by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, February 5, 2017
Ryanair is launching flights to Jordan for the first time as the Irish airline expands its interest in the Middle East.
The low-cost carrier has announced services to two destinations in the country, the capital, Amman, and south-eastern city Aqaba, amounting to 14 new routes, 10 to the former and four to the latter.
The two Jordanian destinations bring Ryanair’s Middle Eastern presence up to four airports, joining Tel Aviv and Eilat in Israel. However, none yet link with the UK, the airline preferring instead to fly from a number of hubs on mainland Europe, it raises the prospect of a budget route from Britain to Jordan in the future.
British Airways and Royal Jordanian are currently the only two airlines to fly direct to Jordan from the UK, with return fares currently available from around £500.
“Ryanair is pleased to announce its entry into the Jordanian market, initially with one route from Paphos in Cyprus to Amman commencing in March, and growing to 10 from October, as part of our Winter 2018 schedule,” said Ryanair’s David O’Brien.
“These new routes will introduce new business and leisure travellers from 11 European countries to one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world.”
Ryanair says the new routes will carry 500,000 customers a year.
In terms of low-cost carriers flying to the Middle East, EasyJet serves Tel Aviv from London Luton, Gatwick and Manchester. Wizz Air, too, flies to Tel Aviv from London Luton, while Norwegian also flies to the Israeli city from London Gatwick.
The Jordanian tourism minister Lina Mazhar Annab welcomed the arrival of Ryanair.
She said: “Ryanair’s decision to fly to Jordan sends a loud and clear message about the diversity and the untapped potential of Jordan’s tourism product. It also shows confidence in the tourism industry in Jordan, which has witnessed double-digit growth in the past year.”
Is Jordan safe?
The Foreign Office does not advise against travel to the country, bar a sliver of land bordering Syria in the north.
There was concern in December 2016 after 10 people we killed in a shooting near the town of Karak, a tourist destination known for having one of the biggest Crusader-era castles in the region. Fatalities included a Canadian tourist and police officer.
The FCO warns that terrorists are “very likely to carry out attacks in Jordan”, but adds that the visits of some 65,000 British nationals in 2016 were mostly trouble-free.
The FCO also warns of a “heightened risk of protests” following the US announcement regarding the relocation of its embassy in Israel, which borders Jordan to the west.
Why visit Jordan?
The country is perhaps best known for the ancient city of Petra carved into the rock but there are many more reasons for a trip.
1. An important centenary (last year)
TE Lawrence played a leading role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1917, fully dressing the part, too. You may not be leading a troop of galloping Bedouin but you can walk with them across Jordan rom North to South on the newly opened jordan trail, following many of their traditional routes and ending, like Lawrence, at Aqaba. jordantrail.org
2. Forts and resorts
Aqaba was little more than a dusty desert fort when Lawrence pitched up here. Now there’s luxury to boot at this Red Sea resort, with the forthcoming Ayla development showcasing Hyatt’s first five-star hotel in Jordan. ayla.com.jo
When in Jordan... eat as the Jordanians do. Mensaf, a traditional dish of lamb and yoghurt served with rice, is best enjoyed in traditional surroundings. Head for the Sufra Restaurant in Amman’s trendy Rainbow Street. romero-jordan.com
4. Crusader castles
Think Jordan, and you probably won’t think crusader castles. Our favourite is Shobak, built in the twelfth century to guard the King’s Highway from Damascus to Egypt. More atmospheric and less touristy than nearby Kerak. visitjordan.com
5. Thrills and spills
Feeling a little jaded after all that sight-seeing? Clear away the cobwebs canyoning in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, a dramatic sandstone wadi where you can hike, rappel, scramble, abseil and swim through 50-metre high canyon walls. wildjordan.com
6. Bar hopping
Amman was built on seven hills and one of them, Jabal al-Weibdeh, is now a magnet for the city’s hipsters who peruse its bookshops, galleries and bars. Join them for a session at Maestro Music Bar. locandahotel.com
7. Camel riding
Lawrence wouldn’t have got anywhere without his trusty camel. Learn to ride one like a Bedouin, following Wadi Rum’s ancient trade routes and secret trails. Then gather round the campfire sharing tales of desert adventures. jordantracks.com
8. Petra Kitchen
Exploring Petra is hungry work, so why not complete your visit of the rose-red city with an evening at the Petra Kitchen? Here you’ll learn to cook like a Jordanian, then tuck into your efforts. petrakitchen.com
9. Hejaz railway
Remember the train ambush scene in Lawrence of Arabia? Don your dishdasha and take a steam train deep into the desert where you can partake in a re-enactment of the attack. Not for the faint hearted. jhr.gov.jo
Rub shoulders with some of the rarest species in the Middle East including ostrich, wolf, jackal, gazelle, hyena and the endangered Arabian oryx. After a five-year refurbishment programme Shaumari, Jordan’s premier wildlife reserve, has now reopened. rscn.org.jo
11. Championship golf
Anyone for golf? Practise that swing amongst the palm trees on Jordan’s first 18-hole par 72 championship course, designed by Aussie supremo Greg Norman. Finish off your round with a dip in the Red Sea. ayla.com.jo/golf-hills
12. Hot springs
Take a dip 264 metres below sea level, where the mineral-rich waters of these hyper-thermal waterfalls near the Dead Sea reach temperatures of 63° Celsius. Afterwards, chill out at the Ma’in Hot Springs & Spa. mainhotsprings.com
There’s no better place to stargaze than the desert. And there’s no better desert inn than Feynan Ecolodge, where after a candle-lit supper the rooftop telescope offers the finest views in the universe. ecohotels.me