By Michele Wright
Endless desert stretches, ancient wonders of the world and memorable sites, a road trip through Jordan and Egypt is a remarkable experience – a trip back in time, through historical landmarks. Immerse yourself in bustling market towns where authentic daily life unfolds, before crossing Martian landscapes.
From the hidden city of Petra, with its rose-hued sandstone structures, the iconic Pyramids of Giza to the waters of the Dead Sea, this route encompasses some of the most fascinating archaeological sites with deep cultural roots.
Although these two countries pair so well in an itinerary, they don’t share a border. When overlanding, you need to travel from Aqaba, through Israel at Eilat Border Post, and then on to Taba. The Israeli section is a very short strip but plan ahead so your travel documentation is in order. Most especially, organise your Carnet de Passage (CDP), or Triptik, which is the equivalent of a passport for your car, for a smooth customs border crossing.
Travelling by road through Jordan is comfortable, but the road conditions become more challenging in Egypt. Ideally drive a 4x4 if traversing deserts, and being properly kitted out for camping means you can benefit from incredible starry night skies in some remote locations.
So, what should you include in your Jordan and Egypt itinerary?
1 – Amman
In the centre of the capital city, you will find one of the country’s most incredible archaeological sites, the Amman Citadel. Built in AD 720, the palace complex was destroyed by earthquake not 30 years later. A short walk from the citadel, view the 2nd century Roman Theatre and perhaps visit the iconic King Abdullah I Mosque or Jordan Museum. The markets are a feast for the senses: sample flavoursome street food or traditional dishes – lamb cooked in yoghurt sauce and falafel – and wash this down with rich Arabic coffee. While in Amman, consider taking a day trip to the ancient ruins of Jerash, a fascinating 3rd century Roman city, 45 minutes from Amman.
2 – Madaba Mount Nebo
Madaba is very important to Christians due to its intricate mosaic map of the Holy Land - Byzantine-era mosaics on Saint George’s Church. Standing high above the Jordan Rift Valley is Mount Nebo, boasting a steel cross symbolizing the staff of Moses. It is believed Moses first saw the Promised Land from here - and the panoramic vistas are stunning.
3 - Dead Sea
Famous for its high salt content and being the lowest point on earth (it’s 400-metres below sea level), this is the place to cover yourself in mud for a spa-like experience, and float effortlessly on the lake waters.
4 – Petra
Head south to the town of Wadi Musa (near Petra), stopping en-route to explore the mountain-top Crusader fortress, Shobak Castle. Wadi Musa or the ‘Valley of Moses’ features a spring which cascaded from the rocks after being hit by Moses staff, quenching the thirst of his followers.
This town is a great base from which to explore the ‘Rose City’ - the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Being conveniently located you can attend the Petra by Night evening show (timing is essential) or get an early start to Petra Archaeological Park as it opens.
On arrival at Petra, walk through the Siq (narrow gorge) with its impressive walls on either side. This opens onto the iconic Al Khazna (Treasury). Explore the Tomb of Unayshu, the Royal Tombs, Amphitheatre and the Monastery admiring the brilliant craftmanship of the carvings.
5 – Wadi Rum Desert
Continue your journey to Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon), a vast desert landscape known for its unique rock formations, red canyons and otherworldly terrain. Star gazers should try to camp under the stars to appreciate unforgettable night skies. Some landmark sites here include the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence’s Spring, Khazali Canyon and Nabataean inscriptions.
6 – Aqaba
An hour from Wadi Rum you reach the popular seaside resort of Aqaba, on the Red Sea Coast. This is a terrific location for water activities, with renowned diving and snorkelling in crystal clear waters filled with vibrant marine life.
Border Crossing Jordan-Israel-Egypt (Aqaba-Eilat-Taba)
7 – Sinai Peninsula, Egyp
Discover the rugged beauty of the Sinai Peninsula, climbing Mount Sinai (where Moses is purported to have received The Ten Commandments), to view the sunrise and then explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St Catherine’s Monastery, at the foot of the mountain. This is one of the oldest continuously working monasteries in existence, home to iconic sites such as Jethro’s Well and the Burning Bush.
8 – Cairo
In the bustling capital of Cairo, stroll historic streets, explore the Khan el Khalili Bazaar to sample popular street foods and desserts, and visit the Cairo Citadel and Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque. Check out important Coptic churches and landmarks such as the Hanging Church, Bacchus Church and Babylon Fortress and view ancient artifacts - and the treasures of Tutankhamun - in the Egyptian Museum.
Of course, a trip to Cairo is incomplete without experiencing the Giza necropolis, and seeing the Great Pyramid, Sphinx and secret chambers of the Pyramid of Khafre.
9 – Nile Valley – Luxor Aswan
Drive south along the Nile Valley, exploring cities like Luxor and Aswan. In Luxor, the ‘City of Palaces’, explore the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, and Abu Simbel as well as the Colossi of Memnon. In Aswan view the High Dam and take a motorboat ride to the Temple of Philae.
A road trip through Jordan and Egypt is a journey of a lifetime, offering a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. Ensure you have all the necessary visas and paperwork to cross the Israeli border between Jordan and Egypt – and we strongly recommend you arrange your Carnet de Passage (CPD) or Triptik (your vehicle passport) to guarantee seamless border crossings.