Top 5 books to take to Petra, Jordan

Check out the top books, guides and maps to take on your trip to the iconic site of Petra in Jordan.

7 mins

1. The Rough Guide to Jordan (£15.99)

Each Rough Guide in the Countries, Regions and Cities series has a similar layout. A ‘Basics’ section gives practical guidance on getting there and around, accommodation, food and drink, festivals, sports and outdoor activities, travelling with children and travel essentials to take on the trip. Each guide is organised geographically by region, with individual sections detailing an extensive range of sights, places of interest, attractions, restaurants, nightlife, accommodation and any local activities. Cultural and historical context is interwoven throughout the text, allowing readers to get a more distinct flavour of the destination.

Each chapter of the guide begins with a Highlights section giving an overview of the main sites and attractions in the area or region, with page numbers where relevant. Basic street outlines are also included for major cities. Information Boxes throughout the text explore local history, culture, customs and leisure activities, often providing an alternative and personal view of the area. A ‘Contexts’ section is included at the back of each guide, offering an insight into the local history and recommended books and films that characterise the country, region or city.

Buy a copy online.

2. Married to a Bedouin (£9.99)

Married to a Bedouin is Marguerite van Geldermalsen's story of how a New Zealand- born nurse became the wife of Mohammad Abdallah Othman, a Bedouin souvenir-seller of the Manajah tribe, and lived with him – and their children – and a community of about one hundred families – in the ancient caves of Petra in Jordan.

It was 1978 and she and a friend were travelling through the Middle East when Marguerite met the charismatic Mohammad and decided that he was the man for her. Their home was a lofty 2,000-year-old cave carved into the red rock of a hillside. She became the resident nurse and learned to live like the Bedouin: cooking over fires, hauling water on donkeys and drinking sweet black tea.

Over the years van Geldermalsen became as much of a curiosity as the cave-dwellers with tourists such as Mary Lovell and Frank McCourt encouraging her to tell this, her extraordinary story.

3. Petra: The Rose Red City (£7.95)

Petra: The Rose Red City is a richly illustrated guide to a part of Jordan that is full of the kind of history you can literally reach out and touch.

Deep in the desert of Jordan lies the hidden city of Petra, one of the greatest marvels of the ancient world. Carved from rose-red rock, Petra’s monuments, dwellings and temples were for centuries the centre of a splendid civilisation. Later the city fell into ruin and its location was lost, until the Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt rediscovered it in
1812 (200 years ago to the day).

Petra’s mysterious beauty and dramatic story have long captivated the imaginations of historians and art lovers. Recent excavations, by the archaeologists Jean-Marie Dentzer and Christian Auge, provide new information about this remarkable city, unique in history.

4. Jordan - Walks Treks Caves, Climbs and Canyons (£17.00)

Jordan Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs and Canyons is Di Taylor and Tony Howard’s Cicerone guide to the outdoor possibilities in one of the Middle East’s most remote landscapes. The guide describes a variety of walks, treks, caves, climbs and canyons base around Pella, Ajloun, the Dead Sea Hills, Dana, Petra and Wadi Rum. Many of the routes that the authors describe were unknown prior to the first edition of this guide and this edition features new climbing areas and other unexplored regions for those wanting to make their own discoveries.

The guide is organised into seven main sections that explore the outdoor possibilities: North Jordan, the Dead Sea Hills, the Dana area, Wadi Rum and the Aqaba Mountains, Caving in Jordan and Climbing in Jordan. Walking, trekking, caving and climbing are all separately described for ease of reference.

There are 150 routes described in total: half to one-day walks and multi-day treks, including 30 canyon routes and five climbing areas. The authors also explore Jordan’s newly created nature reserves. A detailed introduction provides practical advice on language and accommodation, food and drink, clothing and equipment, mountain biking and relevant maps. There is also an extensive survey of environmental and cultural awareness, wildlife in Jordan and the lie of the land, including geological notes.

Each route begins with a detailed colour sketch diagram mapping the route ahead in addition to colour photographs illustrating some of the highlights of this ancient land.

5. History of Jordan (£21.99)

Philip Robins' survey of Jordan's political history begins in the early 1920s, continues through the years of the British Mandate, and traces events over the next half-century to the present day. Throughout the period, the country's fortunes were closely identified with its head of state, King Hussein, until his death in 1999. In the early days, as the author testifies, the King's prospects were often regarded as grim.

However, both King and country survived a variety of existential challenges, from assassination attempts and internal subversion, to a civil war with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and, in the 1970s and 1980s, it emerged as an apparently stable and prosperous state. However, King Hussein's death, the succession of his son, Abdullah II, and recent political upheavals have plunged the country back into uncertainty. This is an incisive account, compellingly told, about one of the leading players in the Middle East.

Buy a copy online.

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