The Kings' Highway winds its way through the different ecological zones of the country, including forested highlands, open farmland plateaus, deep ravines, the edge of the Eastern Desert, and the warm tropical Gulf of Aqaba. Lining both sides of this 335km (207 mile) thoroughfare is a rich chain of archaeological sites that reads like an index of ancient history and a biblical gazetteer -- prehistoric villages from the Stone Age, biblical towns from the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom, Crusader Castles, some of the finest early Christian Byzantine mosaics in the Middle East, a Roman-Herodian fortress, several Nabataean temples, two major Roman fortresses, early Islamic towns, and the rock-cut Nabataean capital of Petra.
Jordan is situated in Southwest Asia, northwest of Saudi Arabia. The territory of Jordan covers about 91,880 square kilometers. Until 1988, when King Hussein relinquished Jordan's claim to the West Bank, that area was considered part of Jordan, although officially recognized as such by only the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
Jordan is landlocked except at its southern extremity, where nearly twenty-six kilometers of shoreline along the Gulf of Aqaba provide access to the Red Sea. A great north-south geological rift, forming the depression of Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), the Jordan Valley, and the Dead Sea, is the dominant topographical feature.
Ajlun Nature Reserve is located in the Ajlun highlands (North of Amman), It consists of Mediterranean-like hill country, dominated by open woodlands of Oak and Pistachio trees. The Reserve was first established in 1988 when a captive-breeding program for the Roe Deer was initiated. The reserve is located in an area named Eshtafeena. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has set up two hiking trails and provided a special area for camping. Ajlun's woodlands consist mostly of oak trees, interspersed with pistachio, pine, carob, and wild strawberry trees. These trees have been important to local people for their wood, scenic beauty and, quite often, for medicine and food.
The Gulf of Aqaba is famous for its marine wildlife. It is the north-eastern arm of the Red Sea, measuring a length of 180km and expanding to a width of 25km, with a shoreline shared by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan.
The Gulf of Aqaba has the world’s northernmost coral reef ecosystem. An average water temperature of 23° Celsius, the absence of stormy weather and mild water currents have created a hospitable environment for the growth of corals. Favorable salinity levels are perfect for the myriads of other marine life-forms. As a result, it is home to 110 species of soft corals and 120 species of hard corals. The reefs that fringe the Gulf host over 1000 species of fish, corals, crustaceans, and mammals living in its waters. Nocturnal animals such as the crab, shrimp, and lobster appear in search of food in the dark hours of the night. Seasonal visitors to the Gulf of Aqaba include sea turtles, dolphins, sea cows, and harmless whale sharks.
Aqaba is the only coastal city in Jordan. This beautiful town, surrounded by fascinating colorful mountains and the blue waters of the Red Sea, expands over 27km of shoreline on the Gulf of Aqaba. The town is well-organized and under continuous development. It has been designated as a Special Economic Zone, with special legislation to protect and improve its business, community, tourism and environment status.
Azraq is a unique wetland oasis located in the heart of the semi-arid Jordanian Eastern Desert, one of several beautiful nature reserves managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). Its attractions include several natural and ancient built pools, a seasonally flooded marshland, and a large mudflat know as Qa'a Al-Azraq. A wide variety of birds stop at the Reserve each year for a rest during their arduous migration routes between Asia and Africa. Some stay for the winter or breed within the protected areas of the wetland.
Dana Biosphere Reserve covers 308 sq. km and is a world of natural treasures. It is composed of a chain of valleys and mountains which extend from the top of the Jordan Rift Valley down to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba. The visitor to this area will be awed by the beauty of the Rummana Mountain, the mystery of the ancient archaeological ruins of Feynan, the timeless serenity of Dana Village, and the grandeur of the red and white sandstone cliffs of Wadi Dana. The Reserve contains a remarkable diversity of landscapes that range from wooded highlands to rocky slopes and from gravel plains to dunes of sand. Moreover, Dana supports diverse wildlife which includes a variety of rare species of plants and animals; Dana is home to about 600 species of plants, 37 species of mammals, and 190 species of birds.
The Mujib Reserve is the lowest nature reserve in the world, with a spectacular array of scenery near the east coast of the Dead Sea. The Reserve is located within the deep Wadi Mujib gorge, which enters the Dead Sea at 410m below sea level. The Reserve extends to the Karak and Madaba mountains to the north and south, reaching 900 meters above sea level in some places. This 1,300m variation in elevation, combined with the valley's year- round water flow from seven tributaries, means that Wadi Mujib enjoys a magnificent bio-diversity that is still being explored and documented today. Over 300 species of plants, 10 species of carnivores and numerous species of permanent and migratory birds have been recorded. Some of the remote mountain and valley areas are difficult to reach, and thus offer safe havens for rare species of cats, goats and other mountain animals. Mujib's sandstone cliffs are an ideal habitat for one of the most beautiful mountain goats in the world, the horned Ibex.
The Shawmari Reserve was created in 1975 by the RSCN as a breeding center for endangered or locally extinct wildlife. Today, following breeding programs with some of the world's leading wildlife parks and zoos, this small, 22 sq km reserve is a thriving protected environment for some of the most rare species of animals in the Middle East. Oryx, ostriches, gazelles and onagers - which are depicted on many 6th century Byzantine mosaics - are rebuilding their populations and reasserting their presence in this safe haven, protected from hunting and habitat destruction that nearly wiped them out.