In my last post, I noted that Amman is a good jumping off point for visiting sights in other parts of the country. In my case, I had been to Petra and the Wadi Rum before (combined with a trip to Israel two years ago when I crossed into Jordan from Israel's Eilat and stayed over at the Taybet Zaman Hotel near Petra). So this trip focused on other attractions in northern Jordan and exploring the newly emerging cosmopolitan scene of Amman.
Following my day-long city tour, my guide, Moawi, arranged a subsequent day trip to explore the north including Ajloun Castle (a medieval fortress), Umm Qays, and Jerash. That's a lot of ground to cover in the North and driving distances between sights were about an hour. I recommend trimming it down to just Umm Qays (a Roman ruin with an amazing view of the Jordan Valley including Lake Tiberias in Israel and the Golan Heights) and Jerash.
Jerash was a Roman city where 15,000 people once lived. While less remains here than what one would see in Petra or Pompeii, it's still very impressive. Make sure you get a driver who also is a good guide. Our driver was a fine driver but not a guide. We found an English tour guide for Jerash, which is essential.
On my third day, I took a day trip to the Dead Sea, where I visited O Beach, a new beach club. If you are not staying at the Kempinski or the Marriott, O Beach is the best option for experiencing this special place. One can pay 25 dinar (about $30) for a day pass to the lovely pools, several excellent restaurants, and beach. O Beach actually reminded me of several excellent beach clubs in Beirut – it’s sophisticated and chic.
Note that the Dead Sea in summer is warm, so don't expect to "cool off" in the water. And the salt is so strong it stings. But the effortless floating works! Try smearing mud on for a body cleanse. Tip: Go at sunset when the sun is weaker.
The Kempinski is five minutes away from O Beach on the Dead Sea, and one does need to be staying overnight to access the Kempinski grounds, which are awe-inspiring. The Kempinski here is the finest hotel in Jordan.
Next up: My overall impressions of Jordan and its people