Moses. Alexander the Great. Emperor Hadrian. Lawrence of Arabia. Great names through history that have all visited Jordan. Will you join that illustrious list this November?
Jordan has enjoyed its position as the crossroads of the Middle East for thousands of years, connecting Asia, Africa and Europe, making it the perfect destination for the brand new Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan!
We’re bringing our international series of events for the global games industry to the Middle East for the first time, this November 2nd and 3rd and can’t wait to introduce this amazing territory to overseas businesses from all around the world.
It would be a shame to come to a country with such fine heritage without exploring some of the riches it has to offer. May we recommend booking an extra day or two’s vacation either side of the conference and taking in the following Top 10 sights...
If you only have time to visit one location while visiting for Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan, then it has to be the ancient city of Petra.
If you only have time to visit one location while visiting for Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan, then it has to be the ancient city of Petra. Created by the Nabataeans more than 2,000 years ago, Petra is reached by a half-mile walk through a narrow desert gorge called Al Siq with walls that tower 200m overhead. The city is carved into the pink sandstone cliffs, earning it the nickname, Rose City.
The first big structure you’ll encounter is also its most famous. Al-Kazneh, or the Treasury, has a striking 40m tall columned facade that famously featured in the climax to 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Sadly, there are no invisible bridges inside.
But that’s just the beginning of Petra. The archaeological site spans 60 sq km and also features a visitor centre, the Street of Facades, the remains of a theatre, royal tombs and a museum before you start the climb up 820 steps to reach the monastery. And if you fancy a further 45-minute hike up a steep trail, you’ll find the High Place of Sacrifice with some stunning panoramic views.
In fact, Petra is such an unmissable sight that we’re organising a VIP trip from Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan, with the possibility for other delegates to join us. We’ll share more details about the trip nearer the event.
While there’s no doubt that Petra is at the top of our list, the ancient city of Jerash comes a close second. A settlement dating back more than 6,500 years going all the way back to the Neolithic Age, it lay hidden beneath the desert sands for centuries before being reclaimed with excavations starting in 1925.
Just 30 miles north of Amman, Jerash is a fine example of a combination of both Greco-Roman architecture and the Arab Orient. Alexander the Great is said to have stationed troops here on his expeditions before the Romans moved in a couple of hundred years later.
The Western side of the city remains one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world, with paved and colonnaded streets, hilltop temples, theatres, plazas, baths, fountains and city walls. Downtown Jerash continues to be home to around 30,000 residents.
Jerash also offers a fantastic view of Galilee, the Dead Sea and even across to Jerusalem City.
Welcome to the lowest land on planet Earth! Swimming is more like floating; it’s easy to just lie back and bob about.
3) The Dead Sea
Welcome to the lowest land on planet Earth! 430 metres below sea level, the 304m water level is also the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With a salinity of more than 34%, the Dead Sea is nearly 10 times as salty as the ocean, making it almost impossible for either plants or animals to survive here. Hence the name.
One famous consequence of the water’s composition is that swimming is more like floating; it’s easy to just lie back and bob about. The water also contains 21 minerals including high levels of magnesium, sodium, potassium, and bromine - 12 of these minerals are found in no other body of water in the world.
Bordered by Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, the Hebrew bible uses various names for this water mass, but the most recognisable is the Sea of Salt in the Book of Genesis. Its historical importance can be traced through the writings of Aristotle to Pliny the Elder. That history was revisited in the 1940s with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of hundreds of religious documents dating back as far as 150BC.
The Dead Sea has been a health tourism hotspot for thousands of years and it’s still a popular place to treat or alleviate the symptoms of a wide range of conditions, from skin complaints and respiratory difficulties to arthritis.
The area now has good infrastructure and amenities, with new roads leading to four and five-star hotels, complete with health spas.
4) Ma’in Hot Springs
And while you’re in the Dead Sea neighbourhood with your swimming kit, stop by Hammamat Ma’in (Ma’in Hot Springs). The hot mineral springs and waterfalls are located in a desert oasis 264m below sea level. Thousands of bathers visit every year for the mineral-rich waters of these hyper-thermal waterfalls.
The water travels from winter rainfall in the highland plains to feed the 109 hot and cold springs in the valley. Underground lava fissures heat the water to 63° Celsius as it makes its way through the valley before emptying into the Zarqa River.
5) Mujib Biosphere Reserve
Located near the east coast of the Dead Sea, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is the lowest nature reserve in the world. Set within the Wadi Mujib gorge, the Reserve extends to the Karak and Madaba mountains to the north and south, with elevations ranging from 400m below to 900m above sea level.
The 1,300m variation means that Wadi Mujib enjoys biodiversity featuring more than 300 species of plants, 10 species of carnivores, plus permanent and migratory birds. The sandstone cliffs are an ideal habitat for mountain goats such as the horned Ibex.
Jordan’s capital city - and venue for Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan - Amman dates back to the Neolithic Age.
You won’t have to travel far to find sights worth seeing. Jordan’s capital city - and venue for Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan - Amman dates back to the Neolithic Age. And it’s still giving up its treasures. As recently as 1983, construction work in ‘Ain Ghazal uncovered some of the oldest human statues ever found, from 7,250BC!
Jordanian culture today shows its past as an important trade route with numerous conquests through its blend of influences from the Assyrians, Nabataeans, Romans and Ottomans who lived here.
The Bible refers to the area as Ammon, or the Ammonite Kingdom, but it’s also been known as Rabbath-Ammon during the Iron Age and later as Philadelphia. Historical hotspots include the Citadel and its Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and the Byzantine Church, as well as the 6,000 seat Roman Theatre, which is a deep-sided bowl carved into the hill and is still being used for cultural events. The Jordan Archaeological Museum is nearby too, although The Jordan Museum has a larger collection of antiquities.
The city has experienced an economic, cultural and urban boom in the last decade.
Shopping and nightlife
Originally built on seven hills, known as Jebels, modern Amman now spans 19 hills with a population of four million residents.
The city has experienced an economic, cultural and urban boom in the last decade. Large shopping malls now include the Mecca Mall, Abdoun Mall, City Mall, Al-Baraka Mall, Taj Mall, and Avenue Mall. Amman's first pedestrian-only street, Al-Wakalat Street (Agencies Street) boasts an array of stores from European and North American brands.
You really must visit a traditional marketplace while in Jordan and one of the very best is Souk Jara next to Rainbow Street in the Jabal Amman sector. You’ll find an amazing array of offerings, from hand-woven rugs and embroidered clothing to traditional pottery, glassware and jewelry from around the kingdom.
And while you’re keeping it old skool, why not check out one of the many hookah bars and share the smoky hubble bubble with a group of friends.
Fine dining has really taken off in Amman, so you won’t need to survive on falafel - unless you want to! You’ll find restaurants specialising in most cuisines ranging from French or Italian fare to Asian fusion.
And if clubbing’s more your scene, then there’s now a huge number of nightclubs to choose from. The more exclusive ones are to be found in the city’s most affluent district, Abdoun.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan is where John the Baptist baptised Jesus.
7) Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Half an hour from Amman by road, Bethany Beyond the Jordan sits on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, five miles north of the Dead Sea.
Otherwise known as Al-Maghtas, most Christian Churches agree that Bethany Beyond the Jordan is where John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Mentioned in the Bible, as well as Byzantine and medieval texts, pilgrims describe their visits to the site as far back as 333AD. The area features Roman and Byzantine remains that include churches and chapels, a monastery, hermits’ caves and baptism pools.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan continues to be a place of religious pilgrimage for many Christians, including Pope Francis.
8) Madaba and the Kings Highway
The 5,000-year-old Kings Highway is still the primary route South out of Amman and passes through an incredible number of ancient sites. You’ll encounter Stone Age settlements, biblical towns, Crusader castles, Roman fortresses and Nabataean temples. First mentioned by name in the Bible, Moses himself wanted to lead his people North along the Kings' Highway.
Along its 207 miles, the highway will take you through highland forests, flat farmland and beside deep ravines and the edge of the Eastern Desert before delivering you to the tropical Gulf of Aqaba. The King's Highway is not what you could call easy going, so expect distances to take longer than you might expect from a well-surfaced motorway or autobahn. But don't discount the destinations it offers if you plan to spend a week sightseeing.
The first stop along the route should be the City of Mosaics, Madaba. Hundreds of mosaics from the fifth to seventh century adorn the city’s homes and holy buildings, the most famous of which is the sixth-century map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Two million pieces of coloured stone depict the countryside and towns as far as the Nile Delta.
9) Umm Ar-Rasas
18 miles further down the Kings Highway, the walled city of Umm Ar-Rasas is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. The Romans fortified the city, which local Christians would continue to embellish with Byzantine-style mosaics well over 100 years after the start of the Muslim Umayyad rule.
Excavations in the area continue to uncover remarkable ruins and artifacts, the most notable being the Church of Saint Stephen. Set just beyond the city walls, it has a perfectly preserved mosaic floor, the largest of its kind to be discovered in Jordan.
The furthest of our destinations from Amman, Aqaba is still only four hours away by road. The only coastal city in Jordan dates back to the 7th Century, with excavations that have revealed streets, city walls and towers from that time.
In ancient times, this Red Sea port was the main transport hub for shipments from the Red Sea to the Far East. Now the Gulf of Aqaba is world-renowned as the world’s northernmost coral reef ecosystem. Home to 110 species of soft corals and 120 species of hard corals there are also more than 1,000 species of fish, corals, crustaceans, and mammals. The area is also visited by sea turtles, dolphins and whale sharks.
We’re looking forward to bringing our hugely successful international series of events to a thrilling new location and help the global games industry unlock the potential of the massive MENA market.
11) Bonus Round!!!
Jordan has so many historical sites, natural wonders and city-based highlights that we could go on. But we couldn’t leave without humbly suggesting that the first-ever Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan will be one of the highlights of your trip.
We’re looking forward to bringing our hugely successful international series of events to a thrilling new location and help the global games industry unlock the potential of the massive MENA market. It’s one of the most exciting emerging markets right now, showing 23.6% growth year on year to $4.9 billion in 2018 according to NewZoo.
Building on the brilliant work of the Jordan Gaming Summit (a fantastic local conference which has run for the past seven years) and with the support of the King Abdullah Development Fund that presides over many amazing projects in the region, we hope to deliver a conference that truly unites the region, celebrates talent and facilitates long-lasting international partnerships.
Join us for Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan on November 2nd and 3rd. Tickets are on sale now with our Super Early Bird prices offering savings of up $310 if you book now!
Pictures: Main, 1-7, 9 & 10 courtesy of Jordan Tourism Board.