Sometimes, the name on the map is only part of the story. In the case of Jordan, it is barely a fragment. True, this intriguing country has only been painted on to the global atlas since 1921, emerging as the Emirate of Transjordan in the wake of the First World War before achieving full independence from British “supervision” in 1946. But to view it as a 20th-century creation is to ignore the four millennia of civilisation that came before.
Every empire that has risen in the Middle East has, at some point, coveted and conquered the land east of the River Jordan and the Dead Sea which makes up the modern Jordanian state. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Ottoman Turkey – they all left their imprint.
The result, in the 21st century, is a country as rich in heritage as any other, not least because, for all the waves of invasion, the locals were gloriously productive. In the south, the Nabateans cut the city of Petra from the rocky Wadi Araba valley, possibly in the fourth century BC. And they were latecomers compared to the northerly Ammonites, whose key city, Rabbath Ammon, was in existence in 1200 BC, early enough to appear in the Bible. It is still there nowadays, as the increasingly vibrant Jordanian capital of Amman.
Add in the ruined Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, the desert vistas of Wadi Rum, the saline waters of the Dead Sea and the inviting Red Sea port of Aqaba, and you have a recipe for a holiday that mixes history and relaxation. Nor do you need to cover epic distances to achieve this. At 35,637 square miles, Jordan is about the same size as Portugal. A drive from Irbid in the north to Aqaba in the south is a matter of 250 miles and five hours.
A glance at the map will show what every Egyptian pharaoh and Roman emperor knew, that Jordan is the crossroads of the Middle East. Its centrality is visible in its list of neighbours, sharing borders with Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and being split from Egypt by just eight miles of Israeli soil along the Gulf of Aqaba. Sadly, in an era where the region has eviscerated itself, Jordan is better and safer travel option than any of its neighbours. - Telegraph