7 Reasons to Spend New Year’s in Jordan

Petra candlelit ceremony

The Treasury of Petra by candlelight. Photo by Juan Luis Polo.

Celebrate the New Year in fascinating Jordan, home to the archaeological site of Petra, remarkable Roman ruins, the mineral-rich Dead Sea, and spectacular “desert castles.” This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour architectural landmarks with a professor of architecture who is collaborating on a proposed Jordan River Peace Park that would be the first ever in the Middle East.

Here are some exciting reasons to join “New Year’s in Jordan: A Journey Into Antiquity,” December 29, 2015, to January 5, 2016.

1.) Petra’s grandeur. Awaken early on New Year’s Day to visit Petra, one of the great wonders of the world. Enter the majestic siq, a narrow winding gorge accessible only on foot. Your first view of Petra’s magnificent ruins will be the Treasury, one of the best preserved of the many elegant structures carved into the sandstone mountains.

Alan Plattus2.) An expert lecturer. Learn about the region from Alan Plattus, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Yale School of Architecture. Professor Plattus has lectured across the United States and abroad on the history of architecture and cities, as well as contemporary issues in architecture and urban design.

3.) A dip in the Dead Sea. Also known as the Salt Sea, the Dead Sea is the world’s deepest hypersaline lake. You will have an opportunity to float in its buoyant waters and learn more about the history and conservation of the area at the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex.

Jerash4.) Ancient Jerash. One of the largest and best preserved cities of the ancient Roman Empire, Jerash is a veritable treasure trove of antiquities. In walking its cobbled streets, through millennia-old colonnades of sandstone pillars, gain a glimpse of what life was like in this once booming metropolis.

5.) A visit to the site of the proposed Jordan River Peace Park (JRPP).  The first such park in the Middle East, the JRPP has been proposed as a joint project between Jordan and Israel. Tour the site with the director, and discuss historic and environmental issues with Professor Plattus and a member of EcoPeace Middle East.

6.) Jordan’s desert castles.” Travel east of Amman to see remarkable desert castles including El Kharana, a 7th-century structure likely built as a caravanserai to shelter travelers; Amra, with splendid 8th-century frescoes; and the black basalt fortress of Azraq Castle, used by T.E. Lawrence during the fight against the Ottoman Empire.

7.) Welcome 2016 in style. Enjoy a festive New Year’s Eve dinner at Petra’s luxurious Mövenpick Resort. Afterwards, you may wish to join a candlelight visit to the historic site of Petra, which is located near the hotel’s entrance.

SphinxTravelers may also wish to join an optional three-night postlude in Cairo to experience some of the historic monuments and artistic riches of Egypt. Highlights include the Great Pyramids, the impressive collection of the Egyptian Museum, and the Step Pyramid of King Zoser.

We hope you’ll join Professor Plattus on this extraordinary program. For details about “New Year’s in Jordan, ” please call Johan Steiner at (212) 514-8921 or (800) 221-1944, or email him at johan@arrangementsabroad.com

Academic Arrangements Abroad, together with leading cultural and educational institutions, is proud to offer a diverse portfolio of exceptional trips.

Other New Year’s Celebrations:

Kings, Gods & Dragons: New Year’s in Cambodia & Vietnam
December 26, 2015 to January 8, 2016

With Olivier Bernier

A Journey into Antiquity: Egypt & Jordan by Private Plane
December 30, 2015 to January 13, 2016
With Isabel Stünkel

Cuba by Private Yacht
Call for details – (212) 514-8921

Don’t Forget to Enter the Adventures Abroad Photo Contest

Camel and Pyramid, Giza, EgyptWe’ve already received a number of submissions for our Adventures Abroad photo contest. Images entered so far include everything from riding camels in Egypt to practicing yoga on a sunny beach in Puerto Rico. There are also stunning shots of Peru, Antarctica, London, Italy, India, Jordan, and other destinations.

If you have a great travel photograph, there’s still time to enter it in the contest. The first-place winner, as selected by our panel of expert judges, will receive $1,000 off any 2014 or 2015 Academic Arrangements Abroad cruise. Second prize is $500 off a 2014 or 2015 Arrangements Abroad cruise, and third prize is a micro luggage scale (handy for avoiding overweight baggage fees).

India dyesYou can also vote on the submitted images, which are featured in a gallery that can be accessed through the photo contest tab. The most popular image will receive a People’s Choice Award and a special prize.

To enter or vote, please go to our Facebook page and click on the Adventures Abroad Photo Contest icon below our name. It will take you to a new page where you can enter the contest or vote on selected entries (or both!).

Be sure to submit your entry before May 1, 2014.

Meet Erin Sorensen

Erin Sorensen at Great WallErin Sorensen started working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in September 2003.  She’s held a number of different positions at the firm throughout the years and is currently a Vice President in the Operations Department, developing and booking programs and managing trip logistics.

Erin at AAA holiday partyWhat is your hometown?  I moved every two to four years growing up, around the country as well as some time in England, but I now call New York home.  I’ve lived here much longer than anywhere else!

What is your favorite travel book?  Hmm, I could never have just one.  I love to read!  I organize our office book club, for which we read books set in or about different parts of the world.  Some of my favorites of the books we’ve read are:

Agent Zig Zag – Ben MacIntyre

The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway

Country Driving – Peter Hessler

A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler – Jason Roberts

A couple of years ago I decided to read some Scottish books in preparation for a trip there and discovered I love Ian Rankin’s detective novels.

Erin Sorensen Easter IslandCity you most recommend to friends Vienna. I’ve only been there once, but it seems to have something for everyone – art, music, architecture, design, food, shopping. The countries I often recommend are Chile and Jordan, because they are amazing but underrated.

City you would drop everything to see I currently have two: Barcelona and Istanbul.  I can’t believe I still haven’t been to either, but it’s only a matter of time…

Erin in ArlesWhich AAA programs do you enjoy working on the most? Land programs with specialty themes (like the Mozart and Jane Austen programs planned for 2014). I can learn a lot about a specific subject or person as I work on the itinerary and organize the visits, and we get to take people somewhere they may have been before but with a different spin that keeps it new.

Special skills I love to cook and bake and have a good memory for useless pop culture facts.  I also speak French and hope to someday learn another language or two.

Your most visited websites  Probably Google Maps, Expedia and The New York Times for work purposes.  And NYPL, NPR and Amazon for other needs!

Something about you that surprises people I’ve lived in Madagascar and Mauritius. And I am left-handed.

Three things you can’t travel without A book, my camera and some kind of plan for my trip.

Number of trips traveled on  I’ve traveled for AAA about 25 to 30 times – either with groups as a tour director, or for inspection trips and travel conferences.  It’s a great learning experience every time. I also try to take an international trip as vacation about once a year if I can.  Travel is good for the soul!

Erin in Goa

Unusual Accommodations

One of the more unusual lodging options for the 2012 Olympics in London are suspended tents in the Wick Common Woodland, not too far from the Olympic Park. Called Holiday Out, the tents—which sleep three to nine people—hang several meters above the ground and are named after trees native to the United Kingdom.

During a trip with Academic Arrangements Abroad, accommodations are far more comfortable but can be just as unique. For example, you might stay in French châteaux, watch the sun set over the vast Kara Kum Desert from the legendary Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express or be rocked to sleep in a wooden gulet on the Turkish coast.

Gulets in TurkeyWe asked staff members to tell us about their unusual lodging experiences and offer suggestions for one-of-a-kind places to stay around the world. Here are their comments:

“One time I spent a night in a tented camp in Wadi Rum in southern Jordan,” says Director of Tour Operations Erin Sorensen. “It was really cold, but the sky was amazing and it was so quiet.”

Erin isn’t the only staff member who likes getting away from it all.

“While there are many beautiful remote hotels, one very simple hotel stands out in my mind,” says the company’s president, Jim Friedlander. “Reached by Zodiac north of the Peruvian/Bolivian border on the east side of Lake Titicaca is the Island of Suasi. The island has only one hotel on it and nothing else other than a few wild vicuñas to chase after (a hopeless pursuit as they are hard to see, much less approach). After a typically hectic schedule of sightseeing in Peru, it is an ideal place to decompress for a few days before resuming your trek, and the lodge attracts interesting visitors who like the idea of no electricity, no internet, no phones, etc…but wonderful food and a sense of peace.”

Kruger, South AfricaBrady Hiatt, Sales Associate, lived in a safari camp in Welgevonden, South Africa for several months. “I was living in the warden’s quarters, and would spend hours catching small lizards and geckos from outside and bring them into my bedroom to enlist them in my nightly battle against mosquitoes,” he adds. “I remember having the most vivid dreams, fueled both by my malaria medicine and the dozens of lizards skittering across the walls.”

Receptionist Elizabeth Kester bunked down at a camp in another part of the world. “Of the places I’ve stayed, my favorite was a Bedouin tent in the Negev in Israel,” she says. “We ate a traditional Bedouin meal, rode camels around the Negev at sunset, and sat around a fire at night. I woke up at about 5 a.m. and looked out of the folds of the tent; I just remember feeling really miniscule and really alive with this quiet, expansive space in front of me. Also: there was a scorpion in our tent and everyone freaked out — not really a high point.”

Have you stayed in a unique spot? Please share your own experiences and any suggestions for unusual lodging around the globe.

The 200th Anniversary of Petra’s Rediscovery

Walking through the siq—Petra’s narrow, winding gorge—anticipation builds. Then, suddenly, there before you lies the magnificent two-story Treasury, carved into the sandstone mountain and believed to be the tomb of an ancient Nabataean king.

The rose-red city of Petra, Jordan was built around the first century BCE on a site that was inhabited as early as the sixth century BCE. Occupying a coveted location between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, the city was a vital crossroads on trade routes linking Asia to Arabia, Egypt, Syria and beyond. Once inhabited by 20,000 people, Petra held its position for centuries and was occupied by Romans and Bedouins, but eventually declined due to trade route changes and an earthquake. It was lost to most of the world until 1812, when this ancient metropolis was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

The Treasury is only the beginning of this extraordinary archaeological site. There are approximately 500 tombs, a 3,000-seat theater, obelisks, temples, colonnaded streets and the commanding Ad-Deir “Monastery” (most likely built for religious purposes but not as a monastery), reached by climbing 800 steps. To ease travel through this amazing and large site, there are donkeys and camels available for hire.

In addition, Petra is thought to be where Moses produced water from a rock and where his brother, Aaron, is buried.

No wonder it makes everyone’s list of “places to see before you die!”