Saturday, April 6, 2024
HomeTOURS AND TRAVELWhat to Photograph in Jordan

What to Photograph in Jordan

Recently, I had a chance to visit the beautiful country of Jordan, where I had a chance to stay for a whole month with my family. Although this was a family trip, I did not want to miss the opportunity to do some photography, so I grabbed a bag full of gear with me, along with my trusty travel tripod. I decided to share our adventures and trip logs from Jordan in a detailed article. Hopefully, it will give a good idea where to visit and what to photograph in Jordan to our readers.

This trip opportunity was made possible thanks to my sister and her husband, who temporarily relocated to Jordan for a couple of years. They invited us over to visit, so Lola and I decided to take the chance and explore the other side of the world with our kids. This was my second visit to Jordan (first time was a very brief “discovery” trip with my sister last year), but it was the first for the rest of my family. So big thanks to my dear sister and my best friend (who also happens to be my brother in law), who not only hosted us in their cozy house for a month, but also continuously kept us busy by taking us to all kinds of amazing places – from the best restaurants in Amman to the most historic and beautiful places one could only dream of visiting.

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 200, 5/1, f/16.0

Before I talk about photography, let me first address the security and safety concern that some of our readers brought up before.

1) Safety and Security

Geographically, Jordan is located in a “hot” zone, surrounded by neighboring countries in war: Iraq and Syria. And with both countries being infiltrated and poisoned by terrorist groups like ISIS, it is only natural to be concerned about the security situation in Jordan. The Arab Spring seriously affected many countries in the middle east and Jordan surprisingly stayed out of the whole mess. Initially, Lola was quite concerned about our trip, but I assured her that we would be just fine, because I felt very safe on my previous trip and the country seemed quite peaceful overall, based on what I had read and seen.

And indeed, Jordan turned out to be very peaceful – it changed Lola’s mind about the situation there and it certainly reassured me that it is a wonderful place to visit. During the whole month, aside from a couple of “happy” rifle shots (a Jordanian tradition to fire rifles in the air during weddings), we did not hear or see anything scary. In fact, the government is so concerned about the security of the country, that they do everything they can to protect civilians, especially tourists from any threats. Every mall, grocery store, tourist attraction or any of the public buildings in Amman have “checkpoints” with metal detectors and personnel to make sure that nobody with a gun or even a knife can enter any of the buildings or attractions. In some areas, you can get pat-downs from either male or female personnel depending on your gender. And if you carry a backpack, they will make you put it through a security scanner, just like the ones they have at airports. Most hotels in Amman are protected by both internal security and local army – don’t be surprised to see soldiers on Hummers with big guns in front of large hotels such as the Grand Hyatt or the Four Seasons.

Just one of the many army soldiers guarding hotels in Amman
Canon EOS 6D + 50mm @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/3200, f/1.4

As for the overall safety and crime rate, Amman is quite a safe place to be, but I would certainly be a bit cautious when traveling to smaller and poorer towns, particularly close to the borders. While the Amman population is pretty content, don’t forget that Jordan continues to assist in receiving more Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, so the poorer areas can get a bit unsafe due to poor economic conditions and huge inflow of refugees. Western women can potentially get harassed when they dress very “openly”, so the general recommendation is to avoid wearing short skirts, revealing tops and shorts – it is just not in the culture. Tourist hot spots, such as the Dead Sea, Petra and the Red Sea (Aqaba) are exempt from this. At the same time, you might be surprised to see some of the local women dress quite up to “western” standards, particularly in Amman. So it is certainly not as bad as it sounds.

I had a chance to talk to a number of locals about the security situation and potential threat of instability. I was told that the main reason for stability is people being happy with their king, Abdullah II of Jordan and a “dual layer” political system. In fact, most people love their king and consider him to be righteous and just, which in the minds of people is what differentiates Jordan from the neighboring countries that were ruled by oppressing dictators. And when they see their king come out on the streets and help out ordinary people by pushing their cars out of the snow, you understand why they have such an affection for their king. Most people openly show their love for the king by placing his picture everywhere throughout the country (and I did ask several times if they were forced to hang those pictures, or if they did it willingly – it was always the latter). You will see the portraits of the late king Hussein, king Abdullah II and the crown prince Hussein in every corner of the country. The “dual layer” political system is basically comprised of the king and the royal family on top and the political structure underneath, which basically runs the country. If people express their distrust in the current government, the king comes to the rescue by making changes to the political structure, firing and replacing the government personnel, if needed. So people got used to not questioning the royal family, but instead blaming the current government for problems, similar to how it works in the United Kingdom.

2) Religious Sites

Jordan is certainly one of the prime examples of peaceful co-existence of different religions. Although it is predominantly a Muslim country, you will find different flavors of Christianity everywhere. In some places you have both churches and mosques standing right across from each other and there is no tension between people. In fact, many Christians proudly show off their religion just like in western countries, by putting “Jesus Fish” on the back of their cars. Others put a cross emblem or use small bumper stickers. Since Israel is so close, there is practically no Jewish population in Jordan and hence there are no synagogues, other than the historic ones that are not in use.

2.1) Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George

We visited a couple of very historic churches in Jordan, which were beautiful and worth checking out – our favorite was the Saint George church in Madaba:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 2800, 1/15, f/11.0

It is hard to understand how old the church of Saint George is until you start exploring the art on the walls – there is beautiful hand-crafted mosaic everywhere.

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/1.4

This church hosts one of the oldest maps of the middle east – the Madaba Map, dated to 6th century AD!

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 1600, 1/15, f/8.0

Here is a small portion of the map, showing incredible details of hand-cut mosaic stones of different colors:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 2500, 1/60, f/5.6

The church of Saint George is definitely worth a visit and you can do it on the same day trip to Mount Nebo.

2.2) Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo has a big religious significance to all three religions. According to the Bible, this is where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. And from one of the areas on the hill you can certainly see a vast territory, which includes Jerusalem, if it is a clear / haze-free day. In front of the entrance you will find a large rock that says “Unus Deus Pater Omnium Super Omnes”, which is a quote from the Bible stating “One God and father of all, who is above all”:

ILCE-7R + E 50mm F0 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/2500, f/2.0

A church is currently being built right over the ancient ruins, which is supposed to look beautiful once it is complete. When I was there, it was still under active construction.

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/800, f/5.6

For now, there is a big tent and a small museum that houses all kinds of relics from the site. Inside, you will find plenty of beautiful hand-crafted mosaics many hundreds of years old:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/4.0

ILCE-7R + E 50mm F0 @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/5.6

Absolutely beautiful! And all that work was made from different hand-cut color stones! I believe these were of Greek origin, from ~700 AD.

ILCE-7R + E 50mm F0 @ 50mm, ISO 160, 1/60, f/5.6

There is no access to the cross and the snake statue for now, but you can see it from the back or the side:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/6.3

Another great place to visit and photograph, especially after the church opens. Hopefully, they will allow photography inside!

2.3) Mosques

Mosques in Jordan are everywhere and they are also very beautiful. One of the oldest ones was built by the Umayyad’s, around the 8th Century AD and it is located at The Citadel, another must-visit place in Jordan (more on the Citadel on the next page):

ILCE-7R + FE 35mm F0 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.0

The mosque is not actively used, so you can walk in and take pictures – tripod use is allowed. Here is the roof that I captured hand-held using the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens. Thanks to the built-in image stabilization / vibration compensation technology, I was able to take shots hand-held while looking up at pretty low shutter speeds. This shot was captured at 1/15th of a second:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 280, 1/15, f/5.6

Outside of the mosque you will find a few structures from The Citadel, which you can use as part of composition to photograph the mosque. In the below case, I used it to create a “window” looking at the mosque:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 125, 1/160, f/16.0

And further out you will find some cool ruins that you can climb and also use as part of your composition:

ILCE-7M2 + E 35mm F2 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/11.0

There are many other beautiful mosques in the area, such as the Grand Hussein Mosque, the King Abdullah Mosque and the Abu Darweesh Mosque. All are definitely worth checking out. The only potential issue is, you might not be able to go inside if you are not a Muslim, so you might get stopped at the entrance by security. Most mosques also prohibit use of tripods inside. But if you photograph from outside, it is not an issue at all. I really wanted to photograph the Abu Darweesh Mosque that is covered with checkered patterns. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do that during this trip.

One of the newer mosques is the King Hussein Bin Tala Mosque. I visited the mosque at sunset and captured it from the below angle:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/8.0

Unfortunately, cloud action is rather rare in Jordan and I only have one image with a small puffy cloud in the sky. When the sun fully set and the sky lit up, the colors were gone and the sky looked bland, so I ended up picking the above image as my favorite from the set.

3) Transportation

When it comes to transportation, forget about public transport – it is quite bad in Jordan. So your best bet is to either take taxi everywhere, or rent a car. I would personally avoid doing the latter, unless you are planning to leave Amman and go directly to places like Aqaba or Wadi Rum. The thing is, driving in Jordan is a pretty tense and terrifying experience. I did not drive even once in Jordan and although I was once tempted to rent a car, I decided not to do it after seeing others drive. Forget about car lanes or traffic lights – they pretty much do not exist. Most areas only have roundabouts and those roundabouts are like nothing you have ever seen before! There is no yielding or stopping. And if you do not do the same, you will never get anywhere. People don’t look at the signs and if they need to turn, they roll their windows down, wave with their left hand and just go, as simple as that. So, unless you are a super experienced driver who lived in a very dense city in Europe or Asia, I would certainly recommend against renting cars.

Your best option is to use taxi service. Believe it or not, but unlike in most other countries, taxi is incredibly cheap in Jordan! You could drive for half an hour in the city and only pay a few dollars, that’s how cheap it really is (from what I was told, taxi services are subsidized by the government). The trick is to make sure to drive in taxis that will use the meter, since some of them try to make some extra cash by avoiding the meter. So before you sit in any taxi, make sure to tell them that you will only sit in the car if they use a meter. Most of them will agree and won’t even question you and you certainly want to avoid those that refuse. For traveling to remote areas, it is a good idea to find a dedicated driver that will take you there instead of taxi service. There are plenty of tourist agencies in town whom you can call and negotiate a good rate for traveling to other areas of the country. If cost, convenience and flexibility are of concern, you might be better off renting a car. Driving conditions certainly improve when you get out of Amman city perimeter. However, I would still recommend strongly against any kind of driving at night (it gets pretty scary!). And be very careful when using a GPS – most maps will be obsolete and incorrect, so it might be best to rely on signs (most signs are in both Arabic and English) and locals for directions.

4) Language Barriers

Jordanians speak in Arabic, but you certainly do not have to learn Arabic to get around – most people are very well educated and speak English quite well. In fact, many Jordanians have US education and some even hold dual citizenship. So if you stop someone for directions and they do not speak good English, move on to the next person – chances of finding someone who does are pretty high, unless you are in a small town away from Amman. At the same time, you do get more respect and better attitude from locals if you at least try to speak some Arabic, so I would recommend to learn some key words and phrases that you can use.

Overall, I found Jordanians to be quite smart and educated as a nation, based on my conversations with random people and feedback provided by my sister and brother in law. That’s a good thing, because the country itself is far from being rich – there are no large oil and other natural resource reserves like in other middle-eastern countries, so education plays a key role in allowing Jordanians to work in various sectors in different Arab and non-Arab countries.

5) Cuisine and Food

Without a doubt, Jordanians definitely know how to cook! You will find an abundance of restaurants and food outlets all over Jordan – from popular restaurant chains like McDonald’s to restaurants serving traditional Jordanian cuisine. Throughout the month, we explored many different places to eat and every single one of them was amazing in its own way. We did make our own list of favorites (all in Amman) and some of them we went back to 5-6 times because we could not get enough – the food was that amazing!

If you love American food, you can find some awesome places to dine where you won’t be disappointed with the quality of food and its taste. We devoured some delicious Angus burgers at the Food Smith restaurant (Taj Mall):

ILCE-7R + E 50mm F0 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/2.8

Where we drank really tasty and refreshing lemon and mint drinks:

ILCE-7R + E 50mm F0 @ 50mm, ISO 1600, 1/60, f/5.6

Where they also served savory spinach dips and fries:

ILCE-7R + E 50mm F0 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/2.8

And you can find cuisines from all over the world at the Blue Fig restaurant, where you can get really tasty chicken meal with flavorful sauces and spices:

ILCE-7M2 + E 50mm F2 @ 50mm, ISO 2000, 1/400, f/2.0

Or juicy steak with asparagus:

ILCE-7M2 + E 50mm F2 @ 50mm, ISO 6400, 1/400, f/4.0

All that sounds good until you try local Jordanian food, which elevates the experience to a whole new level!

Start out with the local Jordanian flat bread, which is cooked in a clay oven:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/1000, f/1.4

And served hot with a choice of hummus, baba ganoush or many other types of appetizers that will fill you up quickly, so you have to be careful about how much food you order, or you will find yourself asking for a lot of “to go” boxes!

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/2.8

Our top pick for the tastiest Jordanian meals was the Sufra restaurant, where we had the best-tasting Jordanian national dish: Mansaf. You cannot leave Jordan without trying out Mansaf – a meal with lamb cooked in fermented dried yogurt. The meat is so tender that it easily separates from the bone and the yogurt adds a bit of a sour taste to the meat, making this dish very yummy! Mansaf is usually served with rice, as pictured below:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/2.8

Lastly, don’t forget to try out some of the Jordanian pastries. Our personal favorite was the Kanafeh, although you can find many other types of sweets in every restaurant. Jordanian sweets had a lot of Turkish influence, so you will find most of the sweets served with pistachios and other types of nuts:

ILCE-7M2 + E 50mm F2 @ 50mm, ISO 6400, 1/400, f/2.8

6) A Primer on Jordanian History – The Royal Automobile Museum

As strange as it may sound, if you want to read up on the history of Jordan, particularly on the royal family, I would recommend to start your journey at the Royal Automobile Museum in Amman. It turns out that the late king Hussein really loved cars, so to commemorate this, king Abdullah II built a museum for the public, showcasing the entire collection of his father.

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/2.8

When you walk through the museum, you will not only get a chance to see some truly beautiful cars and motorcycles, but you will also get a chance to read about the history of the car, when and where it was made and obtained from, and where the late king Hussein drove in them and in which occasions. It is a great place to visit for sure!

Below are some photos of vehicles from the Royal Automobile Museum, which I captured with the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC and the new Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 lens:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 17mm, ISO 200, 1/1, f/2.8

You will find a mix of American, English, German and Italian cars on the floor:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 22mm, ISO 6400, 1/30, f/4.0

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 17mm, ISO 800, 1/6, f/5.6

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 900, 1/30, f/3.2

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 400, 1/60, f/1.4

Although you cannot touch the vehicles, you can get close enough to some of them and capture some beautiful details:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/1.4

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 6400, 1/60, f/4.0

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 1250, 1/60, f/2.0

And there are really cool-looking models of Mercedes Benz in the exhibit:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/1.4

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 400, 1/60, f/1.4

And a number of American cars from Chrysler, Buick and Cadillac:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 500, 1/60, f/1.4

In short, another must-see place that you should put on your list!

7) Exploring Ancient History – The Citadel

It is hard to imagine just how historic and ancient Jordan is, until you visit a place like the Citadel. Situated right in the heart of Amman, the Citadel is absolutely worth spending time in, because it has a lot to offer in terms of not only photographic opportunities, but also some great insight into ancient history. The Citadel has seen it all – it went through three different eras of history, starting from Rabbath-Ammon, dating back to 5500 BC, the pottery Neolithic period! Its next era was during the time of Greeks in 312 BC when they renamed the city to “Philadelphia” and it held its name until it was taken over by the Umayyad dynasty in 661 AD, after which it was renamed to Amman. You can read all about it yourself at the entrance of the Citadel:

ILCE-7R + FE 35mm F0 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/5.6

So the Citadel has seen it all – it is hard to imagine that the area was continuously inhabited by humans for over 7 thousand years!

As you walk along the trail, you will see a beautiful view of the city, along with a view of a well-preserved coliseum. But the most beautiful sight opens up when you see the remains of the Temple of Hercules – the prime attraction. Before you get to the temple, you can get some nice views of the temple from other areas, such as this one along the trail:

ILCE-7M2 + E 35mm F2 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.0

And looking back you can get some nice shots of the columns lined up as well:

ILCE-7M2 + E 35mm F2 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.0

As you keep on going, you will then quickly reach the remains of the temple itself:

ILCE-7R + FE 35mm F0 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/5.6

Some very beautiful perspectives here that you can capture. Here, I shot the temple with the Sony 35mm f/1.4 lens at f/5.6, which gave me a nice overall view, putting the main double columns to the right of the frame.

The temple is definitely worth exploring, particularly up close. If you come on a weekday, there won’t be many people there, so you can take some really nice shots with the sun in the frame, similar to what I have done here:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/16.0

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/16.0

As you proceed further to the right, you will find other ruins and columns such as this one:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/11.0

And some cool-looking arches as well:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/16.0

From there, you reach the old mosque and once you go through it, you will find even more ruins with some views of the alleys:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 18mm, ISO 125, 1/640, f/8.0

And buildings which once stood there in their full glory:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 125, 1/400, f/8.0

There are no restrictions on camera or tripod use, so you can explore the area all you want. Unfortunately, I only visited the Citadel at noon (I was there with my family) and did not have a chance to stay for sunset shots. If you have a chance, go there late noon and stay for sunset – the temple looks really beautiful at the golden hour! The Citadel is closed after sunset and you cannot get in before sunrise, so sunset is the only chance for capturing the temple in good light.

Another great opportunity at the Citadel is to capture the inhabited area on the next hill. Since the Citadel is on top of the hill, you get some really nice views like this one:

ILCE-7R + FE 35mm F0 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/5.6

This is another great opportunity for a sunset shot!

8) The Ancient City of Jerash

One of my most favorite places to visit in Jordan was Jerash – another ancient city with amazing history. Jerash is located about 30 miles north of Amman, so it will take you about an hour to reach it. Although a strong earthquake destroyed most of Jerash in the 7th century and it was buried in soil for hundreds of years, archaeologists discovered the historic site and excavated it in early 19th century. The city of Jerash was later inhabited by Circassians and Syrians, who built communities around the historic site. Today, the population of Jerash exceeds 150,000 and you can see people’s houses all around the ruins:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/800, f/5.6

The ancient city is so vast that it will take a while for you to walk from the entrance all the way to the top of the hill – get ready for some hiking and exploring!

Before you reach the entrance, you go through a market, where you will get a chance to buy all kinds of Jordanian goods from local craftsmen. I would recommend to get a scarf to put on your head and on your neck to protect you from potential sunburn, particularly if you arrive at high noon:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 124mm, ISO 500, 1/125, f/6.3

If you ask any of the sellers in the market, they can show you how to properly wrap those around your head like Bedouins do!

At the main entrance, you will see a large and beautiful structure, “The Arch of Hadrian”, which today serves as a gate to the ancient city:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 32mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/6.3

It is hard to get a clear view, because Jerash is a prime tourist attraction – I had to wait for about 20 minutes to get this shot without people in it. And if you stand in the front, you might get a nice shot with some locals in the frame:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 32mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/6.3

As you move past the entrance, you will get a chance to see a hippodrome that was once used for chariot racing. It was amazing to see well-preserved seats, where people once used to sit and watch those fast-paced races:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 52mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/11.0

Past that, you get to see a number of different structures. Next, you get to the stunningly beautiful and relatively well-preserved Oval Forum:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/5.6

I photographed the forum from a hilltop to the left of the site. It gets usually crowded during the day, so you might have to shoot a few frames on a tripod with people moving in and out, in order to later remove them in Photoshop, if that’s what you want to do.

To the left of the Oval Forum you will find a number of different structures and the main attraction there is the South Theater. It is definitely worth climbing up to the top of the theater to get a nice shot, although you will again have to most likely rely on a tripod to take a few shots and clone people out later in post – the theater was so busy the day I visited, that I could not do it (plus, I had kids with me and it was not a very safe climb for them). Some people come and just sit there for a while, so you will need some patience!

There are a few other cool structures to photograph and your best bet might be to stand on the top of a hill and zoom in with a telephoto lens:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 105mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0

Once you pass the Oval Forum, you will get to the Cardo – a 600 meter colonnaded street:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 32mm, ISO 50, 1/200, f/8.0

Some excellent opportunities there, because you get to photograph really interesting structures at the start of the street:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 66mm, ISO 50, 1/200, f/8.0

And the columns are really beautiful just by themselves, particularly against a cloudy sky:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0

Once you reach the end of the street, a lot more beauty will unfold – now you get to see some really ancient structures! Definitely explore this area, because you will find photographic opportunities everywhere. Here is the grocery market Agora, which was once decorated with a central fountain:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 250, 1/400, f/11.0

The North Theatre is absolutely beautiful! Here, I photographed the two structures with the sun piercing through one of the holes. To get the sunburst effect, I stopped the lens down to f/16 and partially blocked the sun by slightly moving myself:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/16.0

And here it is from the other side:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/5.6

As you move up the steps, you will get to the Temple of Artemis – another hot spot that is definitely worth checking out. Here you will find the mysterious moving column. Some really nice photo opportunities here and you can take some great shots of the columns by themselves:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 34mm, ISO 50, 1/160, f/8.0

From there you can start your way back on another trail that goes up through the top. Along the way, you will find many more columns:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 77mm, ISO 50, 1/160, f/8.0

And a really nice view leading up to the inhabited area in the back:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 70mm, ISO 50, 1/200, f/8.0

I really wanted to go back to Jerash for a whole day and spend some time by myself, but sadly did not have a chance to do that. I would definitely want to spend a few days exploring Jerash – there are just too many opportunities for great photography there, particularly at sunset!

9) The Azraq Castle (Blue Fortress)

The last location I want to go through this time is the Blue Fortress, also known as “Qasr Azraq” and “Azraq Castle”. The castle is quite a drive away from Amman, about 62 miles to the east. It is another really interest site to check out, although it might be a rather difficult place to photograph, as you will see below. The castle also has some great history, because it was first a settlement area, having the only water source in the desert. Here is the front entrance to the castle, with very heavy stone doors that you can actually relatively easily open and close yourself, thanks to the way they were attached to the structure with oiled bolts:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 34mm, ISO 50, 1/20, f/8.0

Looking up the front gate:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 52mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/8.0

Qasr Azraq was then converted to a military structure by the Romans in early 4th century, which was again rebuilt and fortified in 1237 by the Ayyubid dynasty. In early 20th century, Lawrence of Arabia made the Azraq Castle his desert headquarters, during the Great Arab Revolt. Once you come through the entrance, you can see steps to the right, leading into the room where Lawrence of Arabia used to stay:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/8.0

And here is the room itself:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 20mm, ISO 1600, 1/15, f/8.0

I did not have a tripod with me, so shooting hand-held was rather difficult, since there is very little light in the room. I had to stop down to f/8 to get enough depth of field at such close distances, so my shutter speed dipped pretty low, but the image stabilization of the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC again saved the day.

The Azraq Castle is a difficult place to photograph, because the stones are very dark when compared to the sky. And if you want to photograph anything indoors, you won’t get far without a tripod and an ultra wide angle lens.

Here is an image of a mosque inside Qasr Azraq that I photographed with the same setup, hand-held at f/11:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 3600, 1/15, f/11.0

Again, it was a difficult shot and I had to increase my ISO beyond 3200 to get a fairly sharp image.

Some more opportunities to photograph some arches in the castle:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 400, 1/30, f/11.0

And here I photographed the other side of the castle, with stairs leading up to the top of the structure:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/60, f/11.0

Again, a difficult shot, particularly on a sunny and cloudless day. Some flare from the sun can be visible to the right of the frame.

Lastly, as you leave the castle, there might be additional photo opportunities right outside. Here, I photographed the castle walls with a tree to the right, with the sun approaching the horizon:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 21mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/8.0

It was not worth the wait for sunset that day (since the sky was clear), so we left after I took the above picture. If I were to come back to Azraq, I would plan on a day with some cloud action – there are certainly some good opportunities here at sunset time.

The nice thing about Qasr Azraq, is that it is rarely visited, so you can have the whole place to yourself for hours!

That’s about it for the first part of the tour of Jordan. Hope you enjoyed the information and the pictures! Meanwhile, I will be working on the second part of the trip, which will hopefully be even more interesting than the first one, especially when it comes to photography! I will cover my trips to Ajlun Castle, Petra and Wadi Rum, with the latter two being top attractions Jordan has to offer.

10) Ajlun Castle

The Ajlun Castle, also known as “Ajloun Castle” is a 12-th century castle built by the Ayyubid dynasty on a hilltop to protect three valleys of the Jordan Valley. According to Wikipedia, the name “Ajlun” apparently goes back to a Christian monk, who lived on the mountain in the Byzantine Period and archaeologists were able to find traces of ruins of a monastery underneath the castle. The Ajlun castle was strategically built on the high hill where the monastery once stood, as it overlooked the surrounding areas. It is a large structure that can be seen from many miles away. It was probably easier to get the castle started from the ruins of the monastery, since it required quite a bit of stone and other building materials to complete the castle. The primary purpose of the castle was to fight off both local Bedouin tribes and the Crusaders, who were allied at the time. It was later enlarged by the Mamluks in the 13th century.

Located in northwestern Jordan, approximately 47 miles away from Amman, the Ajlun Castle has seen quite a bit of history, including its eventual partial demolition by the Mongols in the 13th century. Although the Mamluks defeated the Mongols and restored the castle, it was not used for large military operations afterwards. The castle was eventually abandoned and later inhabited by the locals.

Before you get to the castle entrance, you will be presented with opportunities to photograph the surrounding areas located in the lower hills. It was a harsh, sunny day in Jordan and I did not get a chance to capture a nice photo, but you get the idea:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 83mm, ISO 100, 1/800, f/5.6

If you arrive before sunrise or stay after sunset, you might be able to capture some great shots of the area. I would definitely recommend to take a telephoto lens for the job!

Since the Ajlun castle is surrounded by a fosse (averaging 52 feet in width and 40-50 feet in depth), you will be walking over a bridge to enter the structure:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/40, f/11.0

The exterior of the castle presents good opportunities for photography, as there are some tall structures and ruins to check out from different angles:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/8.0

You can also get some great views of the valley from the top of the castle:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/60, f/11.0

The local police did not mind me going to the different areas of the castle, although I would be very careful about climbing any of the structures. First, you do not want to damage anything and second, it might not be safe, as many of the rocks are loose:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 19mm, ISO 125, 1/125, f/11.0

There are a number of different exterior areas you can explore in the castle. Here is a view you can get once you climb up the long stairs of a very narrow area – not recommended if you are afraid of heights or tight spaces:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/8.0

Judging from the ruins, it looks like this particular area was once enclosed.

You will find plenty of other interesting details to photograph in the castle. Here is a window-like structure that was probably put in place to support the rocks on the top – not a very convincing method, but it seems to work:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 500, 1/60, f/11.0

The interior of the castle is truly fascinating. Here is the main hall, showing stairs that access the different rooms of the castle:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 4000, 1/30, f/8.0

The door on the bottom there opens up a room that serves as a museum today and you can find plenty of artifacts and inscriptions that were preserved for the tourists.

As you explore the castle interior, you will come across a number of large rooms, as the one below:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 6400, 1/13, f/8.0

With windows being so small, there is very little light that actually comes through, making these rooms extremely difficult to photograph. The police did not seem to care about people with cameras, so you can probably bring a tripod with you and take some long exposures. I captured the above shot hand-held at 1/13th of a second and the image stabilization of the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 proved to be extremely useful in such situations.

While exploring the interior, I would also encourage you to capture the windows. These will be tough to photograph, since there is very little light on the inside and too much light coming in, so it is a good idea to shoot in brackets for HDR:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 28mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/8.0

Lastly, don’t forget to explore the outside of the castle, as you might be presented with some interesting opportunities to capture vegetation growing on rocks and maybe even some pigeons posing for you:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 233mm, ISO 640, 1/250, f/8.0

The castle was heavily damaged by two earthquakes in the early 19th and 20th centuries and the government of Jordan has been working on restoring and preserving this historic castle.

I would definitely visit the area and take a tour of the Ajlun Castle if you visit Jordan, hopefully in better light!

Visiting Jordan and not visiting Petra is like going to Washington DC and not visiting the National Mall! Petra is world-famous for a reason – it truly is a stunning historic landmark that should be on that “list of places you must visit before you die”. Being a symbol of Jordan, you will find images from Petra everywhere. From the moment you land into the Queen Alia International Airport, you will see images, postcards, T-shirts and other items showing Petra – pretty much all over Jordan.

11) Petra

Petra does not need an introduction, since it was recognized as one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

If you have never been to Petra before, I would do some careful planning before you decide to go. First, pick a day that’s not crazy hot – since Petra lies in a large valley that runs all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba, it gets unbearably hot there, especially in the summer. So I would pick the coolest day during your visit to go to Petra and plan your entire trip around that. Petra is not only hot, it is also extremely dry, so you need plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.

Petra is wonderful, but there are some things I don’t like about it. First of all, being the most popular place to visit in Jordan, it gets extremely busy. This can make photography a bit challenging if you want to exclude people from the scene. The very first big landmark you will see is Al Khazneh, also known as the Treasury:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 22mm, ISO 220, 1/50, f/5.6

It is stunningly beautiful and you have probably seen it before in different images and even Hollywood movies. Taking a picture like the above without anyone in it is impossible during the peak hours and you will need to either stay there for a long time and take your chances, or preferably skip the Treasury and come back to it at the end when everyone is already gone. I don’t mind including people in the scene to represent the scale, but not in the case of the Treasury – aside from colorful tourists usually coming in big batches, you won’t be able to really create a nice photo with a person or two.

At the end of the day, you could ask one of the local Bedouins to stand in front of the treasury for a photo, although I am sure that will cost you.

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/1000, f/1.4

Speaking of Bedouins, they are everywhere in Petra. Tourism brings good income to Bedouins, so it is definitely good for them. However, in many cases, you might find it a bit frustrating being surrounded by them, especially the young ones, who will harass you until you give them some money. Some of them are quite nice, engaging in real trade (selling postcards mostly) and others can be rather painful to deal with. You will quickly learn to say “Lah” in Arabic, which means “No”.

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/5.6

Bedouins will gladly take you pretty much anywhere you want for a fee. At the entrance, they will try to persuade you to ride on their chariots and when you get to the Treasury, you will be offered to take a ride on a camel:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/1000, f/2.8

Of course you will have plenty of opportunities to photograph the gracious camels:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/1600, f/1.4

And the young ones will gladly take you to the Monastery, one of the biggest landmarks of Petra. Definitely worth a visit, although it is a pretty long hike there. If you have seen the Transformers 2 Movie, you probably remember the scene that was shot in front of the Monastery:

Personally, I did not have a chance to visit the Monastery, since I visited Petra with my kids and there were not too keen on walking that long.

Throughout Petra, you will find all kinds of ancient carvings, stairs and structures:

NIKON D750 + 24mm f/1.4 @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/8.0

And the sandstone is so beautiful in some places, that you will have good opportunities to photograph stunning lines and textures:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/60, f/5.6

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 19mm, ISO 100, 1/50, f/4.0

Of course in between places, you will find more Bedouins, who set up tents to sell all kinds of things – from cold drinks to some cool gifts that you can buy as a memory:

NIKON D750 + 24mm f/1.4 @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/1.4

When you see structures, do explore – climb up and down, as there is so much to see and photograph. I love the ancient buildings and houses there:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/60, f/8.0

And random plants and vegetation all over Petra:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/5.6

Don’t forget to look at the walls, because you never know what kind of stone carvings you will find:

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/5.6

After a full day of exploring, you will be extremely tired! Although I really wanted to keep going, my kids were not in the mood anymore. Jasmine was so tired, that she literally fell asleep on my head!

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/1.4

Petra is stunning and is definitely worth the visit. Next time, I would plan on a longer visit spanning a couple of days at least, so that I can explore Petra’s treasuries even more.

One event I tried to plan this time, but could not execute, is seeing Petra at night. That’s when they light up the walkways with candles and make the Treasury shine at night. Sadly, I ran out of time this time, as I was getting ready to something I was truly excited about – Wadi Rum!

Without a doubt, Wadi Rum is another stunning place to visit in Jordan. The word “Wadi” in Arabic means “Valley”, so you can translate it as “Rum” Valley to English, although you’d better not, as it has nothing to do with the alcoholic drink 🙂

I dreamt of visiting Wadi Rum for many years and during my visit to Jordan, I definitely did not want to miss the opportunity. The problem was, I had nobody to go with! I definitely did not want to take my family to Wadi Rum, not only because of the harsher conditions, but also because it was going to be my only real opportunity to do some serious photography work – the rest of the time I was on vacation with my family. And by now, I know very well that it can be either a family trip or a photography trip, but never the two together…

So anyway, having nobody to go with, I reached out to our readers on Photography Life, asking if anyone would like to join me for the trip. A number of readers responded, but the first person to respond was Mr. Tareq Hadi. He gave me a number to reach him at and by the end of the day, we already set up plans to not only visit Wadi Rum, but also a few other places in Jordan.

I have to say, I am always amazed by the amazing readers we have all over the world. Meeting Mr. Tareq Hadi was an experience on its own – what a remarkable person he truly is! Not only did it turn out that he runs one of the most visited photography sites in the Middle East called, but he is also one of the most well known individuals in Jordan. While in Amman, he invited me to a number of local photography exhibitions and he even had his own exhibition during the Independence Day of Jordan.

But what truly struck me was not his accomplishments, but Mr. Hadi himself as a person. What a heartwarming, knowledgeable and inspiring person to look up to! After sharing the road on a couple of trips with him, I was dazzled by his rich knowledge in many fields – he literally is a walking encyclopedia. It turned out that Mr. Hadi spent a few years studying in the USA and his family still visits pretty much every year.

Here he is, taking pictures on a beach in Aqaba, where we spent some time swimming in the Red Sea after Wadi Rum (what an experience on its own!):

ILCE-7M2 + FE 35mm F1.4 ZA @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/8000, f/1.4

Big thanks to Mr. Hadi for his hospitality!

And by the way, he is not the only one with such background – many Jordanians are highly educated in the West and in general, I found Jordanians to be not only friendly, but also very smart and motivated people. Conversing with a cab driver gives you a similar experience as when talking to cab drivers in London, you learn a lot!

Wadi Rum

Visiting Wadi Rum is nowhere as easy as visiting Petra and other Jordanian landmarks. And the reason is vastness and complexity of the valley – not only is Wadi Rum huge, but the driving conditions are pretty tough, as it is just sand all over the place. Again, you will be greeted by Bedouins here, who I found to be much more friendlier and nicer than in Petra. Although you can bring your own 4×4 and drive in Wadi Rum, I personally would not recommend it. Not only can you get easily lost, but if you also get stuck somewhere, you will have to walk for miles to try to get help. Bedouins know the area better than anybody else and they can easily navigate through the sand with their trucks easily.

On your way to the Wadi Rum entrance, you might get a chance to photograph some camels:

NIKON D7200 + 24mm f/1.4 @ 24mm, ISO 400, 1/1250, f/8.0

They are everywhere and they belong to local Bedouins.

You could spend a week in Wadi Rum easily. There is so much to see! On the first day, Mr. Hadi decided to drive himself in the valley with his 4×4. We drove for a few miles and found an interesting spot. But after assessing it from the car, we decided to move on. We did not have much time and sunset was approaching fast, so we needed to find a good vantage point quickly. After driving a bit and scouting the area, we found ourselves only getting to more dangerous areas, where the sand was very deep and hard to drive on. We decided to go back to the first spot.

After we arrived, I started looking for something that I could use for the foreground. Being low down in the valley did not give me anything interesting, so I started moving up. The sun already reached the horizon at that point and we started to get some color in the sky, with sun rays reflecting off the clouds. I found an interesting desert bush and some rock formations and put them as my foreground to capture the below image:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 22mm, ISO 100, 1/2, f/11.0

Anyone who has shot with me before knows that I move around quite a bit at sunrise and sunset times. That’s because I do not want to lock myself to a single composition. With light being beautiful, I try to find other compositions for completely different shots. And that’s what I did with the below image, which I captured around the same time. I wanted to get a “complete” shot, with nothing cutting my framing, so it took me a while jumping between rocks (mostly not to screw up the sand) to find a solid foreground:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 24mm, ISO 160, 1/60, f/8.0

Love those beautiful, long shadows and the pristine beauty of this place!

Here is another angle from the same area:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 1/40, f/8.0

While taking a ride across Wadi Rum is an amazing experience, I quickly found out that asking Bedouins for good sunrise and sunset opportunities is pretty useless. They are not photographers and the place is not that popular among photographers, so it is kind of a given that they would not know about light. We asked our driver to take us to a good sunrise spot and if I showed you where we ended up initially, you would be smiling, as it was in the middle of nowhere. Nothing interesting, just a vast valley with nothing but sand around us. We asked the driver to leave us near a big formation.

I looked up and saw some clouds. Judging by the direction of the brightness of the sky and some tips from our driver where he thought the sun would appear from, I started preparing myself for some hiking. Mr. Hadi and I climbed about 50 feet up and started setting up our tripods. Looking at the view in front of me, I knew that I had to move and find something more interesting. Armed with my trusty Nikon D750 and the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8, I ran up.

As I was climbing up with my gear, light was changing quickly. Along the way, I tried to find some vantage points that might work, with an interesting foreground element. The problem with photographing with a wide angle lens is proximity – unless you have something large in front of you, everything will look too minuscule. I had the Sony A7R with the 24-240mm lens on my neck and my D750 with the 15-30mm f/2.8 was secured on my Gitzo traveler tripod. I needed both focal lengths to capture both wide and telephoto.

Once the first light hit the valley, I took a couple of quick images of a large rock formation to my left:

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 44mm, ISO 200, 1/25, f/8.0

I was almost at the top of the peak by then, almost breathless – I was racing against time! I looked back and I saw the sun piercing through the clouds. It was time to shoot! With the final 30-40 feet up to the summit, which was not easy to do with all the gear I had with me, I climbed as fast as I could. I quickly needed to find something that I could use in the foreground for the wide angle shot I was aiming for, so I decided that it would be part of the mountain top. My camera was ready to go on the tripod, so once I put the feet on the ground, I made quick changes to my exposure and captured the below image:

NIKON D750 + 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/25, f/11.0

I’m quite happy with how this one turned out. Love the sky, the sun rays and the colors I got on the rocks in front of me. The image depicts Wadi Rum nicely in my opinion, showing its vastness and its sheer beauty. By the time I took a couple of images, the light was already gone – the sun was moving up quickly and the colors changed drastically. There was no reason to stay anymore, so I started moving down.

On my way, I tried to see if there were any more good opportunities to capture the scenery. Sadly, with the light getting a lot less colorful, there was not much I could do. I took a few snapshots of that same formation, with some foreground when the sun was behind a thin layer of clouds to give me some orange glow:

NIKON D750 + 24mm f/1.4 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 1/50, f/8.0

Wadi Rum is truly stunning. I would highly recommend you to visit this magical place! With so many photographic opportunities, you will definitely come back with not only beautiful images, but also amazing memories.

ILCE-7R + FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS @ 33mm, ISO 400, 1/50, f/8.0

#CarPhotography #FoodPhotography #Jordan #Travel

The Photograohers
The Photograohers
Welcome to The Photographers, your go-to source for all things photography. We are a team of passionate photographers and enthusiasts who are dedicated to providing you with the latest news, reviews, and educational resources to help you improve and excel in your photography skills.


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