Jordan: lost kingdoms, blue lizards and gladiators
utting on your explorer’s hat, surfing without waves, painting your hands with henna or watching Roman centurions doing battle. Any child will delight in exploring this land of castles and deserts with two seas, one where you can dive and another where you can float. A call to adventure and imagination that makes Jordan a destination for the whole family; A country of many ages, for all ages.
Amman is a good starting point for a first encounter with Jordanian hospitality and customs. While you’re there, don’t miss climbing up to the Citadel, its highest point at nearly 900 metres, where Jordanian children come to fly the kites they buy from sellers at traffic lights. You can either join them or sit and have an ice cream by the Roman amphitheatre and watch the sun set from your unbeatable vantage point.
To bathe in the Red Sea, it's best to go to Aqaba, a bustling port city. Here, you can dive or snorkel here amongst sea urchins and colourful fish. If your children are too young for diving, there's a tour that goes down to the sea bed on board the submarine Neptune, visiting corals, turtles and even sunken ships.
Another safe bet is the Children’s Museum, blending art and science with more than 150 interactive activities and its own open-air theatre. To recharge everyone’s batteries, try a walk along Rainbow Street, one of the capital’s busiest streets, where you can keep your energy levels up with a falafel sandwich and sweet potato chips at Al-Quds.
Close to Amman is Jerash, where you’re swept back in time to the Rome of centurions. Its Roman ruins are the best preserved in the Middle East, with columns, temples and pavements leading up to a magnificent amphitheatre. Kids will go wild for the show that’s performed twice a day, where they re-enact scenes that look like they just stepped out of films like ‘Ben-Hur’ and ‘Gladiator’. Centurions with shields, chariot races and gladiator duels where it’s ‘a fight to the death’.
We leave the centurions behind to venture into the Crusades. Stories are always easier to tell if the original settings are still there. Halfway between Amman and Petra are the so-called Desert Castles, especially Karak, an old fortress and the setting of King Saladin’s battle. The towers, tunnels and passageways at Qasr al-Kharrana and Qasr al-Azraq will make you dream of swords and warriors, too.
Our story pauses at one of the wonders of Jordan (and indeed of the world): Petra. The ancient city of the Nabataeans and home to the al-Khazneh treasury, the famous temple in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon where Indiana Jones finds the Holy Grail in ‘The Last Crusade’. Petra is huge and is best toured by carriage, camel or donkey. You’ll come across these forms of transport provided by Bedouin all over the city, together with the typical blue lizards basking on the sandstone rocks. An alternative plan for your trip are cookery classes at Petra Kitchen, a fun way of exploring a different gastronomy and civilisation at the same time.
At Wadi Rum you simply must explore the gigantic canyons and rock bridges, geography from another world, where Lawrence of Arabia fought and the ancient Bedouin tribes kept their secrets. After touring this Martian landscape in a 4×4, you can try surfing the endless dunes with a sand surf board, before staying the night in a genuine Bedouin camp. From here it’s also possible to get to the Dead Sea: Floating at 400 metres below sea level can be as exciting as camping on the red desert sand.