Petra was first established sometime around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. Despite successive attempts by the Seleucid king Antigonus, the Roman emperor Pompey and Herod the Great to bring Petra under the control of their respective empires, Petra remained largely in Nabataean hands until around 100AD, when the Romans took over. It was still inhabited during the Byzantine period, when the former Roman empire moved its focus east to Constantinople, but declined in importance thereafter. The Crusaders constructed a fort there in the 12th century, but soon withdrew, leaving Petra to the local people until the early 19th century, when it was visited by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Petra lies about 3-5 hours south of modern Amman, about 2 hours north of Aqaba, on the edges of the mountainous desert of the Wadi Araba. The city is surrounded by towering hills of rust-coloured sandstone which gave the city some natural protection against invaders.
Amman, the modern and ancient capital of Jordan, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the World. The city's modern buildings blend with the remnants of ancient civilizations. The profusion of gleaming white houses, kebab stalls with roasting meat, and tiny cafes where rich Arabian coffee is sipped in the afternoon sunshine, conjure a mood straight from a thousand and one nights.
Amman was known in the Old Testament as Rabbath-Ammon, the capital of the Ammonites around 1200 BC, it was also referred to as "the City of Waters".
In a remote, quiet valley among the mountains of Gilead lie the ruins of Jerash, at one time a city of the Decapolis, and the only one of that powerful league through whose streets and monuments we can wander and see them as they were in its heyday, untouched except by the hand of time. Greater cities, such as Gadara and Philadelphia, have vanished almost without trace, but the remoteness of Jerash has saved it from being used as a stone quarry for nearby towns and villages, and it is one of the most complete examples of a provincial Roman city to be seen anywhere. The setting adds greatly to the charm of the place, lying as it does in a valley running rougly north and south and with a perennial stream running through the centre of it. The banks of the stream are covered in walnut and poplar trees, which look green and cool even in the heat of summer, when the surface of the surrounding hills is reduced to a harsh brown aridity. On the south the hills draw away on either side, and the village of Sweileh can be seen on the far skyline.
Without a doubt the world’s most amazing place, the Jordan Rift Valley is a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 400m (1,312 ft.) below sea level. The lowest point on the face of the earth, this vast stretch of water receives a number of incoming rivers, including the River Jordan. Once the waters reach the Dead Sea they are land-locked and have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind a dense, rich, cocktail of salts and minerals that supply industry, agriculture and medicine with some of its finest products.
Artifacts and graves in the area show that Irbid has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. Pieces of pottery and wall stones found at Tell Irbid were estimated to be made in the year 3200 B.C. In the Hellenistic period, Irbid, then known as Arabella was a major trade center and the birthplace of Nittai of Arbela. Before the advent of Islam, the city was known as Arabella and was famous for producing some of the best wines in the ancient world. The area in the region had extremely fertile soil and moderate climate, allowing the growing of high quality grapes.
After the Muslim conquests, it came under the rule of the Muslim Empire, the city became known as Irbid, and shifted from wine to olive oil production. Wheat was also an important product in the area.
Irbid is notable for being close to the site of the decisive Battle of Yarmouk, fought along the banks of the Yarmouk River roughly 30 kilometres north of the city. The battle was waged between the Islamic Caliphate led by Umar and the Byzantine Empire. It set the stage for the departure of Byzantine armies from Greater Syria and the beginning of the expansion of the Islamic Caliphate.