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Outfitter aims to make the Jordan Trail a go-to destination

Every year, hundreds of thousands of adventure seekers walk the Camino de Santiago, a network of trails that run through every major European city.

A lesser known, spectacular hiking experience is available on the 398-mile (640 kilometre) Jordan Trail that runs the length of Jordan.

Tourist visits to Jordan dropped during the civil war in neighboring Syria for several years earlier this decade. Since 2016, the tourist industry has enjoyed strong growth. Overnight visits in 2018 were up eight per cent over 2017 numbers.

tunnel at UmQais Visitors to Umm Qais can view ruins that date back to ancient Roman civilization before the time of Christ. - Photo by Dara Al-Masri

If Ahmed Al Omari has his way, the Jordan Trail won’t be a secret much longer. He works with MEDA partner Baraka Destinations to build the tourism sector in Umm Qais, a small town of about 7,000 people in northern Jordan.

The panoramic views from the hilltops of Umm Qais are stunning. Umm Qais is part of the Decapolis, a group of ten cities that made up the Roman Empire’s eastern frontier in the first centuries BC and AD. The cities formed a group because of their language, culture, location, and political status. Each functioned as an autonomous city-state dependent on Rome. Most of these cities are in modern-day Jordan.

Archaeological excavation that began in Umm Qais in 1974 unearthed a wealth of relics from ancient civilizations, including a Roman aqueduct. “The water tunnel, you can see it only here in Umm Qais.”

Al Omari hopes that promotion of the tunnel will lead to Umm Qais becoming a world wonder, like Petra in the south. “I want (Umm Qais) to be like Petra.”

Umm Qais amphitheatreRuins of an ancient Roman Colosseum in northern Jordan

Close to 800,000 people visited Petra in 2017. This ancient city has been named a World Heritage site and one of the seven wonders of the world. Capital of the Nabataean Arabs, it is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It is located about 75 miles (120 km) north of the Red Sea town of Aqaba.

Al Omari rents camping gear and leads hiking tours for people who want to walk part or all of the Jordan Trail. Highlights include the Jordan Valley’s grasslands, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, Wadi Mujid (Jordan’s Grand Canyon) and the magnificent ancient city of Petra.

USE donkeys camel and ruins Petra MS picPetra includes the ruins of huge ancient temples - Photo by Mike Strathdee

“We are 40 guys (who will lead hikes) on the trail, from here to Aqaba (Jordan’s only port, a city in the southern-most part of the country).”

He tells people to expect to spend 44 days to traverse the trail from one end of the country to the other. “Normally, we do 20 (km) a day, and we do a day off (each week).”

Tourists can pay to have fully supported hikes where they do not have to carry any gear. “I can support from here to Aqaba, with help from the people (who live along the route of) the trail.”

Petra Treasury full shot MS picThe Treasury is a central gathering point and the most famous monument in Petra - Photo by Mike Strathdee

Trail hike near Feynan DAM photo

A person who would like to have the romance of having their camping gear transported by a beast of burden can do so, for a price. Donkeys can be rented, but they are more expensive than using a car, Al Omari said with a laugh.

The trail passes 52 towns along its route and people are starting to offer home stays.

You can see a 21-minute video about the Jordan Trail, including comments from Al Omari, on the YouTube Epic Trails series — Hiking the Jordan trail