Travelers looking for a unique travel destination should put the country of Jordan on their bucket list.
Despite the unrest, its northern neighbor is experiencing and the resulting influx of refugees, Jordan is a thriving tourist destination. A relatively small country, its rich history and a plethora of family-friendly sites make it the ideal destination for all ages to enjoy. For families traveling with autism here are our recommendations of autism-friendly lodging, foods and spots to visit.
Not to be Missed Outdoor Experiences
Petra, a UNESCO world heritage site, famous for its enormous monumental tombs and archeological exhibits, gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like 2,000 years ago. The top-notch tourist attraction is situated deep within the southern deserts of Jordan. The majestic city intricately built into the rocks was a crossroads for merchant caravans passing through the area.
Under Nabataean traders, it was a flourishing business hub for spices, textiles, and incense brought in by caravans along the spice and trade routes. Within the city, the famous monastery is a must-see! It is 850 steps up in the cliffs carved into the red sandstone, and there are two options for reaching the summit – by foot or by donkey. Though the Bedouin donkey-handlers accompany tourists, parents should be aware that this multi-sensory experience might not be suitable for everyone. Climbing takes longer but may feel safer than riding donkeys to some. Moreover, visitors can rest and take a break in the shade.
- Autism Travel Tips: Comfy walking shoes are a must as is sunscreen and drinking water.
- Make sure to freeze the water before the start of your journey as it is hot even in winter and hot drinking water is not pleasant.
- Decide beforehand if you will travel by donkey or go by foot as there is no negotiating with the donkey handlers once you have started on the journey.
- Be advised that traveling by donkey is hot, smelly and uncomfortable, so this may not be the ideal way to ascend the cliffs.
- If you choose to climb by foot; plan extra time for resting along the way.
Jerash is known as being the Rome away from Rome. For many centuries this gem lay hidden under sand which preserved it making it one of the best Roman provincial towns in the world. Discovered in 1806 by a German explorer, it was excavated and has been restored to its former glory.
Tourists can marvel at the renovated Hippodrome that can seat over four hundred spectators and enjoy a recreated Roman army and chariot experience which is the one of its kind in the world.
Just like in the movie Ben-Hur, viewers to the narrated show, given twice a day witness a live show with a seven-lap race complete with horse-drawn chariots, fully armed legionnaires and gladiators fighting for their trophies.
Autism Travel Tips:
- To walk around the city and explore the ruins, be sure to have comfortable walking shoes, plenty of drinks and sunscreen.
- If you are going to see the show – book the 11 am performance and ask to sit in the very back so you can use some shade like an umbrella without obscuring the view for other tourists. Bring water, sunscreen, and a blanket or pillows to sit on as the paving stones can be uncomfortable.
Those craving an authentic scouting overnight adventure can get it at the Wadi Rum Bedouin Guides Camp. The experience, started by a Wadi Rum native includes camel tours, jeep tours, hiking, and sleeping under the starry expanse of sky in the desert. Wadi Rum is part of the territory belonging to the Zalabea Bedouin tribe, and its members are famous for their sense of humor, camel husbandry skills, traditional medicine and unparalleled hospitality.
Photo credit: Ted Swedenburg (Flickr)
Autism Travel Tips:
- This adventure is NOT for everyone!
- Parents need to prepare your kid to ‘rough it’ and explain that anyone eating and sleeping outdoors is constantly at the mercy of the elements. So, it can be incredibly hot or rain on you. In other words, accommodations from Mother Nature are not easy to come by.
- You can bring your own pillows, blankets, and a flashlight to help but if your child isn’t an outdoors type of person, and if they have particular dietary requirements, this is an outing to skip.
The Dead Sea
By far the most famous and popular of the four outdoor activities is the Dead Sea experience. Not only is it unique and highly sensory but one that can accommodate multigenerational travel families.
The outing is free, and all you have to do is lay back and relax. The extremely high salt content of the water does the work for you. As soon as you enter the water, you become so buoyant, and your body immediately feels lighter.
This experience is a great stress reliever and will allow your body to rejuvenate as you peacefully relax. For many children on the spectrum, they find the sensation unique.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Packing Sunscreen and water for this venue goes without saying.
- Travelers should leave flip flops on the beach and bring goggles to protect the eyes. Salt water is tough on anyone, let alone for kids on the spectrum.
Must Try Jordanian Dishes
An integral part of visiting Jordan is sampling the local food. Similar to other Middle Eastern dishes, Jordanian cuisine utilizes ingredients like olive oil, garlic, and lemon, which make the food relatively light and healthy.
Two dishes worth trying are Fatet Djaj and Mansaf, which is also known as the national dish of Jordan.
Fatet Djaj is a chicken casserole comprised of chicken, rice, and fried bread topped with yogurt and toasted almonds.
Mansaf is a platter of tender lamb cooked with yellow rice and Marcona almonds and then topped off with a hot yogurt sauce.
The entree will appeal to kids as it is a sensory experience customarily eaten with hands and no dining utensils.
Where to Stay
If you’re in search of lodging during your stay in the Jordanian capital, look no further than Amman Four Seasons Hotel.The five-star property is located in the prestigious Al Sweifiyah residential area close to the Baraka Mall as well as city landmarks. The upscale property offers free afternoon tea, valet service, and even photography tours.
When visiting the Dead Sea area, Hotel Kempinski Ishtar is another upscale lodging property to consider. Located on the shores of the hypersaline sea, the hotel is a convenient haven for guests seeking privacy and comfort. With its nine outdoor lagoons and pools, 100,000 square foot spa and balconies overlooking the Dead Sea, the hotel does a great job in accommodating families.
What to bring home
Local artisan jewelry and hand painted pottery pieces make good souvenir choices. Other items to look for are Dead Sea beauty products (especially mud masks), Bedouin textiles and spices.
Have you visited Jordan with family- what are your tips?