By: Dr. Yousef Zreagat
Tour guide since 1995
Founder of Jordan Tourism Trails concept
National coordinator of Abraham Path Imitative Trail
Manager of Old Testament Research Center
Writer of “In the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and Emir Faisal”
Jordan Tourism Trails Characteristics and advantages:
Jordan Tourism Trails have the following characteristics and advantages that can maximize tourist’s experience:
1. A wide variety of tourism attractions
2. All history of Jordan and Biblical experience
3. Integrated trails ( a national net of trails )
4. They are a part of regional trails. Extending to neighboring countries
5. They have all necessary tourism facilities on the ground.
6. Along a net of CBOs and NGO’s initiatives.
7. Fulfill tourism trends, interests and demands (eco, agro, voluntarism, Biblical, , geo, nature based, historic and cultural, art and literature, adventure, clashes).
JTT offer you the ultimate touring experience in the Middle East.
· I - Historic and Cultural Trails:
1. King’s Way Trail:
The King’s Way trail is considered as the most ancient highway on the planet, as it is dated to the Biblical era (book of Numbers 21), the time of Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt ( 1200 B.C). It passes through five Semite kingdoms of Edom, Moab, Amor, Ammon and Bashan. This unique Biblical highway starts from Aqaba ( Biblical Azion Jabir) going north via Petra, Dana, Bsairah ( Bosrah, capital of Edom) to Tafeelah down to Wadi Alhassa. It continues to Karak ( Kier Moab, capital of Moab) north to Wadi Almujib, Debon, Madaba, ( Heshbon, unknown capital of Amor), to Amman ( Rabat Ammon, capital of Ammon). We can see some sections and fragments of this highway.
2. Trajan’s Road: ( Via Nova Trajana) this road was built during the Roman era over remains of the King’s Way (111-113 AD) with tens of extension roads to caravan stations, main cities, Roman army garrisons ( Alhumaymah, Adhruh, Allajoon, Um Alrassas and Um aljemal), Decapolis cities, Dead Sea, and other places. We still can see good sections and fragments with some mile stones with inscriptions on.
3. Lawrence of Arabia and Arab Revolt Trail: This trail plays a great role in Jordan National trails Strategy, for it is going to attract great numbers of tourists who are interested in clashes tourism of first 100 years anniversary of WWI. Many of Lawrence’s fans will celebrate his 100 years arrival and wars in the Middle East in 1916. There are tens of important sites and locations that still exist in Jordan with a great file of literature review for all events and locations. It follows the story of Lawrence’s book “ Seven Pillars of Wisdom”.
4. Nabatian Caravans Trails: From 4th century BC until 7th century AD the Nabatians took many routs in Jordan and many of them where passing through the Jordan Valley. This trail starts from Little Petra, down the mountains through Wadi Namlah, and Beir Mathkour before going to Alexandria, Gaza, Jerusalem and other destinations. Visitors can stop to see the 10 thousand years old Neolithic site at Little Petra, enjoying the mountains geology and landscape and Wadi Araba sand dunes. They can do it hiking, tricking, camel's ride and jeep ride. (Camels' caravans experience will be special).
5. Darb Alhajj Alshami: This was a Muslim pilgrimage trail that was established by the Umayyads (8th century AD). It goes from their capital Damascus passing through Jordan ending in Makah. There are many of the pilgrimage castles and stations in Jordan in Mafraq, Alkherih Alsamra, Aljezzah ( Zeezya), khan Alzabee, Dhabah, Alqatranah, Unaizah, Ma’an and Almudawarah before it enters Saudi Land. This trail was reused and followed by the Ottoman Turks to build the Hedjaz Railway (1908).
6. Hedjaz Railway: This pilgrimage railway was built by the Turks ( 1904-1908) from Damascus to Medina. In most parts, this railway followed the Umayyad Darb Alhajj Alshami. There are still many of this railway stations. This trail was the main field for the Arab Revolt and Lawrence battle sites.
7. Umayyad Khaleifah Trail: (8th -10th centuries). This a trail of a unique landscape of Jordanian east desert, promoted as desert castles. It include caravans’ stations, khalifahs’ palaces and fortresses.
8. Bitumen trail (Dead Sea Asphalt trail): Ancient Egyptians realized the high medical values of the Dead Sea, using the Asphalt for mummifying their dead people as the famous historian Jussives Flavious mentioned. The trail starts from the south eastern side of the Dead Sea passing through Bab Aldhra , Ghore Essal, Saint Lot Sanctuary, Ghore Alsafi, Ghore Numaira, Beir Mathkour, joining the Nabatiean caravan routs that are going through Negev, Sinai to Egypt.
9. Pella Egypt Trail: two thousand years BC Jordan including Pella was a part of the Egyptian Empire. The documents mentioned Pella with the name Paheilum and it was specialized in manufacturing the wooden wheels for their chariots. The trail starts in Pella, to Wadi Yabis, to Dair Alla, Alkaramah, Swaimah, south to the Dead Sea linking with the Asphalt trail.
10. Balm of Gilead Trail: Biblical reference as the caravans of the Ishmaelite that found Joseph son of Jacob was carrying the Balm of Gilead form the Gilead Mountains to Egypt. It was used for mummifying the bodies.
11. Art and literature trail: This is a trail that focuses on Jordanian poets writers and artists who left a great legacy for Jordan and the world.
· Ayesha Albaounyah and Arrar trail: two great poets as Ayesha ( a 15th century poet from Baoun- Ajloun ) was the most famous mystic poet. Arrar ( a 20th century poet from Irbid) was the poet of the Jordanians poor class.
· Assalt City Trail: it is a trail for the unique19th and 20th century architect besides the marvelous social harmony and some famous writers and political figures.
NOTE: Trails 2 , 3 and 4 could be joined together in one trail called the Egyptian Trail.
· II - Eco Trails:
Despite the fact that eco tourism concept and its applications will be applied for all trails mentioned, it is named so in order to show more potential for eco and conservation values in these trails. Reserve guided trails will be a unique experience to enjoy the biodiversity and eco systems. (Reserve trails exist and tourists are using them guided by eco guides from the RSCN). All these trails are passing by heritage, archeological or religious sites. There is still a chance to develop other trails that are connected the Jordan Valley such as Yarmouk River, Wad Alyabis, Zarka Ma'een and others.
1. Mujib Reserve Trail: ( Arnoon River ) In coordination with the RSCN the trail starts in the upper part of the reserve going down along the river passing through wild life habitats and unique geological formations ending in the Dead Sea salty water. The trail has to be guided according to the RSCN rules. (The altitude starts from 700m above sea level down to 407m below sea level). Approximate length is 55km.
2. Dana Reserve Trail: In coordination with the RSCN the trail starts in the upper part in the heritage village down through the Wadi Kharar, passing by the ancient ruins and copper mines in Wadi Fenan, to Fenan eco lodge with unique geological formations, ending in the Araba Valley. The trail has to be guided according to the RSCN rules. (There is no other trail like it in the world as it is 2 thousand meters drop down in one day walking. the altitude starts from 1600 m above sea level down to 300m below sea level) approximate length is 65km.
3. Wadi Alhasa Trail: (Zared River) this trail starts from the King's Highway where the Nabatian Kherbit Aldhareeh in the upper part, Kherbit Allouban, passing by Kherbit Altanoor, down along the river to Barbaitah, Afra hot springs where the famous Sahabi Farwah Aljuthami is buried. This trail goes down through the geological formations with magnificent landscape and ends south of Chore Alsafi. ( the altitude starts from 700m above sea level down to 350m below sea level) approximate length is 65 km.
4. Wadi Bin Hammad Trail: This trail stats from Bateir heritage villages and landscape down to the hot springs with greenery, then continuing along the waterfalls in the wadi to the Dead Sea. ( the altitude starts from 900m above sea level down to 407m below sea level) approximate length is 75km.
5. Zarka River Trail: (Jaboc River) This trail starts from Dibeen Forest Reserve, which is rich of biodiversity passing through Burma village down to King Talal Dam, Khshaibah village, Telul Althahab, and Dair Alla. ( the altitude starts from 750m above sea level down to 200m below sea level) approximate length is 50 km.
6. Wadi Rajeb Trail: This trail starts from Sakib, down along Wadi Um Jouzah passing by hundreds of early bronze tombs carved in the rock to Wadi Alshams, Kherbit Alsouk, Rajeb, and finally ending in Dirar village, where the honored Sahabah Dirar and Abu Obaidah Bin Aljarah are buried. the altitude starts from 1100m above sea level down to 250m below sea level) the approximate length is 35km.
7. Many other trails all over Jordan: there is a list of more 10 trails that are in use. Tour operators receive growing numbers of tourists along these trails. Some of these trails are Dlaghah ,Wad abh Khshaibeh, Abo Alsakakeen, coulored Wadi, Wadi Rum trails, etc…….
III – Biblical and Islamic Trails:
Jordan Valley is also rich of Christian and Islamic sites that could give a real example for Islamic – Christian brotherly living and tolerance for centuries. The following trails are suggested:
1. Baptism Trail: (Biblical). This is a trail that most pilgrimages and travelers mentioned with details starting in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, down to Jericho crossing to the Biblical Baptism site (Bethany beyond the Jordan). The trail starts from the Jordan River up to Kafrain, Mount Nebo, Mukhayat, Madaba, Husban, ending in Amman (Rabat Ammon, Philadelphia). the altitude starts from 1100m above sea level down to 100m below sea level) the approximate length is 95km.
2. (Decapolis Trail): this trail starts from Philadelphia, ( Amman) to Gerasa, ( Jarash) to Arabilla, ( Irbid) to Capitoliace, (Bait Ras) to Abella ( Quwilalbeh, to to Gadara (Um Qais) to Pella, (Tabaqet Fahl).In this trail, the tourists can experience visiting 7 Decapolis (Greek, Roman and Biblical) cities with rich topography of the north of Jordan with a wide variety of historic events and places, geology, fauna, flora and ethnography).
3. Gadara - Pella Trail: (Biblical) This trail starts from Gedara (Um Qays) with the dramatic scenery for the Sea of Galilee. and Golan Heights. It passes by Wadi Alarab Dam, down to North Shunah hot springs, ending in Pella. (the altitude starts from 700m above sea level down to 150m below sea level) the approximate length is 30km.* (This trail could be a part of the Decapolice Trail )
4. John the Baptist Trail: (Prophet Yahya) The New Testament described John the Baptist life in the Wilderness of Jordan in details before he was captured and jailed finally beheaded in Mkawer Castle. This trail starts from Mkawer Castle down to the eastern shore of Dead Sea, stopping by Zara hot springs. It continues north to Swaimah, ending in the Baptism Site. the altitude starts from 100 above sea level down to 300m below sea level) the approximate length is 35km
5. Islamic Tourism Trail: Jordan is rich with Islamic history that includes Sahabah tombs, prophets shrines (Maqaam) and battles sites. This trail includes:
· Sahabah tombs and prophets shrines (Maqaam): It extends from North Shunah (Shurahbbeel Bin Hasanah tomb southward to Mu'ath Bin Jabal, Waqass, Abu Obaidah, ending in Dirar. This trail continues up to Nabi Sho’aib, Ahl Alkahef, Almazar and others.
· Islamic battle sites (clash- tourism) that include Alyarmouk battle sites, Tabaket Fahl, Mu’ta, besides Jabal Alash’ari and Alhumaymah.
· Jerusalem (Al-Quds ) extension Trail: This trail is an extension for the Hajj in Makah and Medina.