Jordan, along with most of the Middle East is famous for its dry and dusty deserts, arid rocky plains and rolling sand dunes. However, you will be forgiven for not knowing about its oases – wetlands, streams, springs, lakes and seas. This week’s post we take a look at the water in the desert.
Azraq Wetland Reserve
Established by the RSCN in 1978, Azraq Wetland Reserve is a major station for migratory birds. The name ‘Azraq’ is the Arabic word for ‘Blue’ as it was once described as a ‘sparkling blue jewel’ in the Eastern desert. Unfortunately due to climate change, reduced rainfall and an increase in water pumping to major cities such as Amman and Irbid, the oasis is not as it once was. However, since the mid 1990’s a 6 million dollar conservation project is under way to return this spectacular area to its former glory. The reserve now features a visitor’s centre, where you can learn about the history of the area and see the many conservation challenges faced by the RSCN in preserving the site and it’s rich biodiversity. Then take a walk along the board walks through the wetlands or sit in one of the many hides to observe the wildlife such as Water Buffalo, Ostrich, Ibex and over 160 species of birds. http://aboveandbelow.info/water-in-the-desert/You can also choose to stay over night in Azraq lodge – a converted 1940’s British military hospital.
Hammamat Ma’in / Ma’in Hot Springs.
The Ma’in springs have drawn visitors to bathe in the mineral rich thermal waters since the time of the Romans. The water originates as winter rainfall in the highland plains, it is then heated up to over 63C by underground lava fissures and eventually feeds over 100 springs in the Zarqa Valley.
At the base of one of the main waterfalls is the 5 star Evason Six Senses Spa and Hotel, adding therapeutic treatments and luxurious relaxation to the experience.
The Wild Wadis
Until very recently most of the canyons in the Jordan Valley were largely unexplored and there are no maps to speak of. Some are deep, dark and majority have flowing streams all year round, these conditions make them virtually impossible for Bedouin with their herds of sheep/camels to pass through, and so they stayed hidden away from the world. It is only when the new trekking and ‘Canyoning’ activities became popular with adventurous tourists that these Wadis came in to a whole new light offering some of the best adrenaline adventures known in the region! There are far too many canyons to list and describe here, but whatever your fitness or experience level there is one too suit you – from gentle 5 km hikes to 2 day 15 km treks and 80 m abseils down waterfalls!
Actually a salt lake, rather than a sea – The Dead Sea is known for its healing properties, not only is the mineral rich mud and saline water good for your skin, but as it is over 400 m below sea level the atmospheric conditions also help to relieve symptoms of asthma, allergies and rheumatism. Many 4 and 5 star resorts line the shore offering guests a full spa experience.
Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal town, bordering on the magnificent Red Sea famous for its coral reef and tropical fish. Aqaba has many high end hotels with private beaches as well as over 7 km of public beach. It’s a must visit for divers and snorkelers with many reputable dive centers and boats offering diving for experienced divers and first timers alike. There are also many other forms of water sports available on top of the water – jet skis, para sailing, and windsurfing to name a few.
See – 10 things to do in Aqaba