Journey to Jordan: Archaeological Heritage of an Ancient Land



October 5 – 18, 2017 (14 days)

$6795 (excludes international airfare)
Single supp: $700

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Tour Description


Dear Members and Friends of the Oriental Institute,

The Oriental Institute is pleased to present a comprehensive tour of Jordan. Situated at the crossroads of cultures, Jordan is among the most historically rich areas in the world and is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites – including Petra, the desert castle of Um er-Rasas, and Wadi Rum, where T. E. Lawrence camped during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18.

What makes our tour unlike other trips to Jordan is that, in addition to visiting the country’s highlights, we are able to arrange exclusive events with scholars and archaeologists and provide exclusive access to ongoing excavations in the eastern desert of Jordan, otherwise known as the Black Desert. Your tour leader, Dr. Yorke Rowan, Senior Research Associate at the Oriental Institute, has excavated extensively at prehistoric sites in Israel and Jordan and co-directs the Eastern Badia Research Project which involves excavations at Wadi al-Qattafi, one of the sites we will be visiting on the tour. Dr. Rowan will be able to provide travelers with on-the-ground experience of the archaeological excavations at this otherwise inaccessible location. In addition, the tour includes an evening of drinks with the director of the American Center of Oriental Research in the capital, Amman. We have paired these exclusive experiences with four- and five-star accommodations and unique dining experiences. Most meals and gratuities are included in the trip package.

We are confident that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our travelers and that Dr. Rowan’s superb depth of knowledge and experience in the region will make this a truly memorable travel-study experience.

Dr. Gil J. Stein

Director, Oriental Institute
Professor, Near Eastern Archaeology

Thursday, October 5: IN TRANSIT
We depart Chicago.

Friday, October 6: AMMAN
Arrive in Amman and transfer to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Amman.

Hotel: Crowne Plaza Amman
Meals: Dinner

Saturday, October 7: AMMAN
We spend the morning in Jordan’s modern capital, Amman. Here, we visit the Amman Citadel and its museum. This is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, and is home to the evocative ruins of the Roman Temple of Hercules and the palaces of the Omayyad Caliphs. Before continuing to the remains of a well-preserved Greek Palace, lying in a remote valley at Qasr-al-Abd, we are privileged to meet with the Iraq-al-Amir Women’s Co-Operative Society over lunch. Our evening is spent at the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), where we enjoy drinks with the center’s director.

Hotel: Crowne Plaza Amman
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Sunday, October 8: JERASH
Jerash is set in the pine valleys of the biblical land of Gilead, and is one of the best preserved Roman cities in the East. The architecture is particularly fine, and a unique feature of the Oval Plaza — framed by the magnificent colonnade. We continue to the 12th century Ajloun Castle, and enjoy its
commanding views of the Jordan Valley. Finally, we return to Amman to finish off our day with dinner at the Fakhr El-Din restaurant.

Hotel: Crowne Plaza Amman
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Monday, October 9: UMM QAIS
Today, we visit Umm Qais. In close proximity to the modern town we find an arresting mix of ancient Hellenic ruin — the former Greek cultural center of Gadara — and abandoned Ottoman-era village which overlooks the edge of the Jordan River valley, offering views over the Sea of Galilee. After lunch, we move on to Pella. Like Umm Qais/Gadara, it was one of the ten cities of the Decapolis, founded by the Greeks and made powerful by the Romans. This is our final visit of the day, and our evening is free to explore at our leisure and enjoy independent dinners in Amman.

Hotel: Crowne Plaza Amman
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Tuesday, October 10: AZRAQ
Our morning is dedicated to exploring the ‘desert castles’ of Qasr Amra, Qasr Kharana and Azraq Castle, the latter used by T.E. Lawrence as a military base during the Arab Revolt. We stop for lunch at Azraq Lodge, a converted 1940s British military field hospital, before moving on to Umm el-Jimal, just a stone’s throw from the desert castles. Here, we see the sprawling basalt ruins of an unnamed Byzantine town, before returning to Azraq Lodge — where we will also be staying this evening — for dinner.

Hotel: Azraq Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Wednesday, October 11: WADI AL-QATTAFI
This morning, we journey by 4×4 across otherworldly desert terrain towards Wadi al-Qattafi. This area of Jordan’s archaeologically rich Black Desert is home to stark basalt mesas, settled repeatedly in Prehistoric times, and we take an entire today to explore them before retiring to Azraq Lodge for dinner.

Hotel: Azraq Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Thursday, October 12: MADABA
We travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Umm ar-Rasas, a former strategic garrison for the Roman military, and a site highly prized by archaeologists for its Roman, Byzantine, and early-Muslim period ruins. Of particular note are the Church of St Stephen’s beautifully preserved mosaics depicting the principal cities of the region — we have the privilege of admiring them today. We then move on to lively Madaba for independent exploration and lunch at our leisure. Later this afternoon, we move on to Shobak, the ruin site of the Crusader castle of Montreal — in its wild landscape, perched on the plateau’s edge, its imposing power is still apparent today. This is our final visit of the day, and later this afternoon we embark on our transfer to Petra, where we check into our hotel.

Hotel: Petra Guesthouse
Meals: Breakfast

Friday, October 13: LITTLE PETRA
We spend this morning at the Neolithic site of Beidha, a seasonal encampment where prehistoric houses can still be seen. After lunch, we move on to Little Petra — also known as Siq al-Barid, literally ‘the cold canyon’. Like its namesake, it is a Nabataean site, home to sandstone-carved buildings cut directly from the canyon walls. While we are not completely clear on the purpose of some of its buildings, the site is thought by archaeologists to have been a suburb of Petra, meant to house travelling traders along the Silk Road. Later, we are free to spend our evening as we wish, and to dine independently at any of Petra’s cafés or restaurants.

Hotel: Petra Guesthouse
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Saturday, October 14: WADI RUM
We begin our day in spectacular fashion, driving to Wadi Rum through the remarkable desert scenery made famous by the filming of Lawrence of Arabia. The area, also known as ‘the Valley of the Moon’, is dotted with fine rock art sites, with carvings dating from early times, left as a way for nomadic peoples to leave messages for each other, to the fairly recent past. The valley is bursting with archaeological interest, and so we spend the full day here in order to take it all in, breaking for lunch at a camp in the desert’s interior. This evening, we return to the evocative site of Little Petra, where we enjoy a catered dinner.

Hotel: Petra Guesthouse
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Sunday, October 15: PETRA
Today marks the first of our two full days in glorious Petra, ancient capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. We walk into the site, both for the palpable sense of discovery it brings to our approach, and because there are so many interesting monuments in the Siq — the famous entrance ravine — to be seen when traveling by foot. The city and its tombs cover a huge area, all built into the richly coloured rock — it is called the ‘rose red city’ for good reason. We have the opportunity for two climbs, both optional, to the Nabatean ‘High Places’, which grant us with incredible views over the surrounding terrain. As dusk falls over the basin, we retire for dinner to the Petra Kitchen — a superb restaurant serving delicious local fare. After dinner, we also have the option to join in a very special experience indeed: to visit Petra by night. With its rose-red walls and carvings cast into deep shadow by candlelight, it is truly a magnificent sight to behold.

Hotel: Petra Guesthouse
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Monday, October 16: PETRA
Today, we have further opportunity to explore the magnificence of Petra. After breaking for a refreshing buffet lunch at the on-site Basin Restaurant, we shift our focus squarely onto Ad Deir — the Monastery. This is one of Petra’s most beautiful and evocative sites, and its second-most visited only after the Treasury. It is also, at over 160 feet wide and almost 150 high, its largest. Although a visit to the Monastery is the final event of our afternoon’s itinerary, this doesn’t necessarily mean saying goodbye to Petra just yet… those of us who didn’t pay a twilight visit to the site last night have another opportunity to do so after this evening’s dinner.

Hotel: Petra Guesthouse
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tuesday, October 17: THE DEAD SEA
After a relaxed morning departure, we enjoy lunch with — and a visit to — the local Women’s Collective before moving on to Fifa. This 5,000 year old Bronze Age cemetery site has sadly fallen victim to extensive looting — but thanks to the work of the Follow the Pots project, steps are beginning to be taken towards understanding why, and how, this looting happens, with a view to stopping it in its tracks. We move on to the Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth, a sleek new space developed by the Hellenic Society for the Near East to tell the story of millennia of habitation around the Dead Sea. Finally,
we head to the shores of the famous Dead Sea itself, with the opportunity to swim — or, more accurately, to float — in the salt-saturated waters. This evening, we enjoy a private farewell dinner to celebrate our final night together as a group.

Hotel: Holiday Inn Dead Sea
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Wednesday, October 18: THE DEAD SEA & RETURN HOME
This morning, we bid farewell to Jordan and embark on our return flights to Chicago.


Yorke Rowan is a Research Associate in the Archaeology of the Southern Levant with the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. He holds his degrees from the University of Texas (Ph.D. and MA) and the University of Virginia. He is director of the Galilee Prehistory Project, co-directs the excavations at the Chalcolithic site of Marj Rabba, and co-directs the Eastern Badia Research Project, which involves survey and excavation at Maitland’s Mesa and Wisad Pools, two sites in the Black Desert of Jordan. Dr. Rowan’s current research interests include the ritual and mortuary practice of the Southern Levantine Chalcolithic Period, and ground stone assemblages from the Late Prehistoric to Early Historic Perionds in the Southern Levant. His most recent edited volume, Beyond Belief: The Archaeology of Religion and Ritual (2012) draws together theoretical and methodological studies concerning ancient religion and ritual. As a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem during 2013-14, Dr. Rowan is preparing a monograph on the survey and excavations of Marj Rabba.

Additional Information

Calendar Year



  • Transfers and excursions, as per the itinerary, by air-conditioned motor coach
  • Accommodation in deluxe hotels based on two persons sharing a twin-bedded room
  • Entrance fees to all sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • English-speaking guide
  • 4×4 tour via the Black Desert; 4×4 tour in Wadi Rum
  • Meals as listed in the detailed itinerary, table d’hôte
  • Portages at hotels

NOT INCLUDED IN THE TOUR COST: International airfare, passport and visa fees, excess baggage charges, transfers to and from airports for tour participants arriving or departing on flights outside of the tour dates, insurance, beverages, and items not on the menu.

TARIFFS: Based on foreign exchange rates in effect December 2016 and a minimum of 15 participants. All rates subject to change.

DEPOSITS & PAYMENTS: A $750 deposit is required to book. Final payment is due twelve weeks before departure.

SINGLE ROOMS: For those traveling alone but who prefer to share with another, we will endeavor to work out congenial rooming arrangements. If impossible, or if a single room must be assigned due to the roommate’s canceling or incompatibility, or for any other reason, even if at the last moment or while on tour, the single supplement or prorate thereof must be collected.

INSURANCE: Insurance is available and is recommended. By purchasing trip cancellation insurance within 21 days of your initial deposit, Travel Insured International will waive the usual exclusion for preexisting medical conditions.

CANCELLATIONS: In the event of cancellation, refund in full less the $750 deposit will be made until twelve weeks before departure. From sixteen to twelve weeks before departure, the penalty is $1500. From twelve weeks until eight weeks before departure, the penalty is $4900, and after that time the penalty is 35% of the total cost, 55% of the cost from eight weeks to six weeks and 75% from six to three weeks. Any cancellation from 21 days before departure will incur a 100% penalty. Single supplements are also subject to cancellation penalties. These penalties could reach 100% for last-minute cancellations. There will be no refund for cancellations on the day of departure or thereafter. In addition, if cancellation is made within 60 days of departure, the airlines require a penalty. Cancellation of the tour by the Oriental Institute: full refund.
NOTE: Neither the Oriental Institute nor Archaeological Tours accepts liability for any airline penalties incurred by the purchase of nonrefundable airline tickets.

RESPONSIBILITY: ARCHAEOLOGICAL TOURS, a division of LINDSTONE TRAVEL, INC., and THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE in accepting bookings for the tour, clearly stipulate that they are not liable for the faults or defaults of other companies and persons that may be used in the carrying out of the tour services; also for accidents, baggage losses, delays, strikes, political unrest, riots and acts of God and war. In the event it becomes necessary or advisable for the comfort or well-being of the passengers, or for any reason whatsoever, to alter the itinerary or arrangements, such alterations may be made without penalty to the operator. Additional expenses, if any, including medical emergencies and evacuations, shall be borne by the passengers. The right is also reserved to withdraw this tour; also to decline to accept or retain any persons as members of the tour. No refund can be made for absence from the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. IATA carriers concerned are not to be held responsible for acts, omissions or events during the time passengers are not on board. The passage contract in use by the companies concerned shall constitute the sole contract between the company and purchaser of these tours and/or passengers.

For additional information, please contact the Oriental Institute Membership Office at 773.702.9513