In 1985, whilst a stewardess on a boat in Martha’s Vineyard, I met the man who would change her life forever, His Late Majesty King Hussein of Jordan. He and Queen Noor, were chartering the yacht and by the end of the trip we were firm friends. Our friendship would last until his death in 1999. It was King Hussein who gave me the confidence I needed to do the 1985/86 Whitbread Round the World Race and it was he who made it possible for Maiden to cross the start line of the 1989/90 WRTWR and become the first all-female crew to sail around the world.
I was lucky enough to visit the King and his family many times in Jordan and fell in love with the people and the country, it’s history and traditions. It was His Late Majesty King Hussein who flew Howard and me over the Dead Sea in his helicopter and who took me, with his family, to eat at the legendary Hashem Restaurant in Amman. He introduced me to Jerash and Petra, both of which I would visit many times and the joys of sleeping under the stars of the desert in Wadi Rum. Taking my daughter on her first trip to Jordan was one of the most enjoyable travels we had when she was young.
Now I am planning to go back, when Maiden is on her way again, to the country I love, to walk the Jordan trail which links Um Qais in the north and Aqaba in the south, with my daughter. We will take 40 days to walk the 650 kilometres passing through 52 villages on the way and we will meet Maiden when she sails into Aqaba!
The trail traverses the diverse landscapes and vistas of the country, from the rolling wooded hills of the north, the rugged wadis, and cliffs overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley, the rose rock of Petra, the dramatic sands and towering mountains in Wadi Rum, to the crystal waters of the Red Sea.
The trail takes visitors through the history of Jordan alongside its diverse culture. Travelling the length of the country enables a chance to peel through the different layers of culture, to taste the varied cuisines of Jordan, meet locals while walking, and spending nights in their home-stays. It is also an opportunity to learn the history of Jordan, the different civilizations who have made their marks on the land. The trail moves through major historical sites in the region such as Um Qais, Jerash, and Petra, while also harbouring hidden ruins resting amongst the land.
The concept of a trail crossing Jordan’s countryside is not a new one. For thousands of years, ancient paths and trade routes have cut across the land that today constitutes the state of Jordan. Jordan was the centre of the King’s Highway, a trade route stretching from Egypt to Aqaba, and then north to Damascus. This route was used by Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites, but during the first centuries B.C. the Nabatean merchants extended this route further to Asia and southern Arabia making Jordan a centre of their empire, with Petra the crown jewel amongst this. After the Nabatean reign, the Roman Empire, continued to utilize these routes as critical pieces of its Middle Eastern network of roads.
Traveling Jordan by foot is a practice that is as old as these ancient trails. For thousands of years, it served as a means of conducting business and communicating with distant peoples. That same action of walking is still bringing people through Jordan’s countryside; now it is hikers who traverse the terrain with the purpose of recreation and experiencing the country’s beautiful natural landscapes and diverse communities. In recent years, the fields of outdoor recreation and adventure travel have grown rapidly in Jordan; and many groups have sprung up to bring both Jordanians and tourists into closer interaction with the country’s beautiful natural offerings.
The concept for the Jordan Trail originated in the midst of this explosion of outdoor exploration in Jordan and was developed by a number of people and organizations that were integrally involved in the country’s growing outdoor scene. Those working to scout new trails and to create one continuous Jordan Trail are being greatly assisted by other groups and by local enthusiasts from each of the trail’s regions. Many Bedouin tribes are helping to develop the trail sections between Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba, while the northern sections and around Karak have received endless support and help from local hikers and groups. From north to south, the entire length of the trail is supported and made possible by the tireless efforts of people and organizations who are dedicated to the project.
The Jordan Trail facilitates in the economic development of local communities through job creation, and the country’s economy to create minimum impact tourism which promotes an outdoor culture and environmental awareness. So far, the JTA has increased capacity building of the association, with marked sections of the Jordan Trail from Um Qais to Ajloun, re-scouted and made improvements on the trail, built relationships with service providers along the trail (including homestays and guide training), and advertised and marketed the trail globally and locally.