Must See Highlights of Petra, Jordan

Must See Highlights of Petra, Jordan

Highlights of Petra

Voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in a competition held by the New 7 Wonders Foundation there’s no doubt that Petra is the Crown Jewel of Jordan’s many ancient historic sites.

Ancient Petra, also know as the Rose-Red City ( It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a prize winning poem by John William Burgon)  due to the color of the sandstone from which its was carved, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

Petra, or Al-Batra as it’s called in Arabic, is famed for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system which turned the city into an artificial oasis in ancient times.

The city is believed to have possibly been established as the Nabatean Capital city as early as 312 BCE.  The surrounding areas have been inhabited since pre-historic times.  The city and environs are mentioned in Egyptian and Biblical accounts.

The Golden Age of Petra during Nabatean rule began in the 2nd. Century BCE when Petra thrived as the center of their caravan trade; controlling the major routes to Gaza in the west, Borsa and Damascus in the north, Aqaba on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf.

In 106 CE the native dynasty came to an end and Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire.  It became the capital of the Roman Arabia Petraea region.  The city flourished and reached its height of splendor during early Roman rule but declined rapidly in the Byzantine era.  The city’s decline was aided by a couple of major earthquakes; the quake in 363 CE damaged buildings and crippled the vital water system; another major quake in 551 CE further damaged the already weakened structures and the city was abandoned in 663 CE when the Arabs invaded.

The ancient ruins were an object of curiosity during the Middle Ages visited only by the local Bedouins and Egyptian Sultans.   The city remained unknown to the Western world until it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

The city played a role during the 1917 revolt against the Ottoman rule of Arabia.  Led by British Army officer T. E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, the Arabs and Syrians of Petra successfully rebelled against the Ottoman Turks.

Today, made popular in movies, books, and other media Petra is Jordan’s most visited tourist site. Located within the boundaries of the Petra National Park in Jordan’s southern Ma’an Governate Petra should be on everyone’s Travel Bucket List.

The Park encompasses and protects some 800+ structures and monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well as the surrounding canyon and mountains.  Many folks think that on a visit to Petra one will see just its iconic Al Khazneh or The Treasury, the monument that introduced Petra to modern masses when it was used as the setting in the blockbuster movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Surely just a glimpse of The Treasury is breathtaking, but there is so much more to Petra.  Here are some must see highlights and tips for your visit to this beautiful site.   Much of the ancient city is easily accessible by walking along wide level walkways,  by hiring horse pulled buggies, and in some areas by riding a camel or donkey which local Bedouins hire out.

The first order of business is getting to the site.  We usually spend a few days in the resort city of Aqaba and drive to Petra from there, it’s about an hour or so north of Aqaba.  If you’re coming from Amman you can drive, take a taxi or bus, or take one of the tours which the tour desk at your hotel can arrange.

Whichever form of transport you take from Amman you will head south on the Desert Highway to Wadi Musa, the town that has sprung up around the site.   If you’re planning on staying in the area overnight or longer you will find many types of accommodations in Wadi Musa ranging from hostels for backpackers to luxury hotels.  The town also has a wide assortment of restaurants and shops catering to tourists.

Plan on arriving a the park early 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. to get the best views of The Siq and Treasury, they are deeply shadowed in the afternoon.  Buy your entrance tickets, get maps and information, hire a guide if you wish, and GO TO THE BATHROOM at the visitor center as soon as you arrive at the center.  There are clean bathrooms at the visitor center, make use of them, the next ones are deep inside the site and are a long walk away.

Highlights of Petra

Buy tickets at the ticket window outside the Visitor Center.  Admission tickets start at about 50JOD for foreign adults for 1 day.  Prices for children, residents, students, and for multi-day admission will be posted at the ticket window.

You can get maps or hire a guide at the desk inside the Visitor Center.

You can stock up on water, sunblock, hats, etc. at the shops before the park entrance;  just remember you will have to carry everything in the park and you will be doing plenty of walking. You may want to hold off on purchasing souvenirs until after you exit the park.

Once you pass the park entrance you will be bombarded with transportation offers; horses and donkeys will take you to the Bab al- Siq, entrance of the Siq, the beautiful gorge leading to the city; horse drawn buggies will take you thru the Siq to the entrance of the city itself.  If you have a physical condition that makes walking difficult, or you just don’t feel like making the trek you can avail yourself of these services without feeling guilty, the animals are very well treated and cared for. If you choose to take the buggy you will zip thru the Siq and not be able to enjoy the scenic wonders that await you in the gorge.  The cost to ride is very inexpensive and helps the local Bedouins make their living.  If you opt to walk the vendors will politely let you do so.

Highlights of Petra

As you walk to the Siq entrance look at the silica quarry on your left.  The ancient Nabateans may have quarried the silica to make the water proof cement for their water system.  Just past the quarry as the Bab al-Siq narrows you will see three huge cut rock square blocks.  These are called Djinn Blocks and stand like sentinels guarding the entrance to the gorge.  They are actually tower tombs and are believed to be some of the earliest tombs of Petra although their date remains unknown.  26 such blocks have been found in and around Petra.

Further along you may notice some steps leading up to a narrow unadorned entrance cut into the stone.  This rarely visited attraction is the Snake Tomb, inside are 12 graves cut into the floor.  On one wall is a rough carving of 2 snakes attacking a four legged animal, above it on a smaller scale is a horse with a block shaped rider.  The significance of the carvings are unknown.

Highlights of Petra

Dominating the left side of the wall as you walk towards the Siq are the 2 first major monuments of Petra; the Obelisk Tomb on top and the Bab al-Siq Triclinium directly below it.

The top decorated with 4 obelisks in the Egyptian tradition is the tomb itself.  The bottom Triclinium is decorated in classical Nabatean style and is one of many such rooms in Petra that was used for memorial feasts in honor of the dead.

Some distance from the Obelisk Tomb the ground will rise and it will seem that you’ve come to the end of the road.  You’ve reached the Dam.  At the top left is the entrance to the Siq, ahead is a tunnel cut thru the mountain which the Nabateans created to divert flood waters from rushing into the city.  After the city was abandoned the Dam crumbled allowing flash floods to destroy much of the city center.  The Jordanian government has rebuilt the Dam keeping the city safe again from floods.  Before you proceed to the Siq you may want to take a quick look around and take a peek into the tunnel, but DO NOT enter the tunnel if it’s raining, the area is known for flash floods in the rainy season.  You will see inscriptions on the mountain walls, inside the tunnel there’s a statue of an eagle, and on the other side of the tunnel is another Djinn block.

Highlights of Petra

If you are on horse or donkey back this is the point where you must dismount and walk into the Siq.
If you’re riding a buggy you will zip on pass and into the Siq.

As you walk thru the Siq notice the ancient water channels along the left wall, it was used to bring water from springs several miles away into the heart of the city.

Highlights of Petra


Highlights of Petra


Highlights of Petra

You’ll also see carving and niches along the way.  Enjoy the natural colors and rock formations that surround you.  The Siq snakes its way to the city for about a kilometer, around every bend be prepared to be awed by yet another wonderful sight, building anticipation for what lies still ahead.  I always find myself holding my breathe as I peek around each bend never quite sure if I’ve finally reached the point where I can catch that first glimpse of the city “half as old as time”.

Highlights of Petra

Highlights of PetraFinally after an awesome trek thru the canyon you’ll see that crack in the mountain as you round the last curve.  The first glimpse of the Al Khazneh or The Treasury thru that crack is breathtaking!  Take a moment to gaze at the awe inspiring sight before you.  Take plenty of photos to capture the moment before you step back in time into the great ancient Nabatean city that is Petra.

Highlights of Petra
Highlights of Petra
Stepping out of the Siq into the sunlight you come face to face with Al Khazneh,  or the Treasury.
Arguably the most famous and most photographed monument in Petra, and justly so, it is magnificent.  It’s still uncertain exactly what purpose it served although it is certain that it did not house any treasure.  Some scholars believe it was a royal tomb, others believe it was a temple, and others still believe it was a memorial mausoleum.  The funerary symbolism of the facade’s carvings certainly suggests at least some association with the dead.
In front of The Treasury you’ll find local Bedouins offering camels to ride thru the city.  You can enter The Treasury for a glimpse of what’s inside, not much is there but the walls are multicolored layers of rock.
Highlights of Petra


Highlights of Petra

As you make your way to the heart of the city you will pass the Street of Facades.  It’s lined with tombs and caves.  Some of the facades are gone leaving only the carved entrances.  The tall impressive tombs are clearly for the rich important folks of the time.  The dozens of smaller ones on the canyon walls are for those not so rich.

 Highlights of Petra
Highlights of Petra
Further along the canyon towards the heart of the city proper you will pass the Roman Theater which is in a sad state of deterioration.
Close by you’ll find the 700+ steps that will take you up to the High Place of Sacrifice.
Highlights of Petra
Urn Tomb
There are several large tombs carved high on the canyon walls, they are called the Royal Tombs.
The first is The Urn Tomb with a large front courtyard, the some of the others are the Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, Palace Tomb, and Sextius Florentinus Tomb.
Highlights of Petra
Highlights of Petra
The Corinthian Tomb
Highlights of Petra
Sextius Florentinus
Highlights of Petra
Eventually you will enter the Colonnade Street that has been badly damaged by ancient floods, the road passes thru the city center and is lined with many un-excavated sites waiting to someday be revealed.  You’ll also pass some Roman Temples in various stages of deterioration or restoration.
At the far end of the road you’ll find Petra’s only restaurant on site and the museum.

The museum houses many interesting items found in Petra.  The restaurant is very busy in spite of its high prices.  Bathrooms are available within the restaurant.  You’ll also find locals around this area offering donkey rides up to Ad Deir, also called the Monastery, located up on the mountainside.

You can climb up the 800+ steps to The Dier or opt to pay a few dinar and ride a donkey.
Highlights of Petra
After you scramble down from The Monastery you’ll more than likely be ready for a cold drink.  The restaurant on site is the only place in the park where you can chug down a cold beer!  Have a drink or two as you ponder your options for the long trek back to the main gate, at this point it’s about 4 kilometers away.  You may consider hiring a donkey, camel, horse, or buggy.  I know I did!
Highlights of Petra
I rode a donkey back to The Treasury….


Highlights of Petra
….and a buggy back to the main gate

If you do decide to take one or more types of transport, bargain with the vendor, it’s expected.

But before you head back you might consider a  handmade souvenir or two from the Bedouin vendors inside the park.

Highlights of Petra
I couldn’t resist buying a couple of beaded necklaces from this charming child Rania

I have been to Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Turkey and have seen their ancient sites, of course they are awesome; but nothing captures my imagination more than the Rose-Red City of Petra.  It truly must be on eveyone’s bucketlist!

For highlights on our most recent trip to Petra with the family click here!

Must See Places In and Around Amman

Must See Places In and Around Amman

 Around Amman

The Ancient Nabatean City of Petra in Jordan is  no doubt the crown jewel of the kingdom’s historic treasures; but there is so much more to Jordan than that.  The country is an archaeologist’s dream, filled with ancient and historic fortresses, castles, and more dating back from pre-historic and Biblical times thru Ancient Rome, and on to the region’s Umayyad Period.

Biblical scholars can visit sites that are written in the Bible; The Dead Sea, The River Jordan, and the Sea of Galilee, just to name a few.  Jordan’s natural beauty serves as a fantastic backdrop for all these historic and Biblical sites.

For those looking for fun in the sun, nature hikes, or some pampering you’ll find all that and more at Jordan’s resorts, and nature parks.  Indulge in massages and treatments at one of the luxurious Dead Sea spas or enjoy a hike at the Dana Biosphere Reserve or the Azraq Wetlands Oasis.

Before you head south to Petra plan a stay in Amman, the capital city.   Explore the city and the surrounding areas, you won’t be disappointed.

Originally built on seven hills or “Jebels”, Amman has served as the modern and ancient capital of  Jordan.  It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; recent excavations have revealed houses and towers believed to have been built in the Stone Age, circa 7000 BCE.   There are many Biblical references to the city; around 1200 BCE it was the Ammonite capital of Rabbath-Ammon, the Ammonites fought epic battles with Saul, David, and other prominent Biblical figures.

Here are some of my favorite sites in Amman and others that can be explored by taking day trips from the city;  of course you can stay in those areas if you prefer to spend more time exploring a particular area.

 Around Amman
The Citadel

The best place to start a tour of Amman is at the Citadel.  The Citadel sits on Jebel Al-Kala’a, Jordan’s highest hill.  It is the site of the ancient city Rabbath-Ammon.  During Roman rule Amman was renamed Philadelphia and was one of the great cities of the Roman Decapolis League.  In the Byzantine Period it was the seat of a Christian Bishop.  Arab armies regained the city around 635 and changed its name back to Ammon or “Amman” as it’s now known.

The site is really a jumble of ruins with layers of structures and artifacts from the city’s different eras; Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad.  As you explore the quiet hilltop you can see cave entrances along the path, evidence of the site’s pre-historic inhabitants.

The best preserved/restored structures are the Roman Temple of Hercules, The Umayyad Palace simply referred to Al-Qasr, and the Byzantine basilica.

The hilltop also has an awesome view of the city. The Roman Theater built in the side of the hill in downtown Amman can be seen from the hilltop as well as the Raghadan Flagpole which is located on the grounds of the Raghadan Palace at the royal compound of Al-Maquar.  The pole was erected in 2003 and was the world’s tallest freestanding flagpole at that time.

The Citadel and surrounding Archeological Park is open 8am-4pm Sat-Thu Oct-Mar, to 7pm Sat-Thu Apr-Sep, 10am-4pm Fri yr-round.  Admission is 2JOD

 Around Amman
The Ain Ghazal Statues in the Jordan Archeological Museum
The Dead Sea Scrolls have been moved to the Jordan Museum

The Jordan Archeological Museum is located inside the Citadel.  It houses a collection of statues, pottery, and other artifacts dating back to the Paleolithic Age to the Ayyubid Period.

The Ain Ghazal statues are displayed in this museum, they are among the oldest statues ever made by human civilization.

The museum housed some of the Dead Scrolls until recently when they were relocated to the new Jordan Museum in the Ras Al-Ayn Area next to the Greater Amman Municipality Building on Ali bin Abi Taleb St.

Admission to the Archeological Museum is included in the admission to the Citadel.

 Around Amman

Jerash, the ancient city referred to as Gerasa in the Bible, is located less than 50 Km. north of Amman.  It is considered one of the world’s largest best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy.

Evidence of habitation in the area dates back to the Neolithic Period, but the golden age of Jerash was during the Roman rule when it was known as Gerasa.  In 1st. Century BCE Gerasa was named one of the great cities in the Roman Decapolis League, 10 cities that were linked to the Empire by powerful political, commercial, and cultural interests.

Jerash is now an archeological park filled with well preserved Roman architecture; colonnaded streets, baths, theaters, arches, and plazas.

Hadrian’s Arch and the Hippodrome are located before the park entrance and can be seen for free.  The park is open daily in the summer from 7:30 am – 7:00 pm, and in the winter from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.  Entrance for foreigners is 8 JOD.

The site is fairly large but can be seen in a few hours.  You can pick up a site map at the Visitor Center at the park entrance.  Here a the most notable sites you can look for as you explore this ancient city.

  • Forum (Oval Plaza) – an unusual wide, asymmetrical plaza at the beginning of the Cardo (or Colonnaded Street), built in the 1st century AD. The Oval Plaza is 80 m by 90 m (262 ft by 295 ft) and is enclosed by 160 Ionic columns.
  • The Cardo – a 600 m (660 yards) colonnaded street that runs the length of the city. It was once lined with the city’s major buildings, shops and residences. A complex drainage system lies below the stone paving. Look for chariot tracks in the stone.
  • Agora – the city’s main food market, which has a central fountain.
  • Nymphaeum – an ornate public fountain that was decorated with lions heads and dedicated to the nymphs.
  • Temple of Artemis – impressive temple ruins dedicated to the patron goddess of the city.
  • South Theater – an amphitheatre that seats up to 3000. It is occasionally used today for concerts and musical productions. Daily features include bag pipers in traditional Jordanian military dress.
  • Jerash Archaeological Museum – features a collection of artifacts found during excavation, including coins, statuary and sarcophagi.

Courtesy of

 Around Amman
 Qala’at al-Rabadh

Qala’at al-Rabadh also know as Ajloun Castle is located in the town of Ajloun.  Ajloun is located 25 Km. west of Jerash and 73 Km. from Amman.

It can be a quick side trip on the way to or from Jerash.  The site is open every day during daylight hours and can be entered free of charge.

Qala’at al-Rabadh  is actually a fortress built on the hill above Ajloun by Saladin’s nephew in 1184-85 CE to combat the Crusaders.  Its strategic location gave the defenders command of the Jordan Valley and today offers amazing views of the surrounding area; on a clear day you can see the Dead Sea, Jordan Valley, West Bank, and Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee).

 Around Amman
Umm Qais (Gadara)

Umm Qais located 120 Km. north of Amman, and 30 Km. from the city or Irbid, is one of my favorite sites in Jordan.

The modern town of Umm Qais is the site of the ancient Roman city Gadara, one of the great cities of the Decopolis.  According to the Bible it is the place where Jesus cast out the devil from two men into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8: 28-34)

This is the northern most tourist attraction in Jordan and is a bit off the beaten path, but in my opinion is well worth the visit.  On week days you could possibly have the site to yourself, we did. (It is a popular spot for local families on Fridays and holidays.)

The site seems a bit forlorn and neglected, the signs sparse and fading, and chunks of ruined columns and buildings line the once majestic decumanus (colonnaded street).  At the entrance you will see some tumbled down ruins of Umayyad structures, rising right behind them are ancient Roman columns.  A large portion of the Roman Theater still remains.  Made of black basalt stones the theater is entered thru a vaulted passageway that supports rows of seats.  Across the theater is the main colonnaded street which probably also served as the city’s commercial center.  Near the theater is the Terrace which has a courtyard, church, and basilica from the city’s Byzantine era.  Along the decumanus are the ruins of the Nymphaeum, a bath complex, and a well preserved Roman Mausoleum.  Further along you can possibly make out the remains of what was once the Hippodrome.  There’s a small museum on site which houses some Byzantine mosaics and the marble statue of Tyche which once sat in the VIP section of the basalt theater.

The ruins may not be too impressive, but the view from the site is well worth the trip.  There’s a restaurant built in what was once an Ottoman structure, the outdoor seating offers magnificent panoramic views.  You will be sitting at a table in Jordan admiring views in 3 bordering countries; Lake Tiberias (The Sea of Galilee) in Israel, the valley of the Yarmouk River across which is the southern end of the Golan Heights (claimed by and is recognized as Syria), and on clear days Mount Hermon which borders Lebanon is visible in the distance.  The views are both breathtaking and heartbreaking.

Admission to the site and museum are free.  You can easily combine a day trip to both Jerash and Umm Qais as each site will take just a few hours to see.

 Around Amman
Pella aka Tabaqat Fahl

Not far from Umm Qais in the northern part of Jordan is the ancient city of Pella or Tabaqat Fahl.

Another one of the great cities of the Roman Decapolis, Pella has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age.  The city is said to be a Christian refuge during Jewish-Roman wars in the 1st. Century CE when Jerusalem Christians fled to the city to escape the wars.

The city was destroyed by the Golan earthquake in 749.  Excavations have been conducted by the University of Sydney and the Jordan Dept. of Antiquities since 1979; much has been revealed but still more remains hidden.

The ongoing excavations have uncovered ruins from the Greco-Roman period, as well as the remains for Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches, and Early Islamic homes and medieval mosque.

You can drop by the site for a quick look on the way back to Amman from Umm Qais.  Entrance to the ruins are free.  There’s a small tea house above the ruins where you can have tea and snacks and get a great view of the excavation; you may even meet one of the archeologists working at the site at the tea house, we did!

 Around Amman
Umm Al-Jimal

Umm Al-Jimal  is a black city located 87 Km. east of Amman in the province of Mafraq which is just 10 Km. from the Syrian border.

Many of its houses, churches, barracks, and forts were built with black basalt stones thus earning the city the nickname “Black Oasis”.

The town’s origins are still unclear, it is believed to have been built by the Nabateans about 2000 years ago when it served as a post for many trading caravans as it is aptly named Umm al-Jimal which means Mother of camels.

The town was destroyed by the massive earthquake in 749 which razed many of the great cities in the area.

This in my opinion is a less interesting site which can be visited when exploring Jordan’s eastern desert region.  We spent less than hour at the site on our way to Azraq and the desert castles.

 Around Amman
Azraq Wetlands Reserve

Located in the eastern desert near the town of Azraq is the Azraq Wetlands Reserve.

Created some 250,000 years ago the wetlands was once the crossroads for human caravans and bird migration.  Millions of meters of fresh water attracted migrating birds as well as caravans traveling between Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Syria.  Today due to over consumption the springs have dried up. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature established a reserve in 1978 and has been fighting an uphill battle to bring back the birds and water buffalo who have died or gone elsewhere since the water dried up.

The reserve is a nice respite when one is doing the Desert Castle loop from Amman.  It provides a cool restful oasis from the endless miles of dry hot desert.

The reserve has a couple of easy walking trails and a rustic bird hide that overlooks one of the lagoons.  There’s nearby Azraq lodge that has a few rooms, a restaurant, and gift shop.  There’s also a small museum that narrates the history of the wetlands from pre-historic times to its current dehydrated condition.

 Around Amman
Qasr Amra

A nice day trip from Amman is the Desert Castle Loop.  You can begin the loop heading north from Amman to the town of Azraq where you’ll see 3 castles before you get to the town.  (Qasr Al-Hallabat, Azraq Oasis, and Qasr Al-Azraq).

In Azraq you can stop by the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve which has earned world recognition for reintroducing the almost extinct Arabian Oryx into the wild, and the Azraq Wetlands Reserve. 

Along the Desert Castle Loop you’ll run into Qasr Amra on the southern highway back to Amman.

This is probably the best preserved castle along the route and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The castle has a luxurious bath house and is adorned by some well preserved frescoes.  It was part of a larger complex that hosted traveling caravans.   Entrance to the castles are free.

 Around Amman
Qasr Al-Harraneh

16 miles west of Qasr Amra is Qasr Al-Harraneh.

This castle is an enigma to both archeologists and historians; some maintain it served as a fort; others as a caravansari for passing caravans; and still others say it was a retreat for Umayyad leaders to discuss current affairs.

None the less the castle is fairly well preserved and you can spend a half hour or so exploring it’s rooms.

You will pass 2 more castles on the return to Amman; Qasr Al-Mushatta and Qastal.

 Around Amman

The town of Madaba is just 30 Km. south of Amman.  Known in the Bible as the Moabite town of Medaba it is mentioned in the Old Testament.

The town is known for its mosaics the most famous of which is the Map of Palestine which adorns the floor of the Church of St. George located in the middle of town.

The Church of the Apostles houses the beautiful mosaic Personification of the Sea.

The town also has a museum which features many beautiful mosaics and embroidered Jordanian dresses.

The town is also known for hand-woven tapestries and carpets.

 Around Amman
Mt. Nebo

Just a few kilometers west of Madaba is Mt. Nebo, known as Pisgah in the Bible.  It was atop this mountain that the Bible says Moses lived out his remaining days and viewed the Promised Land which he would never enter. (Deuteronomy 34: 1-8)

The mountain top has awesome views that includes the Dead Sea, West Bank, Jericho, Jordan River, and on clear days Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Mt. Nebo is a pilgrimage stop where early Christians stopped to pay homage to the “Tomb of Moses”.

 The Nebo area was purchased by the Franciscan Fathers in 1934.  Excavations starting in the 1930s have uncovered a basilica and 6 tombs in caves beneath the basilica floor.  Today there is a church and shrine.
 Around Amman
A stay in Amman would not be complete without a dip in the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea is an easy day trip from Amman or Madaba, but I wouldn’t recommend combining a day in Madaba with a dip in the Dead Sea which can leave your skin feeling itchy and somewhat sticky.
Lying over 400 meters below sea level the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth.  As its name suggests there are no living plants and animals in this body of water.  The sea is fed by the Jordan River but it has no outlets.  The rapid evaporation of the water has resulted in the extremely high content of salt and other minerals thus making it uninhabitable.
The mineral concentration however gives the waters therapeutic properties that have been recognized since the time of Herod the Great over 2000 years ago when it is referred to in the Bible as the Salt Sea.
The high salt content makes swimming impossible, the water’s buoyancy keeps one floating too high on the surface making strokes virtually impossible.  However don’t be lulled into thinking  you can not drown in the Dead Sea; you can, people do every year.  This happens when they try to swim on their stomachs or fall into the water face first.  The high water density that makes the water extremely buoyant acts against you if you’re face down; it’s difficult if not impossible to force legs and lower body down to flip over or stand up.  Also swallowing even a small amount of the water can destroy a body’s electrolyte balance causing the heart and kidneys to possibly shut down.  Floating on your back is really the only option.
A day trip to the Dead Sea of course must include a dip into the sea, you can do this at a resort, at a public beach, or a spot along the road with shore access.
There are quite a few hotels and resorts lining the length of the Dead Sea including Marriot, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Moevenpick, and Kempenski; all 5 star resorts & spas.  There is also the Medical Center that is part of the Dead Sea Spa complex, it is a luxury hotel with a spa and medical center that is recognized in the world as being the first in the region to offer natural skin treatments.
Resorts allow non-guests access to their private beaches and the use of their facilities including changing rooms, showers, spas, pools, bars, and restaurants.  Expect to pay 25JOD and up per person for a Day Pass.  You can of course book treatments and massages at any resort spa and treat yourself to a body wrap, facial, and more using Dead Sea products.  My favorite resorts are the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa  and the Moevenpick Dead Sea Resort & Spa.  Day passes at either was 45 JOD per person.  Spa prices vary by treatment; appointments can be made directly at the spa on the day of.
If you don’t want to splurge for a day pass at one of the resorts you can go to the public Amman Beach about 2 Km. from the hotel zone.  Entrance fee cost 20 JOD per person, it includes a towel rental, beach access, use of showers, small child’s play area, and cafes and restaurants.  It’s not luxurious but it works.  You can dip yourself in the Dead Sea and slather on the mineral rich Dead Sea mud for a DIY spa treatment.  Don’t be shy, everyone on the beach is doing it!  Do rinse off the mud and salt before you leave as it will cause you to be itchy and sticky if you don’t.
If you’re really on a budget you can go to a road side location 20 Km south of Amman Beach and dip into the sea for free.  The place is dirty and unkempt but the sea water has the same therapeutic properties as everywhere else along the Dead Sea.  There is a small waterfall coming from a hot spring where you can wash off the salt after your dip.  There are no facilities at this road side pull out, it’s identified by a couple of small snack kiosks.
A couple of things to remember when you go to the Dead Sea:
1.  Don’t shave the day you go or even a day or two before you go.  Freshly shaven skin will burn when you touch the salt laden water.
2.  Don’t go in the water if you have any cuts or scrapes – it will hurt like the dickens!
3.  Don’t get water in your eyes, nose, and mouth – it will burn and it takes a long time to rinse out so it stops burning.  If you do get water in your eyes, nose, or mouth rinse with fresh water immediately; continue to rinse until it stops burning.   Get medical attention if you swallow the water and start feeling sick, you may be poisoning yourself.  The public and private beaches have lifeguards.
4.  Don’t try to swim on your stomach; instead float on your back and keep your face out of the water.

5.  Wear waterproof footwear.  The shores can be pebbly and the sea floor rocky.  The beach shores are can also be very hot specially in the summer time when it can be scorching.  Also solidified salt and minerals can be sharp and will easily cut or puncture skin which will cause immense pain if you’re in the water.

6.  The salt can stain your bathing suit and any clothing it comes in contact with.  Rinse suits and clothing out asap after to leave the water.  Better yet wear something old so you don’t have to worry about staining it.

7.  Wash the salt off your body before you use a towel otherwise salt will stick on the towel and rub off on your skin when you use it later.  The salt can make you very itchy.


6 of the Best Family Friendly Hotels in Amman, Jordan

6 of the Best Family Friendly Hotels in Amman, Jordan

Hotels in Amman

When I think of Jordan I always picture the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, particularly the Sic and the Treasury made famous in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.   To be sure Petra is the crown jewel of Jordan’s historic sites not to be missed when one visits this country.  But there is much more to Jordan than the Rose City of Petra which is located in the southern region of the kingdom.  There are many other historic and natural sites; The Dead Sea, ancient fortresses, desert castles, and natural bridges, just to name a few.

When we visit Jordan we like to base ourselves in Amman, the capital, and take day trips to the surrounding areas.  Of course we head south for a short stay in the seaside city of Aqaba which brings us closer to Petra and Wadi Rum.

Amman is a wonderful city with many historic sites, great food, and hospitable people.  It’s also centrally located so that a day trip to the desert region, the Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, and other tourist sites is possible.

Here are a few family friendly hotels we stay at when we’re in town.

*Clicking on a linked hotel name/picture will take you to an Affiliate Link making it easier to purchase that product if you wish.

Hotels in Amman
Courtesy of Le Meridien Amman

Le Meridien Amman is located in the heart of Amman’s Shmeisani, the city’s commercial and diplomatic district.

The rooms are comfortable, the staff is friendly, and the breakfast buffet is nice. The hotel has several restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, spa, gym, and a comfortable lobby area for an evening drink or an morning cappuccino.

Room rates start at $171/night.

Hotels in Amman
Four Seasons Amman

The Four Seasons Amman located between the  prestigious Al Sweifiyah residential area and the Shmeisani financial district is a great luxury hotel.

It has both indoor and outdoor pools, lounges, and more.  They provide children with child sized robes and special amenities at check-in.

Room rates start at $331/night

Hotels in Amman
Kempinski Hotel Amman

Also located in the Shmeisani is the Kempinski Hotel Amman.  This hotel has all the amenities of a 5 star luxury hotel including an outdoor heated pool that’s open to guests in the summer.  It also has an entertainment center where guests can bowl, play darts, and pool.

Room rates start at $161/night

Hotels in Amman
Sheraton Amman Al Nabil

The Sheraton Amman Al Nabil is also located in Amman’s Shmeisani district.

The hotel features both indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, restaurants, and lounges.

Room rates start at $229/night

Hotels in Amman
Le Royal Amman

Le Royal Amman is located in the Third Circle in the heart of the city.

The resort complex has its own shopping arcade featuring boutiques, shops, banks, and more.

They feature a full service spa and fitness center and have both indoor and outdoor pools.

Room rates start at $170/night

Hotels in Amman
Crowne Plaza Amman

The Crowne Plaza Amman is located in the city center.

The hotel features a full service spa complete with Turkish Bath, indoor and outdoor pools, restaurants, and lounges.

Room rates start at $161/night

Eating in Dubai

Eating in Dubai

Eating in Dubai

One of my favorite things about traveling is eating.  I love trying new foods and new restaurants.  It’s even more fun to wander around a new place find that special little place where the food is fantastic and the staff is friendly.

Over the years we’ve found many great restaurants in many of the places we’ve visited, and Dubai is no exception.  There are many great restaurants in this city, from simple fast food to opulent fine dining you’ll find it there.  You don’t have to spend a month’s salary on a great meal, although in this city I’m sure you won’t have to look too hard to find a fine dining restaurant where you can!
You’ll find many of your favorite chains in Dubai as well as others from around the world.  Here are some of our favorites.
Al Mallah on Al Dhiyafha Road in the Satwa District serves good Lebanese street food at very reasonable prices.
They serve sandwiches and plates of shawarma, kebobs, falafel, hummus, and more.
A plate of Shish Tawook (chicken kebob) complete with french fries, hummus, pita, and salad costs about $9.
It’s a great place for a quick snack, lunch, or a casual dinner.
They have 2 other locations in the city:
Mamzar next to Al Mamzar Mosque on Al Khaleej Road
Qusais Al Tawar 1 opposite Free Zone Metro station
Eating in Dubai
Courtesy of Dubai Style Buzz
Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe formerly the Basta Art Cafe is located in the heart of the city’s historic Bastakiya area in Bur Dubai.
Located near Al Fahidi Street this quirky cafe has a nice courtyard where you can sip mint iced tea and munch on a fresh salad or date and walnut cake served with plain yogurt under the shade of an old tree.
Prices start at $13
Eating in Dubai
Courtesy of  Royal Mirage
Celebrities at The One & Only Royal Mirage is a chic and stylish fine dining restaurant and lounge that offers fine views of the city.
You can enjoy cocktails in either the indoor or outdoor lounges where they serve an assortment of tapas reasonably priced from $11 – $20.
The ala carte menu in the main dining room ranges from $25 for an order of vegetable gnocchi to $70 for a whole lobster Thermidor or a Wagyu fillet.  In a city where fine dining at one of the luxury hotels is usually over-priced, the fine cuisine at Celebrities is a good value.  The restaurant is open for breakfast daily and for dinner everyday except Saturday.  Children over 8 are welcome.
Eating in Dubai

Kan Zaman in the Heritage Village area in Bur Dubai serves Lebanese cuisine.  Out door seating is right on the creek and offers wonderful views of the abras crossing back and forth.

They have an extensive menu of Lebanese dishes from soups, tapas, sandwiches and entrees and a very small kids’ menu.  They dabble in European specialties including Chicken Cordon Blue, Chicken Escalope, and pizzas, but I’d stick to the Arabic mixed grills, tapas, pastries and other Lebanese specialties.
They also have a large drink menu that offers fresh fruit juices, milkshakes, and an assortment of teas and coffees.  You can relax after dinner and enjoy the creekside view with a shisha pipe.
Shawarma sandwiches start at $4.  Main entrees start at $8 for a chicken shawarma plate and go up to $65 for the Royal Seafood Stand that includes lobster, fish, prawn, and calamari.  Or you can work your way thru their tapas menu and enjoy a fine assortment of dips, fried bites, and meat and veggie pastries.
Eating in Dubai
Courtesy of Elite Traveler
PIER CHIC in the Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah is a unique Dubai hotspot.  It’s located on the Al Qasr Hotel property and is accessed from the beach at the end of a long wooden pier.  There are 2 pods along the way to the restaurant, the Chic Bar and Chic Lounge.
This restaurant is over the water and offers exquisite views of the Burj Al Arab, the Gulf, Jumeirah Beach, and Palm Jumeirah.  It’s a high end eatery specializing in seafood including lobster, oysters, salmon, and more.
It is very trendy and the place to be seen.  Entrees start at $31 for a salmon dish to $245 for a Hot Seafood Platter for Two.
Eating in Dubai
Courtesy of Royal Mirage
Tagine in The One & Only Royal Mirage  features Moroccan Cuisine in a sumptuous setting complete with lanterns and oriental rugs.  There’s also live music provided by a Moroccan Duo.
They offer a variety of Moroccan specialties including Couscous, Tagines, and grilled kebobs which are prepared with different types of meats and vegetables.  Tagine dishes are $29, Couscous dishes are $27, and kebobs are $26.
Eating in Dubai
Courtesy of the Meat Co.

If you have a hankering for meat then the Meat Co.  on the sea front of Souk Madinat Jumeirah is the best place to go.

Serving lunch and dinner they serve burgers, steaks, and seafood.  Outdoor seating is right on the water and has views of the Burj Al Arab.

Burgers start at $20 and steaks at $42 for a Rump steak from New Zealand.

Eating in Dubai
Courtesy of Meydan Hotels

AL HADHEERAH tucked away in the desert dunes in the Bab Al Shams Resort & Spa serves a buffet of traditional Arabic food in a desert fort atmosphere. Guests are entertained by dance performances and other cultural activities.

Weekday dinner buffet/show cost $115 per person
Thursday & Friday nights are $135 per person
Kids 5-12 are discounted 50%
Kids 4 and under are free

6 Dubai Budget Hotels

6 Dubai Budget Hotels

Dubai Budget Hotels
Courtesy of Budget Places

Dubai is the epitome of luxury and excess.
The city is home to the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest mall, The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest sweet shop, Candylicious, and the world’s only 7 Star Hotel, The Burj Al Arab.

The hotels and resorts in Dubai compete to be the most luxurious, most family friendly, and pretty much the most of everything.  They entice guests with gold ipads to use during their stay, free admission to their waterparks, underwater suites, and much more.  There’s no doubt these luxury hotels scream opulence with their decor and provide impeccable service; but of course all this luxury comes with a steep price tag.

It may seem that a visitor to Dubai needs the purse of an oil sheik, and you do if you plan to stay at the Burj Al Arab’s Royal Suite at $20,000+ a night, but there are many budget friendly hotels in the city.  They may not be on the beach or on prestigious Palm Island, nor will they have fabulous views, they will more likely be in the older section of the city; but they will be clean and comfortable, and have courteous staff.  Here’s a list of budget friendly hotels in the city.

*Clicking on hotel name/photo will take you to an affiliate link.  

Dubai Budget Hotels
Courtesy of Marco Polo Hotel

The Marco Polo Hotel in Deira is efficient and comfortable.  Rooms have a coffee maker and free Wi-Fi.

Rooms start at $45/night

Dubai Budget Hotels
Courtesy of Grand Midwest Tower Hotel

The Grand Midwest Tower Hotel Apartments in Media City have studio, one bedroom, and 2 bedroom apartments.  All units are equipped with kitchens and Wi-Fi.  There a pool, and gym with sauna and steamroom.  It’s next door to Burjuman Mall in the heart of the city.

Rooms start at $54/night

This hotel chain has more hotels around the city for about the same price

Dubai Budget Hotels

The Rose Garden Hotel Apartments in Al Barsha has Studios, 1 and 2 bedroom units.  All apartments are equipped with kitchen and Wi-Fi and they have a pool and a gym.

Rooms start at $45/night

Dubai Budget Hotels
Courtesy of Accor Hotels

Mercure Gold Hotel Al Mina Road is a 4 star hotel is located in the city just 5 minutes away from Jumeirah Beach.  The hotel has Wi-Fi for a fee, swimming pool, gym, and spa.

Rooms start at $68/night

Dubai Budget Hotels
Courtesy of Ibis Hotels

Ibis Deira City Centre Hotel is located in the heart of the historic old city.  All rooms have internet access and Wi-Fi in the lobby.

Rooms start at $76/night

Dubai Budget Hotels

Winchester Hotel Apartments

The Winchester Deluxe Hotel Apartments in Bur Dubai has studio and 1 bedroom apartments.  They have a pool and a gym.
Guests receive complimentary internet and airport transfers.

Rooms start at $67/night

15 Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

15 Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

Dubai is a great city for kids; there are so many fun things for kids of all ages to do.  It’s also a city with hundreds if not thousands of great hotels.

My grandsons love Dubai and are looking forward to this summer’s vacation.  We haven’t decided where we will stay yet, there are so many hotels to choose from, it’s going to be a hard choice!

Here’s a list of the most kid friendly hotels in Dubai, a couple that we’ve stayed in and those we are considering for this year’s visit.

*Room rates shown are for this summer’s peak season for 2 adults & 2 children, they are slightly lower during off peak season

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

Atlantis The Palm is situated on the man made Palm Island.  Like it’s counter part in the Bahamas this hotel has its own waterpark with slides, wave pools, lazy river, and more. Hotel guests have free Aquaventure Waterpark admission every day of their stay and get discounts on park activities such as the zipline rides, shark safari, and more.  Guests also get discounts to the Lost Chamber Aquarium and activities there.

Aside from the waterpark hotel guests have access to the hotel pools, kids and teen clubs, play zones, nanny services, and more; extra fees may apply for some services and activities.

If you feel like splurging the hotel has these super cool signature Neptune and Poseidon Suites which are underwater!  Their windows look into the hotel’s Ambassador Lagoon, wake up to the sight of fish swimming by your “window”.

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels


Hotel room rates start at $500+/night, but look out for specials during off peak seasons

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The beachfront Jumeirah Beach Hotel is one of the best family hotels in the area.  Guests have complimentary unlimited access to the Wild Wadi Waterpark next door during their stay.

The hotel has 5 pools, beach access and amenities, kids and teen clubs, spa, fitness center, and more. Hotel rooms have great Gulf views and some have views of the near by Burj Al Arab, Dubai’s iconic building that’s billed as the only 7 Star hotel in the world.

Hotel room rates start at $500+/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels
Courtesy of Wikipedia

If you really want to splurge you can book a stay at the Burj Al Arab the ultra luxury hotel.  Along with the luxurious amenities offered by the hotel, Burj guests have complimentary unlimited access to the Wild Wadi Waterpark during their stay as well as share the kids and teens clubs at the neighboring Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Room rates at the Burj Al Arab start at $1300+/night.


Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The Madinat Jumeirah Mina A’Salam is the gateway to Te Madinat Hotels.  There are 3 different boutique hotels in this vast complex that are connected by the Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
The hotel complex has meandering waterways which can be explored on their 20 minute Magical Abra Journey.  Tickets are sold in the Souk.

Hotel guests have complimentary access to the private beach as well as unlimited admission to the Wild Wadi Waterpark with free shuttle or buggy service from the resort to the park.  On site the hotel has a kids pool and kids club for hotel guests.  There’s also a turtle enclosure at this hotel, it’s part of the company’s commitment to the Turtle Rehabilitation Project in the Gulf.  You can feed the turtles at set times.

Hotel room rates start at $196+/night
Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The Jumeirah Zabeel Saray located on The Palm was inspired by the grand palaces from the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire.
From it’s magnificent lobby to it’s Ottoman inspired guest rooms this 5-star hotel is truly a luxurious delight.

The hotel has one of the largest spa facilities in the Middle East complete with Turkish Hammam.  Guests have access to the private beach, infinity pool, children’s club, movie theater, shopping area, restaurants, lounges, and more.  Guests also receive 1 day complimentary admission to Wild Wadi Waterpark with free shuttle service from the resort to the park.

Room rates start at $256/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels


Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina is one of our favorites.

From the moment the kids step in to the lobby they are made truly welcome.  Each child is presented with a complimentary backpack filled with vacation necessities including a disposable camera, water bottle, beach toy, and more.

Most rooms have large private balconies with ocean views.  Guests have access to the private beach, pools, kids’ club, fitness center, spa, and more.  There are many beach and pool activities designed to keep kids entertained.

We usually stay in an Executive Club Room and have access to the Executive Club Lounge for complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, happy hour, and drinks and snack throughout the day.  This rate also has complimentary round-trip airport transfers.

Regular room rates start at $239/night
Executive room rates start at $289/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina  is another 5-Star Starwood Resort.  It offers the same amenities as its neighbor The Westin.

Guests have access to the private beach, pools, fitness, center, spa, kids’ club, and more.

Room rates start at $195/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The Waldorf Astoria on The Palm is a world renowned luxury hotel is part of the Hilton Family of Hotels.

This hotel is just 1 year old.  It offers guests all the luxury and amenities this brand is known for; private beach, beautifully appointed rooms, fitness and spa facilities, pools, and kids’ club.

Room rates start at $261/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels
Courtesy of Hilton Hotels

Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel & Resort is another one of my favorites.  We’ve stayed here many times.

It’s located in the heart of the Walk with it’s many shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Hotel guests have access to the beach, pools, fitness center, kids’ club and more.

Room rates start at $237/night.

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

Hilton Dubai The Walk is just across the street from the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel & Resort.

It’s really an apartment hotel and is ideal for families because it has 2-4 bedroom apartments.  It has a small pool on property but guests have access to the facilities and amenities at the Hilton Resort across the street.

Room rates start at $310/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai- Jumeirah Beach is right on the beach and is located in the heart of the Walk.

They don’t have many amenities other than the beach, a pool, and a small fitness and spa facilities.

Room rates start $324/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The Movenpick Jumeirah Beach  is across the street from the beach in the heart of the Walk.
Most rooms have small balconies with a gulf view.  The hotel has a bridge to it’s private beach and pool area.

They have spa and fitness facilities, but no kids programs from what I’ve seen.  I’ve stayed at this hotel brand in Jordan and have been pleased with their services and amenities.

Room rates start at $261/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort  is right on Jumeirah Beach and within walking distance to the Walk and Dubai Marina.

Hotel guests have access to the private beach, swimming pools, kids’ club, fitness center, spas, and more.

Room rates start at $190/night

Located on Jumeirah Beach the Ritz Carlton Dubai is a world class luxury hotel.

Guests have access to the private beach, 5 pools, tennis courts, kids’ zone, and more.

Room rates start at $218/night

Kid Friendly Dubai Hotels

The Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach 
is located across the street from the beach in the heart of the Walk.  The private beach is accessed via a bridge from the hotel.

Guests have access to 3 pools, spa and fitness facilities, children’s program, and more.

Room rates start $285/night

For a list of Kid friendly activities in Dubai click here!

For Free & Cheap things to do in Dubai with kids click here!