AMMAN — Nestled in the heart of the Middle East, where incredible history and diverse landscapes intersect, Jordan is embracing an adventurous identity that entices thrill-seekers and extreme sports enthusiasts worldwide.
With a unique blend of rocky terrain, vast canyons and panoramic vistas, Jordan is quickly becoming recognised as an ideal setting for a myriad of adrenaline-fueled activities.
Scaling new heights: Exploring Jordan’s climbing frontier
Amidst this paradigm shift in the tourism industry, one voice stands out — that of Sasha DiGiulian, an American professional rock climber and author.
With an array of accolades to her name, including the title of the world champion and achieving 30 first female ascents, DiGiulian is no stranger to the world’s diverse climbing destinations. Yet, Jordan’s versatile topography is still engrained in her memory.
“The unique nature of climbing here is how diverse the areas are; there is a lot of potential for further climbing development,” she revealed in an interview with The Jordan Times.
She journeyed as an ambassador for the Jordan Tourism Board alongside other acclaimed climbers, namely Magnus Midtbo, Alexander Huber, Jan Vincent and Tommy Joyce.
Delving deeper into her experiences, DiGiulian recalled her favourite climbing spot, Wadi Rum, famous for its crimson sands and never-ending dunes.
“Wadi Rum was really unique to me; the rock just seemed absolutely infinite, with really pristine lines,” she remembered, admiring the remarkable quality of the stone and the desert’s magnitude.
For DiGiulian, it was not just the physical aspects that made her journey memorable. Heartfelt encounters with the local community also made a deep impression.
“I love how everyone was really proud of their country, and how welcoming everyone was,” she said, adding that another unexpectedly enjoyable factor was trying the Bedouin barbecue technique for the first time.
DiGiulian’s climbing experience illustrates how sharing the outdoors and interacting with nature, but also culture, unites adventure seekers across the globe.
“I have gotten to know new friends, learn about the ways in which locals approach daily life, and had cultural experiences that I would likely not have without leaving the confines of the traditional tourism path,” DiGiulian reflected, summing up her adventure.
Sky is the limit
The Kingdom’s winds of adventure have captivated the attention of Orest Andersen, an adventurer and licensed paraglider, who is currently enjoying an off-grid lifestyle with his wife in the Swedish wilderness.
In an interview with The Jordan Times, he reflected on his journey and revealed a side of Jordan that extends beyond its ancient narratives, shedding light on the hospitable, open and laid-back nature of the Jordanian people and the symbiotic relationship between adventure and culture.
“Jordanians are amazing people, they offer advice and guidance without being intrusive,” Andersen affirmed.
He paid homage to a community of locals that selflessly offered to guide him through the best paragliding sites and enabled him to experience the vastness of Jordanian cliffs, perfect for launching and gliding.
“The reds and yellows of Wadi Rum’s sandstone were unlike anything I have seen before,” Andersen recounted, vividly describing his flight over this iconic desert landscape. The wind direction was optimal, allowing him a coast-soaring flight of 20 minutes.
He also flew over Wadi Mujib, which proved to be a more challenging prospect. Unlike the relatively straightforward conditions of Wadi Rum, Wadi Mujib is more suitable for experienced paragliders, he noted.
Inviting adventurers to experience the thrilling nature of Jordan, he warned that paragliding is safe only “if done correctly,” and strongly encouraged travellers to work with local guides and pilots.
Conserving nature through adrenaline-rushing adventures
Marwan Maayta, a Jordanian climbing instructor and route setter, highlighted how extreme sports enable adventurers to connect with nature and culture while treading lightly on the environment.
“Adventure tourism minimises negative impacts, in contrast to traditional car-bound tourism. With a focus on outdoor activities, visitors are more attuned to the environment, fostering a culture of preservation and appreciation,” Maayta said in conversation with The Jordan Times.
Working with The Jordan Climbing Federation, he helps promote the sport to both local and international climbers. Throughout the past couple of seasons, Maayta has guided over a hundred participants, a large portion of which were foreign travellers.
He added that Jordan’s combination of deserts and dry landscapes, interspersed with canyons and forests, enables adventurers to explore the terrains all-year-round. Cooler days between October and April work best for desert areas like Wadi Rum, while the north is great during summer.
He also believes that the northern areas, especially Ajloun’s limestone terrain, hold “untapped potential” as high-quality sports climbing destinations. Conversely, lesser-known canyons on south of Amman like Wadi Mukheires and Wadi Himara are perfect for bouldering (climbing without ropes).
Navigating challenges, opportunities
“Over the past years, adventure and extreme sport tourism in Jordan has evolved significantly,” said Hamzeh Ababneh, the executive director of Yalla Adventure, in conversation with The Jordan Times.
According to Ababneh, his organisation was a pioneer of expanding the adventure tourism offering.
Using special equipment and techniques, Ababneh’s team has unearthed many of the country’s hidden gems, and made them accessible to travellers who want to get away from urban distractions.
While adventure tourism thrives, there are challenges to navigate, especially when it comes to safety and funding.
“There is a surge of unqualified people who promote adventure trips without knowing how to implement the programmes safely,” Ababneh noted, adding that in adventure tourism, errors can lead to serious injuries.
To ensure both the protection of participants and the flourishing of adventure tourism, collaboration between the government, adventure organisations, and industry experts is paramount.
Ababneh commended the government’s efforts to organise the labour market and establish regulations, standards and training courses for adventure guides. His organisation has been assisting the process by submitting suggestions and offering insights.
Maayta also confirmed the government’s interest in the adventure tourism community. He was a part of a training programme facilitated by the Ministry of Tourism, the Jordan Tourism Board and the French embassy. The training covered technical skills, security issues and protection of the environment across four adventure categories — mountaineering, sports climbing, canyoning and hiking.
This concerted approach is key for elevating the quality of service and contributing to the sustainable growth of Jordan’s adventure tourism sector.
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