This year Jordan looks back at its rich history as it celebrates the 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra. It’s also the 50th anniversary of Lawrence of Arabia, which was shot in Wadi Rum. But the country also has its eyes firmly on the future with a whole slew of ambitious openings in the pipeline.
Jordan has long lured the more intrepid traveller to gasp in awe at its dramatic vast deserts, Dead Sea coastline and ancient civilisations. Back in 1812, the Lost City of Petra was rediscovered by one such explorer. Johann Ludwig Burkhardt bought the lost city, carved into the rock face of the Great Rift Valley, back to the attention of the world.
Also carved out of rock, and in the same Wadi Rum location that David Lean chose to shoot Lawrence of Arabia, is a new Cave Hotel due to open in 2014. Designed by American architect Chad Oppenhem, the 80,000 square foot resort will feature minimalist rooms cut out of the rock formation with stunning views of the canyons, water holes and dunes around it. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, the heavyweights of the hotel world have also set their sights on Jordan as the next big It destination. Said to be the largest hotel in the Dead Sea development zone, the new $200m Crowne Plaza Jordan Dead Sea Resort, opening in October, will have a spectacular spa offering – from mineral-rich mud treatments to its own sulphur and saltwater pools (ichotelsgroup.com).
Middle-Eastern hotel group Rotana (rotana.com), meanwhile, has lined up two new openings for Jordan’s capital of Amman. Just opened is Boulevard Arjaan, a sleek, ultra modern bolthole with two rooftop swimming pools. While the more ambitious Amman Rotana, due to open by the end of 2013, will be Jordan’s highest building when complete, rising to 188m. Fairmont Hotels (Fairmont.com) has also announced a new property for the city, The Fairmont Amman, due to open in 2014.
Travel south to the port city of Aqaba, on the southern tip of the Kingdom, and you’ll come across Saraya Aqaba (sarayaaqaba.com). The mega development will open by the end of this year and will boast five luxury hotels (including properties by Jumeirah and Starwood), a souk, swish boutiques, restaurants and a water park.
Further down the line, due to open in 2014, and also in Aqaba is a new Star Trek themed park. It has received an incredible $1.5bn funding and has been given the royal seal of approval by King Abdullah of Jordan. Being a keen Star Trek fan, he has backed the venture, no doubt buoyed up the time he appeared as an extra in an episode of the TV show.
Lastly, for those interested in the country’s rich history and culture, the New National Museum (jordanmuseum.jo), designed by Jafar Toukan, has cost $25m and will feature Jordan’s rarest treasures in a futuristic setting. How apt for a country with a rich past and even richer future.
A version of my article appeared in the August issue of British Airways High Life magazine.