excellency the Prime Minister of Jordan in October 2014. Recognizing that the visitor is a key partner, Care For Petra involves him in a more sustainable development of the site. This vision marks a turning point in the protection of Petra site as well as for the populations intimately linked to the site.