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Middle Eastern haven of fun and adventure
Taking the family to Jordan is a fantastic opportunity to explore an ancient land in safety, discovers Holidays with Kids writer Joanna Tovia.

Jordan might not come to mind as a family-friendly destination at first, and you may even have written-off the Middle East as a no-go zone for now. But don't dismiss Jordan just yet. This amazing country is a peaceful haven that's incredibly safe. Tourist numbers are down by 65 per cent because of the recent conflict in other Middle Eastern countries, but in my book that makes it the perfect time to go! There are no crowds of tourists to contend with, the people are friendly and polite and, being a separate country with none of the issues affecting its neighbours, it is no riskier to travel to Jordan than it is to Europe, the US or Asia.

Learning about history in the classroom is one thing, but living and breathing it on location is quite another, especially when it's combined with fun and adventure at every turn. That's just what lies in wait on a family trip to Jordan; it's an exciting desert expedition for every age.

I studied ancient history at school and loved hearing about the lives and times of the Romans and Egyptians that had such an impact on the modern world. When I arrive in Jordan, however, I learn there are no fewer than 4800 archaeological sites for me to explore in person! I settle for a visit to Petra's Lost City - a must-visit destination for the whole family.

 Petra's Lost City

This 2000-year-old relic of civilisation is bustling with horses, donkeys, colourful camels, horse-drawn buggies and an array of friendly, smiling Bedouins selling trinkets and keen for a chat. I ride my first camel in Petra - the only slightly frightening part is when my camel gets up off his knees once I'm on board - but children can double-up with parents if it seems a little daunting.

It's an easy walk from the entrance of the Lost City to the Treasury - you and your kids might recognise it if you've seen the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Walk a little further to reach the restaurant. The help-yourself buffet will keep the kids happy.

If little legs get tired, ride back up to the entrance on a horse-drawn buggy, camel or donkey, and do the final stretch on horseback - it's a blast.

Mud, Glorious Mud

Covering myself with black mud is one of those experiences that will linger forever in my memory and raise a smile every time I think of it, and the same is likely to be true for you. At Kempinski Ishtar Hotel, a simply stunning hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea, you can slop around as much mud as you like before letting it dissolve in the balmy seawater. It's hilarious bobbing around in the super-buoyant, ultra-salty water.

The kids' club, luxurious spa, multiple swimming pools and buffet restaurant (along with other dining choices) will keep both parents and kids on cloud nine.

Beachside Bounty

With its wonderful freeform pool, poolside dining and other holiday-friendly activities, Aqaba Resort rivals any five-star beachfront resort around the world. It has its own stretch of private beach, a range of water sports including snorkelling and scuba diving, a kids’ club and decadent spa. It’s also within walking distance of the city centre’s shops, market and restaurants. The poolside ice-creams will be a hit with the kids, although our server is a little bemused when we all pick the same flavour – grapefruit – clearly not a popular choice among Jordanians. “Really? Are you sure? I think maybe it won’t taste good!” Fortunately, he’s wrong – it tastes amazing.

Desert Campout

Camping in the desert Bedouin-style is an adventure. We arrived at Captain’s Private Desert Camp in the dark and my simple lodgings were a surprise – a bed, rug on the floor and single candle on a ledge. There’s no electricity or wi-fi here, that’s for sure. Dinner has been cooking all day in an earth oven – yum – and some local musicians gather with you around a roaring campfire outside. Like many experiences in Jordan, this is one you will never forget.

To read more about Jordan’s highlights, read Joanna Tovia’s story in the current issue of Holidays with Kids magazine – out now!


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