Africa & the Middle East


written by | Posted on July 1st, 2010

A signature element of the spa is treatments based on the black, mineral-rich Dead Sea mud, an element reputed to clean, purify and restore the skin to its natural state.

The Movenpick has a series of promotions during summer and fall where rates generally fall between $700 per night dbl for a superior room, to about $2,500 for an executive suite. The rates include spa treatments and other amenities.

Nearby, the Marriott Jordan Valley Dead Sea Resort and Spa and Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea, all modern hotels that manage to blend nicely with the timeless terrain, offer comparable services and amenities for those who want to be pampered on the shores of what may be the world’s most historical body of water.

Wedged between the hotels is the massive and modern King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center, where every year the Jordan Tourism Board North America (JTBNA) holds a comprehensive, 3-day program for travel professionals who want to immerse themselves in courses and lectures on how to make Jordan a profitable destination.

This year, more than 200 tour operators, suppliers and buyers from Europe and the Western Hemisphere learned the intricate details about the magic that is Jordan as a destination.

Jordan’s enormous appeal was driven home during the conference by Nayef Al-Fayez, managing director of JTB, who pointed out that his country’s wonders are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as Jordan boasts of more than 30,000 archaeological sites.

“Tourism is an important part of our economy,” Al-Fayez said. “And tourism to Jordan has remained unchanged even during the hard economic situation of recent days. We owe this to two important factors: confidence in our product and the wide diversity of this destination.”

He urged travel providers to focus on the “Jordanian experience and [learn] how to sell it.”

biblical sites One of the easiest angles to sell the destination is Biblical tourism, an esoteric but popular facet of the trade for which Jordan seems tailor-made.

Travelers wanting to walk along the paths where Biblical figures once trod can visit the reputed site of Jesus’ baptism, about 15 minutes away from the Dead Sea resorts. The spot is close to where the prophet Elijah is said to have ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot. A bit further removed is Mt. Nebo, the mountain Moses climbed to catch a glimpse of the Promised Land, a place he was forbidden to enter. The hotels offer guided tours to the sites.

Part of JTB’s suggestion, of course, highlights Petra, perhaps Jordan’s most famous destination. Very little has been left unsaid or unwritten about it, as this breathtaking ancient site is to Jordan what Machu Picchu is to Peru; what Angkor Wat is to Cambodia.

Petra is about three hours away from Amman and easily accessible by taxi (about $75). A Swiss traveler rediscovered the city in 1812 and it has been enticing gasps of astonishment since. The gasps were, and still are, merited.

Petra is amazing, if one’s allowed to use that hackneyed word that infests today’s vernacular. Although guides will assure you that the As-Siq, Petra’s main avenue, is only “about a mile and a half” long, it’s more like four miles. That’s about an 8-mile roundtrip hike from the entrance and not a place to send clients with disabilities.

The As-Siq unwinds along the foot of an incredibly high, narrow gorge of stunning natural majesty. Visitors feel claustrophobic and hemmed in by soaring rock formations rising almost 300 ft. There are archaeological features all around: bizarre carvings, terraces, water channels and even religious niches sculpted into the cliffs.

The focal point of the old city is the Treasury. You come upon it after a very constricted path in the Siq when the astonishing facade of the building suddenly emerges.

The Treasury has lots of architectural influences: Nabataean, Greek, Arabic and Roman. It’s imposing as any monument on earth and you’d get an idea of what an epic task it was to carve it if you imagine the U.S. Treasury Department building carved into a mountain. Except that Petra’s Treasury is twice as large. It looks like a movie set.

eco retreat To get closer to what Jordan represents to adventurous travelers, it’s necessary to get away from the more popular spots and find retreats where the beauty of the country comes into focus.