The final installation of our Top Tours of the Past 10 Years blog series takes us to Jordan, on our Petra & the Desert Fortresses tour. Led by Nick Jackson, this is a 10-day tour with three departures for 2020. Our expert guide lecturer Nick Jackson, who will lead the March and October departures to Jordan, opened up about the tour and what makes it one that has continued for over a decade now.
Top Tours of the Past 10 Years: Jordan
3 January 2020
Jordan | Petra & the Desert Fortresses
Petra is a truly incredible destinations, rose-red in colour and intricately carved on a massive scale. In ancient times, its streets were a fusion of Nabatean and Classical architecture – elaborate tombs, colonnaded streets and temples carved into rock. A modern visit is one filled with intrigue and stories, and to explore it in the company of our experts is the ultimate treat. On this 10-day tour, you’ll spend two full days in the evocative rock-cut city of Petra, you’ll travel through the lunar-like Wadi Rum desert aboard a fleet of 4x4s, there will be a visit to the mighty crusader castle at Kerak, and you will explore the best-preserved Roman town in the east at Jerash. Other highlights range from the opportunity to experience weightlessness in the Dead Sea to the spectacular mosaics at Umm al-Rasas, and from a tour of the lesser-visited “Little Petra” to a morning at the dramatic basalt city at Umm al-Jimal.
Has the condition of any of the sites changed? If so, how does it impact the visits?
The great joys of my tours are twofold here – on the one hand we can explore these fascinating sites together, but as excavations and publications move forward, I can see the sites evolve and share this with guests on subsequent tours. No two visits are ever the same, there's always something new. Also, as excavation priorities and techniques develop, focus shifts in some cases to a specific period ignored before. For example, Early Islamic Jerash was not understood well or even visible when I first started showing guests, but now it is!
What kind of guest tends to take this tour?
Jordan attracts guests interested in not just the Orient – its appeal is so wide. The tour covers so much, the birth of settled life in the Neolithic, and the great complex cultures of the Bronze and Iron Age through to the classical period and beyond. Jordan was in the thick of the great events and, at some time, it hosted the great personalities of the past that created the western world. It's the heart of world religions and is a key area globally in our modern world. Oh, and as a bonus, the locals, food, landscape and climate are also amazing, so there's much to explore and something for everyone.
Due to the difficulties the region as a whole has experienced over the years there are few places left to visit regularly (Jordan and Israel). Many of my guests come with me on all my tours, even to my hometown of Berlin too (there’s large chunks of Jordan and Lebanon in the museums here). As the group emerged from Tel Aviv airport this Spring over half of them (some who had travelled again from the US) had travelled with me before. Just about every tour I lead now has some from past adventures. On my last Oman tour, I had two folks who had met previously in Jordan and had got married in between! It’s fantastic to have been able to explore an entire region in depth with so many interested and interesting people.
What has changed about the itinerary and why?
Not much but all for the better - Jerash and Petra can’t really be improved on! New excavation exposes new material for example conservation work at Qasr Amra painted bath house has left it unrecognisable for the sorry state it was on the first visits. There are frescoes appearing very year that we’ve never seen or that couldn’t be interpreted clearly. The new Amman Archaeological museum collections have added a great new experience of the best finds from Jordan. Also new hotels and restaurants have greatly added to the comfort and experience.
What has given the tour such longevity?
A desire to wander through Petra and Jerash I would think - guests wait all their lives to visit these, they are 2 of the great archaeological sites of the world, and it’s always my pleasure to welcome them there as we arrive!