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Linda-Marie Singer is...THE LIVEWIRE

Linda-Marie Singer - Click to Enlarge Jordan:

No Need to be "Petra-fied"

Click to Enlarge

By Linda-Marie Singer

AMMAN, JORDAN: The tires squealed as the driver peeled away from the checkpoint leading to Amman. What would the capital of Jordan be like I wondered? The driver shrugged. Whenever I looked out the window, all I could see were families climbing the hilly roads. The men wore the traditional red and white Jordanian headdresses, while the women had their heads and faces covered. From a distance they resembled the Sand People from “Star Wars.”

Be seeing "ewe" in Jordan!The rain gently covered the windshield making the miles of desert terrain pass without incident. How much longer to Amman? The driver didn’t answer. In a way, it didn’t matter. How could I miss the nation’s capital since 1.5 million people live there? (Jordan is home to 4.5 million population)

Yet the longer we drove, the more I realized there were no familiar mileage signs, colorful billboards, or high-rise condominiums that usually usher in a major city most places in the world. Instead, there were bunches of sun-colored bananas for sale neatly stacked in geometric shapes alongside the road. Every now and then donkeys, goats and sheep appeared. One or two pranced ahead of the others, but that seemed to be the extent of life.
(Photo: Be seeing ewe in Jordan!)

Rainy view of Amman from the Regency Palace HotelThe scenario quickly changed when we pulled up to the five-star Regency Palace Hotel on Queen Alia Street in Amman. The entrance echoed a European flavor with marble, antiques, and fine tapestries, while the lobby held a classic charm. Three royal portraits draped a wall: King Hussein, the reigning monarch, his wife, Queen Noor, and his brother, the Crown Prince Hassan. You could almost hear them say: “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” -- “Welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
(Photo: Rainy view of Amman from the Regency Palace Hotel)

Jonathan Haddad watched over by King Hussein of JordanAlthough I didn’t get to have tea with any dignitaries, I did get a kingly welcome from Fathi Sabatin, a well-versed Jordanian guide who organized a memorable itinerary starting with the famous M. Haddad and Sons. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, in Jordan it’s synonymous with the licensing of American, British and French companies such as Mennon, Colgate-Palmolive, and L’Oreal. Jonathan Haddad, the 24-year-old company’s scion, seemed refreshingly unpretentious even though his office was draped with photos of his family taken with His Majesty.
(Photo: Jonathan Haddad watched over by King Hussein of Jordan)

Our regal-like tour continued through Amman, a city spread over 19 hills and topped by the ancient Citadel. Bathed in whites and ochres, Amman has a clean, uniformed tone. This probably began when the city was called Rabbat-Ammon, and then continued in the Graeco-Roman era as Philadelphia. You won’t get far making any W.C. Fields jokes about Philadelphia, for the Jordanians tend to be low key if not downright staid. You see it in their pallid attire and in their barren desert, but when it comes to touting their country and ruler, their disposition gets emotionally colorful.

Mount Nebo Monument, burial place of MosesSabatin suggested a day trip along the 5,000-year-old King’s Highway to Jerash, one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. We also took in the Biblical sites of Madaba - “The City of Mosaics” - and Mount Nebo, the presumed burial place of Moses. These quick jaunts brought comforting news. In Jordan, there is no need to grip your moneybelt. People will not accost you, which is especially reassuring to solo travelers.
(Photo: Mount Nebo monument)

A meal fit for the Royal Family!On a hotel and dining level there are enough luxury establishments to satisfy even the pickiest vacationer. That includes the local cuisine. Don’t leave without tasting the “mezzeh” or appetizers, aromatic breads, desserts soaked in honey, and Mansaf, Jordan’s traditional dish of lamb, yogurt and rice.
(Photo: A meal fit for the Royal family!)

But there’s one reason above others to go to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: History. A well-traveled bridge between sea and desert, East and West, Jordan’s layers of antiquity offer a contrast from the fertile Jordan Valley to the remote desert canyons.

And yet... nothing stirs the soul quite like the red-rose Nabatanean city of Petra.

With its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge, Petra hasn’t changed much over the past 2,000 years, when the southern city was a temporary refuge for nomadic Nabataean Arabs. During that time, it served as a main trade route between Europe, Africa and India and became widely admired for its refined culture, massive architecture, and ingenious complex of dams and water channels. However, by the 16th century, Petra was completely lost to the West. It took until 1812 when a Swiss traveler named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt created his own “overture” and resurrected the site.

Even Indiana Jones visited The Treasury when he was in townToday Petra exudes such a glow that even other Middle Easterners long to visit. Stroll down the “Siq” - the fissure between overhanging cliffs - and then marvel at the El Khazneh or The Treasury.
(Photo: Even Indiana Jones visited The Treasury when he was in town)
If you’re walking, be prepared to be passed by zealous drivers on horse-drawn carts. There’s something very Charlton Heston about it, and maybe that’s why any minute you expect to have chariots leave you in the dust.
(Photo: Horse-drawn carts. Not Ben-Hur, but it will still get you there)

While not exactly left in the dust, I was not prepared for the flash flood that caused momentary fear. As we huddled inside The Treasury, even the merchants had fled leaving their wares in metal crates. I peeked in and found decorative bottles with desert motifs in teal, brown, white, and rusty-colored sand.

“Go ahead and take one,” my guide urged. “Just leave what you like.” I reached for five dollars and he waved me off. “One dollar is all right,” he said. I rolled up the money and deposited it inside a crevice, and hoped the right tradesman would profit.

As we looked up, the water came down in such torrents that even the horses seemed to step backwards. Guides called for help on walkie talkies to prepare for an emergency evacuation. That’s when we saw someone calmly navigating his 4-wheel vehicle in our direction. It was my driver. This time he was smiling.

Linda-Marie's Album:
Extra Photos From Jordan
(Click To View)

Who Can I Turn To?
For an outstanding English-speaking guide, contact
Fathi Sabatin
Fax: 962-6.749.436 Or write, P.O. Box 141 420, Amman 11814, Jordan

Plane Facts:
Royal Jordanian Airlines
is the country’s official airline. But EgyptAir and British Airways will also take you there in comfort and style.

Movenpick Resort - “The Gate to the Rose City.” A truly marvelous, palace-like hotel.
e-mail: P.O. Box 214 Wadi Mousa 718101, Petra, Jordan
Taybet Zaman - Jordanian-style resort with spacious rooms and fine dining.
Fax: 011-962-3-336922

Amman 5-Star:
Regency Palace Hotel - Ideally located between downtown and residential area on Queen Alia Street. Other amenities include 24-hour room service, health club and indoor pool.
Fax for information: 011-962-66.0013

The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, often called “JD.” You can exchange dollars for Dinars in banks, hotels, and shops.

Where To Write For Information:
You can always contact the Jordan Tourism Board
in Amman through Fax: 011-962-6-647915.
Closer yet: Jordanian Tourism Information
c/o Royal Jordanian Airlines
535 Fifth Ave NY, 10017
Phone: 800-223-0470 Fax: 212-949-0485

World Wide Web:

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Linda-Marie Singer "The LIVEWIRE" for Travel Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine & Proses." She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area. (More about this writer.)

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