Tourism in Jordan

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A large variety of people taking photographs of something just beyond the camera, in a canyon with a rocky rear wall
Tourists photograph Al Khazneh upon arriving in Petra via the Siq.

Tourism is one of the most important sectors in Jordan's economy. In 2010, over 8 million tourists from various countries visited Jordan, with tourist receipts amounting to about 3.5 billion dollars. An additional $1 billion was earned through medical tourism to the kingdom. In 2011, Jordanian tourism lost $1 billion due to the political instability across the region.[1]

Its major tourist attractions include visiting historical sites, like the worldwide famous Petra (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and one of New Seven Wonders of the World), the Jordan River, Mount Nebo, Madaba, numerous medieval mosques and churches, and unspoiled natural locations (as Wadi Rum and Jordan's northern mountainous region in general), as well as observing cultural and religious sites and traditions.

Jordan also offers health tourism, which is focused in the Dead Sea area, education tourism, hiking, scuba diving in Aqaba's coral reefs, pop-culture tourism and shopping tourism in Jordan's cities. More than half of the approximate 4.8 Arab tourists in 2009, mainly from the GCC, said they plan to spend their holidays in Jordan.[2]

Main tourist destinations[edit]

Ancient sites[edit]

The south gate in the ancient city of Jerash
Qasr Amra a desert castle from the era of the Islamic Empire
Al Karak castle
  • Petra in Wadi Musa, home of the Nabateans, is a complete city carved in a mountain. The huge rocks are colorful, mostly pink, and the entrance to the ancient city is through a 1.25 km narrow gorge in the mountain—called the Siq. In the city are various structures, all (except 2) are carved into rock, including al Khazneh – known as the Treasury – which has been designated as one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" by the for-profit New Open World Corporation. Other major sites of interest in Petra include the Monastery, the Roman theater, the Royal Tombs, the High Place of Sacrifice. Petra was rediscovered for the Western world by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
  • Umm Qais, a town on the site of the ruined HellenisticRoman city
  • Jerash is famous for its ancient Roman architecture, with colonnaded streets, Corinthian arches, outdoor Roman Theaters and the Oval Plaza.
  • Shoubak with its Crusader Castle "Crac de Montreal", Marking both the eastern and southern frontier of Crusader expansion.
  • Ajloun has a medieval Crusader castle
  • Al Karak contains an important castle from the times of Salah al-Din, known as Al-Karak Castle.
  • Umm el-Jimal, the so-called "Black Gem of the Desert", was once a town on the margins of the Decapolis. Rural and well to do, it was a fitting contrast to the surrounding busy cities. Its black basalt mansions and towers, some still standing three stories high, have long inspired poets.
  • Montreal Crusader castle, less than an hour north of Petra. The ruins, called Shoubak or Shawbak in Arabic, are located in modern town of Shoubak. It dates from the same turbulent period as Karak. The fortress fell to Saladin only 75 years after it was raised. Inscriptions by his successors appear on the castle wall.
  • Qasr Amra, one of the best preserved Umayyad Islamic period monuments. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with unique frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colourful mosaics. It, too, is a World Heritage Site.
  • Umm ar-Rasas, Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, these ruins show a mix of Roman, Byzantine and early Muslim architecture. Among its treasures is the largest church mosaic floor in the country; newer discoveries are possible as the site has not been completely excavated.

Religious tourist sites[edit]

Seaside sites[edit]

  • Aqaba is a town on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba with numerous shopping centers, hotels and access to various water sports and protected coral reefs and marine life. It has the ruins of the mediaeval town of Ayla and other Edomite ruins. Aqaba also has a vibrant nightlife scene especially on holiday weekends when thousands of wealthy Jordanians visit the coastal city. Numerous raves and concerts are held by international DJ's and artists at the major resorts and beach clubs.[3] Aqaba is seeing nearly $20 billion worth of developments centered on tourism and real estate projects transforming the city into a "new Dubai".
  • The Dead Sea – It is the lowest point on earth, 402 metres (1,319 ft) below sea level,[4] and becomes 1 meter lower each year. It is the only depository of River Jordan and was part of the biblical kingdoms of Midianites and later the Moabites. The Dead Sea area is home to numerous world-class resorts such as the Kempinski, Mövenpick and Marriott. In addition, there are water parks, a public beach and international restaurants. The ultra-chic destination in the area, however, is the O-Beach which is home to cabanas, bars, international restaurants, and a beach club.


  • Amman is a modern and cosmopolitan city known for its shopping centers, hotels and ruins. Amman contains numerous ancient ruins, with one dating back to 7250 BC at the ruins of 'Ain Ghazal neolithic village. Other ruins include Amman Citadel which is a hilltop in east Amman that combines many ruins left by several ancient civilizations such as; Umayyad Palace, Byzantine churches, Roman Temple of Hercules. Down that hill lies the famous large Ammani ancient Roman amphitheater along with Hashemite Plaza, Nymphaeum and the smaller Odeon amphitheater.
  • Mahis with its religious sites.
  • Wadi Rum is a desert full of mountains and hills located south of Jordan. It is popular for its sights in addition to a variety of sports that are practiced there, such as rock-climbing. It is also known for its connection to D.H. Lawrence; some scenes in Lawrence of Arabia were filmed here. In the late 2000s it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site for its natural and cultural heritage.
  • Irbid, Jordan's second largest city, is home to several museums and malls as well. However, the main reason for foreigners visiting the city is the plethora of universities that the cities host with Jordan University of Science and Technology and Yarmouk University being the two most prominent. The city hosts a large student population from all across Jordan, the Middle East and further afield. Irbid's University Street is home to the most internet cafes per mile in the world.[5]
  • Fuheis, a town about 20 minutes north-west of Amman known for its traditional 18th and 19th century churches and turn of the century provincial Jordanian architecture.


Jordan, most specifically Amman and to a lesser extent Aqaba, has emerged as one of the region's hotspots for nightlife. Alongside Dubai, Beirut, Sharm el Sheikh, and Manama, Amman is a premier clubbing destination in the Arab World and the Middle East.[6] The country has seen an explosion in nightlife options ranging from high end nightclubs and bars in the capital city to world-class raves at the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. Aqaba too has seen a proliferation in nightclubs and beach clubs as a result of the massive of foreign investment and influx of foreign labor and tourists due to the establishment of the special economic zone, ASEZA. Distant Heat held annually in Wadi Rum is considered one of the world's top raves.

Natural reserves[edit]

Jordan has a number of natural reserves.

  • Azraq Wetland Reserve - Azraq is a unique wetland oasis located in the heart of the semi-arid Jordanian eastern desert, managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). Its attractions include several natural and ancient built pools, a seasonally flooded marshland, and a large mudflat known as Qa'a Al-Azraq. A wide variety of birds stop at the reserve each year for a rest during their arduous migration routes between Asia and Africa. Some stay for the winter or breed within the protected areas of the wetland.
  • Dana Biosphere Reserve - covers 308 square kilometres, composed of a chain of valleys and mountains which extend from the top of the Jordan Rift Valley down to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba. Dana is home to about 600 species of plants, 37 species of mammals and 190 species of birds.
  • Mujib Nature Reserve - the lowest nature reserve in the world, with a spectacular array of scenery near the east coast of the Dead Sea. The reserve is located within the deep Wadi Mujib gorge, which enters the Dead Sea at 410 metres below sea level. The Reserve extends to the Kerak and Madaba mountains to the north and south, reaching 899 metres above sea level in some places. Wadi Mujib enjoys a magnificent bio-diversity that is still being explored and documented today. Over 300 species of plants, 10 species of carnivores and numerous species of permanent and migratory birds have been recorded.
  • Shaumari Wildlife Reserve - The Shaumari Reserve was created in 1975 by the RSCN as a breeding centre for endangered or locally extinct wildlife. Today, following breeding programmes with some of the world's leading wildlife parks and zoos, this small, 22-square-kilometre reserve is a thriving protected environment for some of the most rare species in the Middle East, as Arabian oryx, ostriches, gazelles and onagers, which are depicted on many 6th century Byzantine mosaics.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Dana Biosphere Reserve in south-central Jordan


King Hussain Mosque in Amman
Tourist police kiosk at Petra

Jordan is investing heavily in its tourist infrastructure in the form of luxury hotels, spas, resorts, and massive real estate projects, as The "Abdali Urban Regeneration" Project and the "Marsa Zayed" in Aqaba. Luxury residential housing like Sanaya Amman and the Living Wall are attracting affluent Persian Gulf vacationers to buy property in Jordan.

Queen Alia International Airport is being expanded to handle 9 million passengers annually in the first phase; 12 million in the second phase.

Tourism Development Currently USAID is an active partner in the development of the tourism industry in Jordan with the continued support of the Jordan Tourism Development Project (Siyaha), currently in its second project lifecycle.

Duration: 2005 - 2008
Funding: $17,424,283 (estimated)[7]
Implementing Partner: Chemonics International
Duration: 2008 - 2013
Funding: $28 million[8]
Implementing Partner: Chemonics International

With the establishment of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone, nearly twenty billion dollars have been invested in Jordan's sole coastal city. Luxurious resorts such as Saraya Aqaba and Tala Bay are being constructed with more in the pipleline like the $1 billion Ayla Oasis.[9] With Jordan becoming increasing popular as a cruising destination, a new and modern cruise ship terminal is being constructed in the Marsa Zayed project.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]