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The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is arelatively small Muslim country,situated in the Near East at the headof the Gulf of Aqaba. The ornithologicalappeal of this little-known country derivesfrom its position at the juncture of threeland masses-Europe, Africa and theMiddle East-and the diversity of itsavifauna reflects this. Despiteneighbouring Israel's huge popularity withEuropean birdwatchers, Jordan has,illogically, remained completely neglected.On this holiday we will enjoy the heavymigration of birds that annually takes place through the region at this time ofyear, without attendant hordes ofbirdwatchers. Furthermore, Jordan is aplace of cultural fascination, rich in sites of archaeological interest.The wildlife opportunities in Jordan areoutstanding and the tour runs at theoptimum time, when the country's residentbirds are joined by European and westAsian migrants arriving from their Africanwinter quarters. Together with these springvisitors we will also enjoy the specialistbirds of the region's varied desertlandscapes, amongst them the elusivelarks, whose pale plumages can makethem almost invisible against their arid,sandy habitats. Adding to thisornithological experience is the excitementof Jordan's scenery, which is some of themost varied and impressive in the MiddleEast. The contrasting backdrops to ourdaily walks can be explained bydifferences in geology, and an insight intothe country's varied rock types-limestones, multi-coloured sandstones andbasalts-will add to our appreciation ofJordan's scenery and wildlife.Our holiday begins at the Dead Sea. Thisis a dramatic location, the waters of thehuge, saline lake taking on an almostethereal beauty in the mist of earlymorning, whilst the towering sandstonecliffs on its western shores provide animpressive backdrop. Here, we should seethe first of the typical desert birds,including the strange, ground-dwellingArabian Babbler, Blackstarts and Tristram'sGrackles. The extensive and wellpreserved Graeco-Roman ruins of Jerashlie in Mediterranean surroundings ofancient Gillead, and we will have a fullafternoon to explore and soak up theatmosphere of this magnificent site. Ourroute there will give us an opportunity tobirdwatch by the Zarqa River and in thenative pine woods of Dibbin. LeavingAmman, we enter the stony expanses ofthe Eastern Desert. Here we will stop attwo 8th century 'desert castles' of theOmayyad Period, and search for desertspecialities such as Red-rumped Wheatearand Temminck's Horned Lark, and we maybe lucky to discover migrant ThrushNightingale and Collared Flycatcher in atree-lined wadi.Precious little water remains in the famousAzraq oasis but we will use it as our basebefore heading into the boulder-strewn,lunar landscape of the black Basalt Desert.Our main quest will be to find the darkmorph of the Mourning Wheatear but thisis a little-known area and we hope todiscover much more. Azraq's castle is builtof basalt and is where Lawrence of Arabiaand the Arab Army rested before their finalassault on Damascus. Trees and scrubaround the resthouse and at the ShaumariWildlife Reserve provide cover forexhausted migrants as well as the residentDesert Finch. With luck there will be somewetland habitat to explore but that isdependent on the winter rains.The 6th century mosaic map at Madabawill be our first stop before we wind ourway down the length of the ancient King'sHighway, following in the steps of many atrader, army and pilgrim. We will stop enroute to watch Calandra Larks and look forJordan's national flower, the localisedBlack Iris. The landscape is dramatic aswe cross the canyons of Wadi al-Mujib andWadi al-Hasa and no less so at KerakCastle, commanding the route down to theDead Sea and west to Palestine. We willarrive at our campsite overlooking WadiDana in time to explore and photographthe dramatic view in the rich eveningcolours. One of the specialities of Dana,and indeed Jordan, is the Tristram's (orSyrian) Serin which has one of the mostrestricted distributions of any WesternPalearctic bird. We will also be on thelook-out for raptors; for, as well asbreeding Bonelli's Eagle, the mountainshere lie on the main migration routeheading north.Lost for centuries and rediscovered only in1812, the ancient Nabataean capital atPetra is one of the highlights of ourholiday. Carved from the rose-redsandstone and hidden amongst a range ofhills, the city and the vast facades ofPetra's magnificent palaces and temples,are only accessible through a long, narrowwinding chasm. Petra is also an excellentplace for birds, with two extremelylocalised specialities- the beautiful Sinai Rosefinch and Hume's Tawny Owl,which only emerges after dusk. Raptorsmigrate over the site and we may be luckyenough to witness a spectacular aerialpassage of thousands of SteppeBuzzards, Black Kites and Steppe Eagles.We now travel southwards, stopping at thedramatic valley of Wadi Rum where we willcamp in traditional Bedouin style, until wereach the southernmost town of Aqaba,Jordan's port at the head of the Red Sea.Here, a variety of migrants make theirlandfall from the south. We will watch forsuch unusual seabirds as White-eyed Gulland Brown Booby, and visit the localsewage works-not on most tourists'itinerary but one of the most productivebirdwatching sites in the whole region.Without doubt this will be a most excitingend to a fortnight packed withornithological and cultural interest. JordanA 15-day holiday in search of Jordan's desert birdlife, and famous archaeological sites.Saturday 30th March - Saturday 13th April Cost: £2,695Outline itinerary Day 1Fly Amman. Day 2/3Amman. Day 4/5Azraq. Day 6/7Wadi Dana. Day 8/9Petra. Day 10Wadi Rum. Day 11/13Aqaba. Day 14Amman. Day 15Fly London.AccommodationStandard tourist class hotels andguesthouses, most with privatefacilities, plus five nights of fullyserviced camping.FoodAll included in the price.GradingMostly easy walks, with longer -but fairly gentle - day walks in thePetra and Wadi Dana areas. GradeA/B.FocusBirds and archaeology. LeaderChris Kehoe, plus local guide. Single room supplement£380. ExtensionsExtra days in Aqaba or Amman canbe arranged (with or without carrental).Web quick search: JOR01154Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryIRAQSAUDI ARABIASYRIAISRAELAQABAWADI RUMAZRAQBASALTDESERTJERASHAMMANMADABAWADI AL-MUJIBKERAKWADI DANAPETRAWADI SHU`AYBSUWAYMADEADSEARED SEAJORDANWadi RumTemminck's Horned LarkPetra

Jordan is a small country at theboundary of the Levant and Arabianfaunal areas, and is one of the mosteasily reached and welcoming of MiddleEastern countries. It has a predominantlyMuslim population but its monarch andparticularly his late father, King Hussein,have pursued strong links with the West aswell as neighbouring Arab countries.Following the great success of our annualspring tour, this shorter itineraryconcentrates mainly on the south-westcorner of Jordan, an area that holds someof the most dramatic mountain scenery ofthe Middle East. Here, the varied wildlifehabitats are controlled by a variety of rocktypes. The highland plateau reaches 1,736metres, and is cut by deeply incised wadisthat provide routes down to the plains ofWadi Araba below. In between lie dramaticsandstone mountains, their gorges and redmesas capped by white domes. It is againstthis backdrop that we will walk in search ofbirds - some unique to this region, othersvisiting from other climes. We will also haveample time to explore the coast at Aqaba- a resort which lies on one of the world'smain bird migration routes. Much of thispart of Jordan has a desert climate but onlyone area we will visit has anythingapproaching the classic image of barrensand dunes. Instead we will see how varied,and rich in wildlife, a desert can be.In October, after six months of drought,many birds are concentrated in areas ofwater and springs, especially the SinaiRosefinch. Some of our sightings will befamiliar European species in unfamiliarsettings, whilst others such as Finsch'sWheatear, Great Black-headed Gull orpossibly a rarity or new bird for Jordan willattract more attention. Our visit coincideswith the end of the autumn migration andanything could turn up, from raptors andwaders to warblers and shrikes. SootyFalcons breed late and will have fledgedyoung at this time of the year; with luck weshould locate this Middle East equivalent ofthe Eleonora's Falcon. Our tour begins with a flight to Amman, fromwhere we will drive to Azraq. Here we willexplore the Shaumari Wildlife Reservebefore heading into the boulder-strewn,lunar landscape of the black Basalt Desert.Moving south we reach Dana, for many oneof the chief highlights of the holiday. Fromthis ancient hill-top conservation village wewill visit Wadi Dana, a spectacular wildlifereserve of Jordan's Royal Society for theConservation of Nature and home to someof the country's most attractive and uniquebirds. Tristram's (Syrian) Serins breed here,as do resident Sinai Rosefinch, Bonelli'sEagle, Griffon Vulture, Eagle Owl, Hume'sTawny Owl, Rock Martin, Long-billed Pipitand Fan-tailed Raven. Our overnight stay atDana will give us time to explore the highground at the head of the wadi, as well asnearby woodland and a very productivedrinking pool.Next we head into the Petra mountains,bound for Jordan's most famous site. Petrais renowned for its antiquities; it was a citybuilt by the Nabataean people as a tradingcapital, was later occupied by the Romansbut was ultimately by-passed by new traderoutes and subsequently fell into oblivion ...until, that is, it was rediscovered in 1812.The Nabataean and Roman cultures left anawe-inspiring array of rock carvedmonuments, which we will have plenty oftime to appreciate. However, the naturalwonders of Petra are only marginally lessstunning, with colour-banded sandstonesdisplaying extraordinary forms of naturalart. Here we will walk away from the maintourist trails, hoping to encounter suchbirds as Barbary Falcon, Desert Lark,Scrub Warbler, Orange-tufted Sunbird andthe elusive Sooty Falcon.Journeying south from Petra to Aqaba, wenow climb up to the high steppe country ofthe Sharra Highland Plateau, beforedescending to our next destination - WadiRum. Immortalised by Lawrence of Arabia(and the film that followed) this famous siteis an excellent place in which to search for Jordan's desert birds. White-crowned Blackand Mourning Wheatears feed at the baseof the rocky slopes, over which Long-legged Buzzard and (with luck) Verreaux'sEagle soar. Around the fort of Jordan'sDesert Patrol, Tristram's Grackle and SinaiRosefinch are frequent visitors. As eveningapproaches, we must continue on toAqaba along a road that drops throughbarren granite hills towards the coast.Aqaba is Jordan's southernmost town,lying at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Sea-watching can be productive at any season,as can exploration of the town's sewageworks. This site provides a vitally importantfocus for visiting birds but despite this, israrely visited by anyone except ourNaturetrek groups! Each visit is thereforesomething of an adventure of discovery,and with a daily turnover of birds, we hopeto see a varied selection of interestingvisitors during our stay.Finally, we must drive north to Amman. Thejourney initially takes us through the broadplains of Wadi Araba, where we may makea further search for desert birds, before we reach the Dead Sea and ultimately the capital.Jordan - Birds &ArchaeologyA 9-day holiday in search of the specialist mountain birds and migrants to be found amongst some of thecountry's most dramatic landscapes, plus a visit to the country's most famous archaeological site, Petra.Saturday 13th October - Sunday 21st October2012Cost: £2,295Saturday 12th October - Sunday 20th October2013Cost: £2,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationIRAQSAUDI ARABIASYRIAISRAELWADI RUMWADI ARABAAQABAAMMANAZRAQBASALTDESERTKERAKWADI DANAPETRADEAD SEARED SEAJORDANOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Amman. Day 2Azraq.Day 3 Wadi Dana.Day 4/5Petra.Day 6/7Aqaba.Day 8 Amman.Day 9 Fly London.AccommodationStandard tourist class hotels andguesthouses, most with privatefacilities; plus one night of fullyserviced camping. FoodAll included in the price. GradingMostly easy walks, with longer - butfairly gentle - day walks in the Petraand Wadi Dana areas. Grade A/B.FocusBirds and archaeology.LeaderBarry Oxley, plus local guide. Single room supplement£175.ExtensionsExtra days in Aqaba or Amman can bearranged (with or without car rental).Web quick search: JOR02155Sinai RosefinchPetraSooty Falcon