Enthusiast, Culture

Rail and Ancient Wonders of Jordan

22 March to 1 April, 2020
Jordan

An exploration of the railways and ancient wonders of the kingdom of Jordan, including of course, Petra.

Highlights

  • Citadel and Roman Theatre of Amman
  • Tour of loco depot and workshops
  • Steam hauled charter train
  • World renowed Roman ruins at Jerash
  • The “Red Rose City” of Petra
  • Steam-hauled tourist train with “Lawrence of Arabia attack”

Tour Manager: Iain

From: Heathrow (direct) and most UK regional airports (indirect with KLM or Turkish Airlines)

Itinerary

Day 1 Sunday 22 March (D) Arrival in Amman.  Bus transfer to hotel.  Or via the land crossing from Israel for those joining the tour off the PTG Israel tour Bus transfer from the border crossing. Overnight – 4* Hotel Bristol, Amman

Day 2 Monday 23 March (B) Leisurely late morning start. Following an early lunch in a local restaurant we have two options:  Cultural – Guided city tour – visiting the Citadel, the Roman Theatre as well as the labyrinthine “downtown” in the heart of the city with its markets and shops as well as many cafes, bars and restaurants. Or Rail Enthusiast: Coach to University of Jordan, Amman to see plinthed JHR 4-6-2steam loco #84 (NS #1612 of1959); then to Amman station where we visit the small museum and tour the locomotive depot / workshops where team locomotives are still being repaired and returned to service. Here we will gain a good introduction to the former Hijaz Railway, built by the Ottomans in the early years of the 20th century to connect Turkey via Damascus to the holy city of Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia. The line opened in 1908 but only served this purpose for a few years prior to the First World War, when it was famously put out of action by the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia. Now Jordanian Government owned, the Jordan-Hijaz Railway (JHR) is being maintained but at present only operates weekend “picnic” trains from Amman to Al-Jeza and tourist / private charters. Overnight – 4* Hotel Bristol, Amman.

If possible, an evening visit to the microbrewery at Fuheis, 15km NW of Amman can be arranged: please express interest in this option when booking. 

Jordan-Hedjaz Railway: Restored 2-8-2 52 (Jungenthal #12083 of 1955) outside engine shed, Amman, 26.03.15

Day 3 Tuesday 24 March (B, L) Unfortunately, the Hijaz Railway line north of Amman to Al‐Mafraq has been temporarily closed for the construction of a Bus Rapid Transit system and is not scheduled to be reopened until mid-2020 so will not be available or our tour. We will therefore take the coach to Jerash with a short visit en-route to see plinthed steam loco – JHR #63 2-6-2T (FUF #2149 of 1955) – at Al-Bayt University, Mafraq. We will then continue to the spectacular, extensive Roman ruins at Jerash, which are now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. We will then visit nearby Ajlun where the 12th Century Turkish Castle sits on the hill-top above this ancient market town with its 600 year old mosque. We then head further north to Umm Qais in the hills above the River Jordan valley, where the Roman ruins are juxtaposed with an abandoned Ottoman-era village. Return to Amman for a further night in the 4* Hotel Bristol.

Day 4 Wednesday 25 March (B) Two options for this morning, either “Cultural” or “Railway”. For the “Culture Vultures” an early morning coach transfer via Salt and Mount Nebo to Madaba to visit the 19th Century Greek Orthodox Church built over the remains of an early Christian Church with its 6th Century mosaics. We then head to Al- Jeza to meet the “Railway” party and join the JHR train on its journey southwards. The “Railway” will head to the JHR station and depot at Amman for a steam-hauled train to Al-Jeza. Southwards from Al-Jeza the train will be diesel-hauled – the JHR have three small US-built General Electric locos and one will be used for our train. We will end the day in the small town of Al-Qatrana. However, the lack of hotels in the desert area south of Amman means that we must take a coach transfer back to the Hotel Bristol, Amman.

Day 5 Thursday 26 March (B) Coach transfer back to Al‐Qatrana  where we make a short visit to remains of the Ottoman castle before boarding our diesel hauled train to Al-Abiad. Here we hope to travel a short branch line which heads eastwards to the Wadi Al‐Abyad phosphate mine, if it’s available. We then take the coach for the journey to the town of Karak  where, for the rail enthusiast we hope to visit plinthed JHR steam loco 2-8-2 #73 (FUF  #2146 of 1955) at Al Mu’tah University before visiting the impressive hilltop-crusader castle that dominates the town.  Again, due to lack of hotel availability, we must head back to the Hotel Bristol in Amman for our overnight stay.

Day 6 Friday 27 March (B) This morning we take the coach back to Al-Abiad, to continue our train journey over the historic Hijaz Railway, which currently has no traffic south of Al-Jeza, southwards to Ma’an where we visit the original Jordan‐Hejaz Railway station before ending our journey at Ma’an Aqaba Railway station where we hope to visit the locomotive depot and wagon repair workshops.  En route we hope to take the train to the phosphate mine at Al‐Hasa (if available) and also make a short walking visit off the train at Anieza to explore the 16th century Ottoman castle remains. Having made our “goodbyes” to the train at Ma’an, we take the coach to Wadi Musa (where the ancient city of Petra is located), hopefully having had time to break the journey with a quick visit to the Shobak Crusader castle ruins, before arriving at the 3* Oscar Petra Hotel where we stay for the next two nights.

Day 7 Saturday 28 March (B) The highlight of the tour – the “Red Rose City” of Petra where we can visit the giant red mountains and vast mausoleums of a departed race at sunrise, or later if you wish. Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place: it has to be seen to be believed. Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1 kilometre in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 metres high cliffs. Just walking through the Siq is an experience in itself. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury). The Treasury is just the first of the many wonders that make up Petra. As you enter the Petra valley you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of this place and its outstanding architectural achievements. There are hundreds of elaborate rock-cut tombs with intricate carvings – unlike the houses, which were destroyed mostly by earthquakes, the tombs were carved to last throughout the afterlife and 500 have survived, empty but bewitching as you file past their dark openings. Here also is a massive Nabataean-built, Roman-style theatre, which could seat 3,000 people. There are obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets, and high above, overlooking the valley, is the impressive Ad-Deir Monastery – a flight of 800 rock cut steps takes you there.  Overnight at Hotel Oscar, Petra.

Day 8 Sunday 29 March (B) Currently the Aqaba Railway are upgrading the line south of Ma’an through Wadi Rum to the Red Sea coast at Aqaba and constructing a new line to the re-located phosphate ship-transfer terminal south of the city. Unfortunately, the upgraded line is not going to be available to us and therefore after a second visit to Petra or a leisurely morning at the hotel, we will travel by coach direct to Wadi Rum and visit the location made famous by the legendary “Lawrence of Arabia”, including a jeep tour. We overnight at the nearby Al-Bait Bedouin Camp, with all facilities including air conditioning and Bedouin restaurant and entertainment:

Day 9 Monday 30 March (B) After breakfast we take the coach to Wadi Rum station for the steam-hauled tourist train, run by the Jordan Heritage Revival Company, with the “Lawrence of Arabia” mock-attack” (as seen on Chris Tarrant’s “Extreme Railways” and BBC World Travel Show). We then drive through the spectacular desert and mountain scenery to Aqaba, hopefully with visit to the Aqaba Railway Depot. A late   afternoon arrival at our Resort Hotel on the Red Sea coast allows for a relaxing evening as the sun sets behind the Egyptian coastline across the narrow sea-way. Overnight at Marina Plaza Hotel Tala Bay or La Costa Aqaba Hotel.

Day 10 Tuesday 31 March (B) We have two options today:  firstly, either a short city tour to include the Aqaba Fort with its giant flag and the old town, or perhaps a morning on the beach, followed by a PM bus transfer for the short flight from Aqaba Airport to Amman. The second option is an all-day scenic coach return to Amman International Airport / Amman, via the Kings Highway and the Dead Sea. Of course, there is also the possibility to extend your holiday with an extra night or two in Aqaba. Overnight in our earlier Amman hotel, the Hotel Bristol. If you wish you can extend your stay here for further exploration of Amman.

Day 11 Wednesday 1 April (B) Day-time flights Amman International Airport to UK.

Place(s) available

Prices (per person)

  • From Heathrow: £2,695
  • From Gatwick (via Istanbul): £2,695
  • From Birmingham (via Istanbul): £2,725
  • From Manchester (via Frankfurt): £2,795
  • From Edinburgh (via Heathrow) £2,755
  • From Bristol (via Heathrow): POA
  • From Amman: £2,250

Options

  • Single room supplement: £350
  • Flight supplement might apply from some UK airports – confirmed at time of booking

Deposit

  • £500
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