Explore Islamic sites in Jordan, on the way to Petra

by Margherita Clerici

While on your way to classic highlights of Jordan such as Petra and Wadi Rum, and tasting the legendary Jordanians’ hospitality, you can discover Jordan from a different perspective; its Islamic sites and history. Here’s some inspiration for you to visit the Islamic sights in Jordan, on your way to Petra.

Abu Darwish Mosque - One of the Islamic sights in Jordan

Abu Darwish Mosque – One of the Islamic sights in Jordan

Famous for its biblical places and interfaith coexistence, some of the sites are in common to the three major faiths while some are important witnesses of Islamic spread and expression across the region. Both if you like to strengthen your faith or take a step to learn more about the official religion of the Kingdom, this itinerary is a great occasion to nourish your curiosity and awareness, maybe while you are listening to the Adhan from the top hill of Amman Citadel. Here’s a possible itinerary for you to discover the Islamic sights in Jordan: 

Discover the Islamic sights in Jordan & Amman

Day 1: Arrival at Queen Alia International Airport of Amman. Your driver will await you in the arrivals hall holding a name sign, and take you straight to Amman, Jordan’s capital.

If you arrive in the morning or early afternoon, there is time for a City Tour through Amman. You’ll visit the King Abdullah II Mosque, also known “The Blue Mosque” because of its magnificent blue dome 35m in diameter with Quranic inscriptions, completed in 1989 as a memorial by the late King Hussein to his grandfather. It can house up to 7000 worshippers and it is one of the few which welcomes non-muslim visitors, providing abayas (black full-length dress) to cover bare arms, legs or jeans at the entrance.

You’ll visit also the Citadel with the Temple of Hercules, with antique buildings transformed once in a mosque, and where you can also enjoy a 360 degrees view over Amman.
Then continue to the Roman Theatre, in downtown Amman. There is a very nice even little museum, the Folklore Museum, that shows daily traditional life and clothes.

You can also admire the Abu Darwish Mosque, on top of one of Amman’s seven hills, Jebel al-Ashrafiyeh. Its singularity shows the alternating black and white stones draw on traditional Levantine architecture and the beautiful view over the city. Together with your driver, continue to downtown Amman, to stroll through the bustling markets. If you are hungry, ask your driver to go for a falafel lunch somewhere, he will know the best places!

King Hussein Mosque, the largest in Jordan

Our tips to make your experience unique

Tip #1: If time allows, ask your driver to make the visit at the Citadel around one of the prayer call times, especially at the Sunset’s one. One of the most amazing and moving experiences is being in the Citadel area above Amman during the call to prayer (Adhan) to hear the calls from various Mosques all-around at the same time.

Tip #2: If you are visiting Jordan during the Holy Month of Ramadan, join the Iftar (fast-breaking meal at the sunset)  at the restaurants. Jordan comes alive in the evenings! Especially in Amman’s downtown restaurants (don’t be late, it is difficult to find room!), waiters begin serving food about 10 minutes before it begins, to make sure everyone can eat as soon as the Call to Prayer starts. It’s amazing to look around as customers wait patiently, before breaking their fast by gulping down water and munching on dates, as Prophet’s tradition tells (PUH). Here are more tips for when you’re traveling in Ramadan. 

Tip #3: if you are Muslim, you can also visit and pray at the beautiful King Hussein Mosque, the largest mosque in Jordan. Characterized by simple yet sophisticated design and marble floors, with and a peaceful entrance full of trees, there is also a Museum of the Prophet (Arabic: “متحف الرسول”, matḥaf ar-rusūl), which houses a number of relics associated with the Prophet Muhammad PUH.

Offroad desert castles - stops at Islamic sights in Jordan

Offroad desert castles – stops at Islamic sights in Jordan

 

Off-road Desert Castles Tour & Islamic art

Day 2. Today, before driving back to Amman, enjoy your Desert Castles Tour but off-road, thanks to our experienced driver. While driving on normal roads and offroad through the black Eastern Desert, you will learn about these fabled castles built by the Umayyad rulers during the 7th and 8th centuries, used as hunting lodges and weekend retreats, and you’ll also find well-preserved Islamic art in some of them.

You can start leaving Amman in the early morning, then along Zarqa’ area, the third biggest city of Jordan, to reach impressive Hallabat Castle and its mosque’s ruins. About 3km east of Qasr Al Hallabat, you will visit ancient As-Sarah Baths ( Hammamat As-Sarah) which has been extensively restored, revealing the underfloor piping system that was used to heat the bathing rooms. You will carry on your trip until the area around Azraq refugees Camp, after which you will start the offroad way. Here, the skills of your driver will be challenged just for your fun, reaching through hidden ways and shortcuts into the black desert until you will reach Azraq Wetland Reserve and Shomari Reserve. Learnabout the precious efforts of people working there, protecting unique species and ecosystems.

Traditional pop-up lunch for you

In the meanwhile you are visiting Amra castle, one of the best-preserved monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its interior walls and ceilings covered with lively frescoes, a pop-up barbeque and minicamp will be arranged. You will find everything ready when you come back. Relax under the shadows of the trees or of the tents, enjoy the barbeque, soft drinks and, of course, tea!

After this relaxing lunch in full local style, carry on your trip visiting Harrana Castle, a well-preserved caravanserai, or resting place for traders and pilgrims of old periods. With around 60 rooms on two levels arranged around a central courtyard, it has a rainwater pool in the middle. Maybe another tea and chats with always welcoming locals under the tent near to the visitor center, then back to Amman through the airport road. It has been a long adventurous day!

Visit Qasr Al Amra during the Islamic sights in Jordan tour

Visit Qasr Al Amra during the Islamic sights in Jordan tour

Exploring the Northern Islamic Sights in Jordan

Jerash

Day 3. In the morning, your driver will pick you up and take you to Jerash. It is one of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Wander along the Colonnaded Way, climb up the steps of the Temple of Artemis or listen to the traditional bagpipers in the Theatre. Bible mentions this city, and it is set of battles during Crusades and lately under the Ottoman rule. Interestingly, some recent excavations since 2011 have shed light on the Middle Islamic period; recent discoveries have uncovered a large concentration of Middle Islamic/Mamluk structures and pottery.

Ajloun

After that, a forty-minute journey away from Jerash via a picturesque route of olive groves and woodland. You will visit Ajloun Castle, an ancient Muslim fortress that was built by the nephew of the Muslim military leader Salah-Addin (Saladin), to fight against the Crusaders during the 12th Century. No doubt why; once you will reach the top through its arches, chambers, carvings and towers, you will enjoy the amazing panorama across the Jordan Valley. The location is indeed strategic to keep under control possible invaders. In the museum, you can admire medieval weapons and learn about complex water lines, plus something that always surprises in our WhatsApp era; with its hilltop position, the castle was one in a chain of beacons and pigeon posts that enabled messages from Damascus to Cairo in a single day. The rearing of pigeons is still a popular pastime in the area!

On your way back to Amman, you will visit the place where the Battle of Yarmouk took place, which takes the name from the Yarmouk river, near the border of modern-day Syria and Jordan. The six day-battle happened between Muslims and the Byzantine Empire and it was a decisive victory for the Muslims army led by Khalid bin Al Waleed. Despite being less in numbers, indeed the battle has huge importance being the first victory for the Muslims outside the Arab Peninsula and opening the way for freeing the Levant area from the Byzantine Empire.

Combine visits to the highlights with Islamic sights in Jordan

Combine visits to the highlights with Islamic sights in Jordan

Seven Sleepers Cave, Mount Nebo and Dead Sea

Day 4. Today you will continue your journey visiting the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, a little outside Amman. According to Christian and Islamic tradition, seven young men hid in the cave to escape religious persecution at around 250 CE. It is important to note that this is one of several locations that claim to be that cave, also known as Ahl Al Kahf (Cave of the People). Both if this is the actual place or not, it is a great occasion to remember the description of this story in Sura 18 of the Holy Quran (Surah Al Kahf, the Cave,سورة الكهف). According to this chapter, the group stayed sleeping for “three hundred years and they add nine”. This event is described as one of the signs which will strengthen the faith of true believers.

Then it is time to head to Mt Nebo for views over the Dead Sea. You will see the site where Moses is reputed to be buried after seeing the Promise Land from its top. In the afternoon, you’ll drive down to the Dead Sea for a relaxing dip in the salty waters and your overnight stay at the Dead Sea.

Cave of the seven sleepers, one of the many Islamic sights in Jordan

Cave of the seven sleepers, one of the many Islamic sights in Jordan

 

Heading South while visiting Islamic Sights in Jordan 

Day 4. From the Dead Sea, continue down the Dead Sea Highway. You’ll pass by Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of Salt after turning to look back onto Sodom and Gomorrah. Continue to Lot’s Cave, where according to the tradition, Lot was hiding with his daughters after fleeing the city of sin. Then you’ll hit the road towards Karak, another important Castle during the time of Crusades. Here, Muslim fought important battles to open the way to Saladin to take back Jerusalem.

Keep on your way down south. You’ll make a stop at the Mou’ta Battle site; again between Muslims and the Byzantine Empire. The battle took place in a context where relations between the Muslims and the Romans were particularly strained. According to the historians, the peak was reached once Romans and their allies in the region killed one of the messengers of the Prophet PUH. That was contrary to the usual hosting and protection of messengers from harm, a tradition deeply spread in the area.  Here again, the Byzantine army was outnumbering the Muslim army. That is why also this Muslim troop’s victory in this historical event is still full of valuable lessons for believers. After that, you will continue continuing to Petra for your overnight stay.

The Monastery in Petra

The Monastery in Petra, picture by Tent Kanemaki

Full day in Petra

Day 5: You have the full day to visit the famous UNESCO world heritage site of Petra. It is called the Red Rose City because of its red coloured rocks. Walk through the mystic Siq until you reach the famous Treasury. There is also a viewpoint opposite to it which you can climb up, to have a view from above. Then visit the Street of Facades! Walk through the Roman area, perhaps climb up to the High Place of Sacrifice and follow the path to the Garden Temple Complex. If you have the energy, then climb the 800 steps up to the Monastery, Petra’s largest Temple. Overnight stay in Petra.

Seven Pillars in Wadi Rum

Seven Pillars in Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum & Aqaba

Day 6: In the morning you will travel from Petra into the magnificent desert of Wadi Rum. Starting in the Rum Village, you will go on a 4-hour jeep tour visiting the best places of the Protected area. Explore red sand dunes, canyons, Nabatean inscriptions, bizarre rock formations and huge rock bridges. After the tour, enjoy a locally prepared lunch in the desert and soak up the unique atmosphere. Most of Bedouin traditions adhere to Islam teachings such as the great importance of hospitality. If you have the chance, speak with locals to discover how they practice Islam in this region together with cultural habits.

Fisherman in Aqaba

Fishermen in Aqaba

Then continue further south to the city of Aqaba, by the Red Sea.

Here, you can spend a relaxed afternoon and head to the beach, to go swimming or snorkelling. Here’s one of our articles that explains things to try out in Aqaba. You can also explore the quirky little city center on foot. If you want to visit some more sight of religious importance, you can head to the following places:

– Visit the Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque or the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, non-Muslim can visit it as well.

– Explore the ruins of the ancient Islamic city of Ayla. It was the first Islamic city outside the Arabian Peninsula and referred to as the Door to Palestine. The city was a station for pilgrims heading towards the Holy cities and Mecca.

– Head to the Great Arab Revolt Plaza, and soak up the bustling atmosphere at sunset by the big flag pole. This is a great place to get a cup of tea!

After this enriching and full of History trip, you can have more relax in the city of Aqaba. Or, you can go back to Queen Alia Airport in Amman.

Tip #4: You can enrich your Islamic sites Itinerary to the next level with a one- day trip to Jerusalem.  A guide specialised in focusing on Islamic sites will walk with you. You will explore this full of energy city, also called Al Aqsa, literally “The Holiest”. Visit the Muslim Quarter, the Dome of Rock. If you are Muslim, have some private time to pray Al-Aqsa Mosque. In the Old City of Jerusalem, it is the third holiest site in Islam.

Islamic sights in Jordan - beautiful mosques all around!

Islamic sights in Jordan – beautiful mosques all around!

Are you ready to discover Jordan from yet another perspective? Get in touch with us and our experts will create a customized trip for you in no-time!

 

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