This morning we drive north to Jerash, known as Gerasa in ancient times. This was one of the ten wealthy, self-governing cities of the Decapolis during Roman times, and was famous throughout the Roman world for the luxury of its lifestyle. Buried for centuries under blown sand, Jerash is the only city of the Decapolis to have survived to any extent, with a dramatic oval forum, colonnaded main streets which remarkably have the drains still intact, two theatres and the impressive temple of Zeus. After a good look around we head south to the Dead Sea in time for a 'float' in the saline waters. In the evening we return to Amman.
Today is a long driving day down the King's Highway which transports us up and down huge
Day 4 - 5
Two full days to explore Petra, the 'Rose-red city, half as old as time'. Petra was hidden for centuries until the Swiss explorer Burckhardt made his great discovery in 1812. It was founded by the Nabateans, an Arab tribe that arrived here in the sixth century BC. Building at Petra began in the third century BC and continued through the Roman period, financed by taxes levied on the desert caravans. Two features of Petra are unique: firstly, it is a city made defensible by being built down a series of chasms, rather than on a hilltop. Secondly, it is built directly into the rock - beautiful red and yellow sandstone carved into the most impressive facades which glow in the brilliant sunlight. To enter Petra we must begin by walking down a narrow chasm, known as the Siq, surrounded by high cliffs on either side. Unveiled at the end of the Siq is El Khazneh, the Treasury.This is just the first breathtaking sight of a remarkable day. Continuing to the centre of the city, we pass the houses and tombs of the rich citizens and the remarkable scale of the site begins to unveil itself. A long walk beyond the centre is El Deir, the monastery, with its superb facade topped by a huge urn (the walk up is by a series of steps).There is so much to take in and explore and some of this can be done on horseback - your tour leader will be able to assist if required. (Please note that due to current Jordanian group regulations the journey down the Siq on horseback is part of the ticket price - it costs US$10 and is included in the tour price. It is possible to walk this section for those who would prefer but the cost of the ride is part of the entrance fee and therefore cannot be refunded.) On one of the days we take a walk to the High Places where few people visit. This can be quite arduous and is not recommended for those who are unsure of their fitness. However, those who do make it to the top are rewarded with wonderful views over parts of the site visited on the previous day.
This morning we join the modern Desert Highway and make our way to Wadi Rum, a huge stretch of beautiful sand and rock desert. This is where Lawrence of Arabia and Prince Faisal assembled the Arab tribes for the attack on Aqaba in the First World War and also where sections of the film of 'Lawrence' were shot. Night skies are spectacular here and we take a four-wheeled drive vehicle far into the desert for an exciting adventure. We spend the night at the Beit Ali Camp after enjoying Bedouin hospitality and experience the desert at its best.
We wake amidst the dramatic desert scenery and then make our way on to Aqaba, Jordan's port and holiday resort, famous for beautiful coral reefs. We have free time to lounge on the beach, swim, or go snorkelling. Your leader will be able to advise you on which are the best private beaches to visit as the public beaches generally do not have as many facilities. There are several good restaurants in Aqaba for our evening meal together.
In the morning we travel back to Amman on the fast Desert Highway. In the afternoon you will be given a guided tour of Amman and then any additional time is free to explore the city or to just do some last minute shopping!