Jordan for nomads
n the words of Tolkien “Not all who wander are lost”. For thousands of years, walkers have traversed Jordan in search of knowledge, cultural exchanges and connections. They have included Nabatean merchants, making their way through the deserts, and the ancient Edomites, who followed the trade route from the King’s Highway to Damascus. The practice of travelling on foot is as ancient as the paths we have to follow.
Now a gathering place for adventurers from all over the planet, Jordan has a trail for anyone looking to lose themselves. After five years of work, which involved more than 40 volunteers mapping the route, the Jordan Trail, a hiking path that crosses the country from north to south, is now open. At more than in length 650km, it passes through a total of 52 towns and cities. The JTA (Jordan Trail Association), which is responsible for developing and maintaining the route, explains “It is an open and free trail for hikers and first-timers to explore a healthier lifestyle, reconnect with nature, and sit down for a traditional meal with a local family in a village, after a long hike.”
The back door to Petra
The route from Dana to Petra was the first section of the trail to be developed. National Geographic has acknowledged it as one of the best 15 hikes in the world. It is a unique opportunity to go into the pink city by the back door, up a stairway to Al Deir façade.
The route takes 40 days to complete, and you can either do it in one go, or choose one of the eight stages that make up the trail. Each one takes between four and five days and they connect very different regions of the country, from the Mediterranean villages in the north, in the regions of Umm Qais and Al Ayoun, through the canyons of the Jordan Rift, and out into the echoes of Wadi Rum desert, to finish on the shores of the Red Sea.
The Jordan Trail passes through the country’s finest historical gems. Jerash and Petra are two cities that will strike the walker with the weight of their lost civilisations. In the north, the route runs through archaeological sites dating back to the beginnings of Christianity. You can cross Bethany, where Jesus was baptised, and climb Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land. The age-old stories take on new life when you hear them told by a Jordanian Bedouin or shepherd by candlelight in Petra, inside a Bedouin tent in Wadi Rum, or beside the River Jordan, propped up on your backpack.
The organisation is nurturing a sense of community, similar to the one you can find on the Way of St James, Spain. This allows travellers to connect and form travelling groups. The JTA website offers information about points of interest, and maps for planning routes and transport.
Local communities are an essential part of the project, since they provide meals and rooms for the hikers. Duha Fayyad, one of the first women to complete the entire trail, says “residents of areas along the trail provide a learning experience for hikers, by introducing them to traditional songs, folk music and storytelling, in addition to showing them aspects of rural life”.
The trail is in a constant state of change. Its evolution is based on suggestions made by the tourists and Jordanians who travel it (you can leave reviews on the JTA website). Of the many ways to travel a country, none is better than the one that leaves the dust from its roads on our shoes, and in our memories.