I Fell in LOVE with Jordan!!!

Part of our trip to Dubai was spent in Jordan.  We didn’t want to impose on Jose and Diane for two full weeks.  In the past, we had looked at a tour of Egypt and Jordan that we didn’t take.  Egypt is a little to “iffy” right now, so we settled on a week in Jordan and I am so glad I did.  What a wonderful experience we had there.

We arranged our 8 day excursion with Jordan Select Tour Company.  They only arrange tours for individuals and not groups which appealed to us.  Actually, we have never taken a group tour and hesitate to do so…what if there is someone on the tour that you really dislike?  What about the person that constantly keeps everyone waiting for them?  No, I don’t think I would enjoy a group tour.

We flew Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi.  They had a bus that took us, the hour trip, from the Marina Mall directly to the airport.  The morning we left, it had been real foggy and all of the flights were delayed due to the weather.  Our flight was delayed by two hours.

At customs, we had to purchase a visa for 20 Jordanian Dinar or about $28 US.  I handed him my Mastercard…..they only took Visa. So, I gave him my Visa…it didn’t work. I gave him 3 other Visas and none of them worked.  Fortunately, I had some US dollars on me and made the exchange to pay for the visa to get us into the country.  That was a little frazzling, if you know what I mean.  The rep from Jordan Select was waiting for us, as was our driver, Haytham.  We paid the rep for our tour…8 days, private driver, 5 star hotels, breakfasts and two tours for $1,100 each.  I thought this was a great price!


I can’t say enough good things about Haytham.  He was such a great guide and knew so much about the history of his country, the Quran and the Bible.  One funny thing was that he thought David was Jewish because he was named David.  He asked if we had ever been to Israel and when we said no, he then asked if David was Jewish.  We could ask Haytham anything about his country or religion without worrying about offending him.  By the end of the trip, he was a friend and not just our guide.

The ride into Amman was interesting.  We passed people selling vegetables and fruit on the side of the road.  The heads of cauliflower and cabbage were huge.  On the side of the road were shelters of orange plastic that people were living in.  Haytham, our driver/guide, said they were gypsies who lived in them.  Other transient people in Jordan are Bedouins but they live away from the roads, more secluded and in tents made from goat hair.  Gypsies tend to live close to the street and in shelters made from plastic, odd wood and cardboard.

I really didn’t care for the city of Amman.  I didn’t see any part that I thought were attractive or pretty.  There didn’t seem to be many parks or green areas.  They compare Amman to Rome because it was originally built on 7 hills…today, the city has expanded to 20 surrounding hills.  It is a very arid country….lots of sand and the buildings are made mostly of sandstone so everything is a very monotone tan.   The total population of Jordan is about 6 million.  Close to 3 million people live in Amman.

We spent a total of 3 nights in Amman at the Alqasr Metropole Hotel.  There wasn’t much nearby to explore.  We used it as a base for our day excursions.

Amman has a rich history with several different rulers over the thousands of years it has been in existence. Throughout history, it has fallen under Jewish, Catholic and Muslim rule.   In the 13th century BC, it was known as Rabbath-Ammon.  When the Egyptians ruled, it was called Philadelphia, country of brotherly love. 

What I fell in love with about Jordan was the incredible history that the country has to offer and the friendliness of the people.  As an American, I have found in my travels that not everyone loves us!  Being asked where we are from, I hesitate to say the USA not knowing what kind of a welcome we will get.  However, in Jordan, everyone was so friendly and helpful.  It really made our trip so enjoyable.

We visited the desert of Wadi Rum.  Wadi means dried riverbed.  During rainy season, it fills with water.  “Rum” means high or elevated.  Wadi Rum is an Unesco World Heritage Site and covers 280 square miles.  It really is a beautiful desert area with mountains of granite and sandstone.  We had lunch with a Bedouin family.

Inside the tent, we sat with the men and first had coffee and tea and both were very tasty.  We had a walk around the tents looking at the baby goats, the sheep and dogs.  At one point, I had to go to the bathroom.  Haytham told me that they would have facilities….I asked Mohammed, our Bedouin guide, and he said that they went behind a bush!  At first I thought he was joking…everyone had been joking with me whenever I asked a question.  This time, I wasn’t going to be gullible!  It turns out, that Mohammed was being serious and I squatted behind a bush to go to the bathroom.  Thank goodness, I had a small packet of tissues in my pocket!

When we signed up for the Bedouin tour, we requested a vegetarian lunch.  It was my greatest concern to respect the Jordanian people and not offend them.  I know that they are very hospitable people and if they offer you drink or food, you can’t refuse or it will be a great insult to them.  So, I made certain that we they didn’t offer us anything that I wouldn’t eat….i.e. meat or chicken!  Our lunch was salad of tomato, cilantro and cucumber, yogurt, rice, a mixture of vegetables in tomato sauce all scoped up with wonderful bread.  They had utensils and plates but we wanted to try to eat the way the Bedouins did.

The Bedouins had a large plate of rice, chicken and yogurt.  As you can see in the picture it is one plate and everyone eats from the same plate.  I think it made for a great picture!

Shortly after we finished lunch, Mohammed, David and I were off to explore Wadi Rum.  It really was a beautiful place.  The sandstone rocks held such vibrant colors of reds and browns whenever the sun shone on them.  There were camels with their babies grazing and we saw petroglyphs of the Nabataeans who were traders that lived in Jordan from 36-100 AD.

Camels and their babies

Petroglyphs of camels

As you can see in this picture with Mohammed, our bedouin guide and me, I have covered my head with a scarf.  This wasn’t necessary but I did it out of respect for the Bedouin family that I was visiting.  


Petra, Jordan is another Unesco World Heritage site.  It was a major trading center for the Nabataeans possibly as early as 312 BC.  The city went into decline under the Roman rule, partly due to trade routes established on the sea and partly due to a crippling earthquake in 336 that damaged the buildings and water system.

We had a guide who gave us an informative two hour tour.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take many notes and so I won’t go into great detail about the dates, etc.  I will mostly share my pictures and impressions.

Petra was a well guarded secret of the Bedouins in that area.  They believed that there were great treasures buried in Petra and wanted to keep it a secret.  However, in 1812, a swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt convinced his guide to take him to the “lost city”.  While there, he documented his discovery with sketches and notes.

Walking to Petra, it is easy to understand how the Bedouins were able to keep the “lost city” a secret for so many years.  It is well protected by a natural gorge or “siq” of sandstone rock.  In some places, it is only 9-13 ft wide.  It takes about 1/2 hour to walk to the main entrance of the “Treasury” or you can opt to ride a horse or in a small buggy.  We walked and along the way, our guide pointed out various tombs, petroglyphs and the amazing water system the Nabataeans had created to create an oasis in the desert!

One of the buggies you can ride through the Siq in
Remains of the road built by the Romans (106 AD-363 AD)
Part of the sophisticated water system.  The Nabataeans had ceramic pipes, dams and cisterns. 

Our guide was very knowledgable and good.  When it came time for our first view of the Treasury, he had us turn our backs to it, move a couple of steps and then turn.  We couldn’t see the whole building facade but we could see a sliver of it through the opening of the Siq.  I surprised myself by getting so emotional.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I am not certain where that was all coming from but it was a moment that I will cherish.

This is the Treasury that is carved out of the side of the sandstone mountain.  It was originally built as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III (100 BC-AD 200).  If you look closely on each side of the building, you can see notches going down the side of the building.  Our guide explained that the Nabataeans started carving the building from the top and the notches were used to secure their scaffolding.

There is a story that suggest that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasures in this building, while being pursued by the Israelites   The Nabateans believed it was in the urn in the top center of the building.  They used to shoot at it trying to break it to get the hidden treasure.

From the treasury, we walked to our right along a road only to have Petra city revealed to us.  There are caves carved into the side of the mountain that were used for tombs and homes.  Bedouins actually lived in the caves until 1983.  In 1983, the government relocated them to a village on the other side of Petra.

Village Bedouins moved to in 1983 after being relocated from the caves. 
Everywhere you turn, there are amazing sites…tombs for kings, an 3,000 seat Roman amphitheater, ruins and mosaics from a Byzantine church, the market area and ruins of the Great Temple.  David and I had two days at Petra….our first day with the tour guide and after he left us, we were on our own to explore. I am grateful that we did the climb of 800 steps to the Monastery that first day as the second day was rainy and all of Petra, except for the Treasury was closed.  That was a huge disappointment.  We had planned another hike to High Alter of Sacrifice for our second day at Petra but couldn’t because of the weather.  Another event that was canceled due to the rainy/snowy weather was Petra by Night.  This was something I really wanted to see.  They light votive candles along the Siq and in front of the Treasury and have Bedouin music in the background.  In all, they use 1500 candles in the Siq alone.  It must be a beautiful site but we didn’t get to experience it as it rained both nights.  It was such a disappointment! 
Everywhere you looked there was wonderful art by nature.

The Royal Tombs
Close up of the tombs L-Palace Tomb and R-Corinthian Tomb


The Urn Tomb built in 40 AD

The Great Temple built in 1st century BC added on up to 5th century AD 

Byzantine Church around 450 AD, intriguing  because
of Petra’s demise after earthquake of 363. 

The 753 square feet of mosaics are stunning

The hike up 800 steps to the Monastery

The Monastery (Al-Deir) built as a tomb
for King Obodas in 3rd Century BC.
Possibly used later as a church due to crosses
carved into the walls

View of the Monastery

Our first day in Petra, was definitely a full one.  We left around 4:00 in the afternoon to make the 1/2 hour hike out to the town of Wadi Musa where our hotel, Petra Guesthouse, was.  The hotel was in a great location, it was right by the entrance gate to Petra!  It was a nice, clean and very quiet place.  We were content with our stay there.

There isn’t much to say about Wadi Musa.  It is a tourist town with restaurants and gift shops lining the streets.  We ate at the Red Cave Restaurant that was recommended in our guide book.  We started the meal with appetizers (mezzes in Arabic).  We had tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, salad and pita bread.  Our meal was Bedouin vegetarian Gallayah which is a dish made with olive oil, tomato, onion, green chile, coriander, garlic, all spice, salt and pepper sautéed together and served over rice. It was delicious.  The owner of the restaurant said that most Jordanian food is made with olive oil and garlic.  The food is very similar to the “mediterranean diet” with fruit, vegetables, breads, fresh fish and seafood and some chicken/meat.

For desert, we had mint tea and baklava….one of my favorite desserts!!!  It is definitely sweet, sweet, sweet…made with filo pastry, layers of honey and chopped nuts.  The tea was regular black tea poured over fresh mint.  All very, very yummy!

As I mentioned earlier, the weather, while in Petra, wasn’t the best. Thankfully, our first day, was sunny and beautiful. However, that night, the rain started.  The next morning when we got up, it was a cold, dreary and wet day.  I don’t think the temperature was only in the mid 30s.  David took a nap after breakfast and I went to the lobby to read.  Around 11:00, there was a break and I begged David to go back to Petra.  He wanted to wait a half-hour, I wanted to go, I was tired of sitting in the hotel.

We should have listened to David!  Halfway through the Siq, it started to rain…just a few drops, however, by the time we reached the Treasury, it was pouring.  It was raining so hard that they had closed the rest of Petra off to the tourist!  It makes sense as the rocks were really slick when wet, but I wished they had told us at the gate that we could only go as far as the Treasury before we made the 1/2 hour walk down there.

Coming back the skies opened up. It has been a long, long time since I have been in such a rain storm.  I had a gore-tex jacket so my upper body stayed relatively dry.  However, our pants got soaked as did our feet from the water rushing over the tops of our boots!  At one point, we were past the shelter of the Siq and out in the open about 10 minutes from the gate when there was a huge clap of thunder and lightening!  Not the best place to be without any shelter while holding an umbrella!  We scrambled to one of the caves and waited for the worse to pass.  We were in the cave with about 6 other Italian tourist and one of the men just started rattling in Italian to me, like I would understand.  I don’t have a clue what he said but just nodded my head politely!

On top of the miserable weather, I wasn’t feeling well.  My stomach was gurgling and was really bloated.  I don’t know if it was the fresh figs I had eaten at breakfast or something else that didn’t agree with me.  Once back at the hotel, we were in for the rest of the day and night.  Dinner was at the hotel dining room.  I just head tea and bread, David had soup.

Haytham picked us up the following morning and we were off.  We were scheduled to see Beidha or Little Petra and the crusader castle of Kerak.  However, the roads were very bad due to the snow from the night before, so we had to drive directly to the Dead Sea where we were scheduled to spend the night.

We went along the Kings Highway which is a very, very ancient route.  It was first referred to in the Bible when Moses was leading the Israelites from Egypt through Jordan to the Holy Land.  In Numbers 20:17 it says ” Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” Imagine…we traveled along the same route that Moses did!  I just find that amazing!  It is believed that Moses is buried somewhere in Jordan but his grave has never been discovered.

The Dead Sea is 1,388 ft below sea level.  It is the lowest spot on earth!  Also, it is the deepest salt water lake in the world and one of the saltiest.  Due to the saline, no fish can survive in the lake.  Thus, the name “Dead Sea”.

There isn’t much to see at the Dead Sea.  There is not much that is “pretty” about it.  Driving to it, we passed a potash mine…rather ugly!   There is no vegetation, just more arid landscape.  There are no nearby towns.  The only thing along the Dead Sea are five star resort hotels and spas.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort on the north end.

The Dead Sea Holiday Inn Resort

The view from our room.  A nice sunny day, the day
we were leaving!  The land on the opposite side is Israel.

After we got checked in, we asked about swimming in the Dead Sea….the beach was closed!  Nooooooooooo!!!!  They said because the waves were too strong.  It was warmer than in the mountains for Petra but it was very overcast.  We decided to walk around and explore, which I am glad we did because there were other “silly souls” who had ignored the “close beach signs” and were playing in the water.   Notice the “beach” is more small rocks, very hard to walk on. I believe that the sand was brought in to make a “sandy beach”.   Plus, there was litter everywhere.  Maybe it was due to being “low season” that they didn’t make an effort to keep it all that clean.  Maybe, the litter had been washed up that day. I don’t know but it wasn’t pretty!

The salts and minerals from the Dead Sea are believed to help the skin conditions and the mud from the Dead Sea is believed to help arthritis sufferers.  Many resorts have “pots of mud” on their beaches that guest spread all over their bodies.  Then, they lie in the sun to “bake” it on and after the mud has dried, they wash it off in the Dead Sea.

This tourist gladly posed for me.  Little did she know that she would be “featured” on my “international blog”!!!

Well, I didn’t put the mud on.  There really wasn’t any sun to dry it.  However, I did roll up my pant legs and wade into the water.  The water was cool.  I was surprised that there were people actually floating in it!

To make up for not being able to take advantage of all the healing remedies that the Dead Sea had to offer, I made an appointment at the spa for a facial (using Dead Sea products, of course) and a massage.  It was a great way to spend a dreary afternoon.

That night, we ate at Below 393, one of the three restaurants at the resort.  It was an intimate setting, good food and live entertainment.   At night, the view from our room was lovely with the swimming pools lit and looking across to Israel, we could see the lights of Jerusalem on top of the hill.

I was excited about the sights we were to see the day we left the Dead Sea.  We were heading to Madaba….the other place I so wanted to see.  It is full of Byzantine-era mosaics.  Over the past 6 months of traveling, I have come to really love and appreciate mosaic and stain glass art.  All throughout Jordan I discovered wonderful, old mosaics!

Before reaching Madaba, we went to Mt Nebo which is the site that Moses saw the Promised Land after leading the Israelites for 40 years through the wilderness.  He never reached the Promised Land as was foretold in the Bible.

The guide book mentioned that some of the most magnificent mosaics are housed in the Memorial Church, which sadly is under reconstruction until 2014.

However, they did have a tent that had some wonderful mosaics on display and a museum full of other smaller mosaics.  So, all was not lost.

It wasn’t part of our tour but because he knew how much I loved mosaics, Haytham took us to one that was off the beaten path. I don’t really think this is much of a tourist destination.  He called it Khirbet al-Mukhayyat.  What a delightful surprise!  As you can see, the building was nondescript but inside…..OH MY GOSH!!!

Is that not the most amazingly beautiful mosaic you have ever seen?  It is so intact.  Haytham said that a family had lived in a house that was built on top of the mosaic. The mosaic was covered by layers of sand.  Where the black spot is on the mosaic, is where the wood stove was for cooking and keeping the family warm.  One day, the lady was cleaning under the stove and she uncovered the mosaic.

This gentleman is Abu Fade. He is 51 years old and it was his family who discovered the mosaics.  He oversees the mosaics and the property.  It was his family who made the discovery.  Haytham told me that Abu’s father watched over the property for 45 years and now, his son is.

After viewing the mosaics, we admired the land and his donkeys.  It was a mother and baby…the baby was adorable.  Then, it was back in the van to Madaba.

Madaba is a city of over 150,000 people.  It is only 18 miles southwest of Amman.  It has a rich religious history of Christians and Muslims.  Today, about 1/3 of the population is Christians and the other 2/3 are Muslim.  It is best known for the Byzantine mosaics that are scattered throughout the city.  Unfortunately, for us, it was Saturday afternoon when we arrived in Madaba and everything was closed except for the most famous of the mosaics found on the floor of St George’s Church.

St George’s mosaic known as Map of Madaba was discovered in 1884 by Christian builders who uncovered the remains of an old Byzantine church on their building site.  What they discovered was the oldest known map of Palestine that gives quite in insight of the history from that time.

It was made in AD 570 and has over 157 major biblical sites from the Middle East to Egypt to Palestine.  Originally, the mosaic was 45 ft to 75 ft long and 18 ft wide.  Although much of it is missing, one can still get a sense of the beauty and significance of this work of art.

This part of the mosaic shows the River Jordan with what appears to be a bridge over it.  It just amazed me to be viewing something that was created over almost 1,500 years ago!  Can you imagine????

Today, St George’s church is Greek Orthodox.  For having such a rare piece of art in it’s center, the church itself is very humble.  I enjoyed sitting and listening to the Greek chanting that they were playing in the background.

After the visit to the church, David and I walked through the bustling town.  People were very friendly.  We walked through the market area full of little shops lining the streets.  The shops were so small that most of what they were selling was hanging on the front of their stores.  As we were wandering around the call to prayer came over the loudspeakers from the mosque.  That really gave us the feeling we were definitely in an another part of the world!

Then is was onto Amman where we were to spend the night before heading north for our final day of sightseeing.

Amman has such a rich history.  In the 1970s a Neolithic settlement from 8500 BC was found in the Ain Ghazal area in Eastern Amman.  There is the Jebel al Qala’a, known today as the Citadel.  It is the oldest inhabited part of Amman beginning in 1800 BC!!  Can you imagine?  In 283-246 BC, Amman was ruled by Ptolemy from Egypt.  The city was called Philadelphia in his honor.  In 30 BC, it fell under the Roman Empire ruled by Herod.

It was a city in decline after the fall of the Roman Empire.  In 636 AD, it was invaded by the Muslims.  It became the territory of Transjordan after the end of World War I and the break up of the Ottoman Empire.  Abdullah I of Jordan was the amir (commander or prince) around 1922.  On May 25, 1946, the country was officially recognized as an sovereign state Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan and the title of Amir was replaced with King.

Amman, like Rome, was originally built on seven hills.  Today, it has sprawled to the surrounding 20 hills mostly due to the influx of immigrants from Palestine and Syria.  There has been little urban planning to accomodate the extra population and Amman suffers a water shortage due to the new arrivals.  Today, the boarders to the north are being inundated with people fleeing from war-torn Syria.

Although I didn’t find Amman a very pretty city. I felt safe walking around and the people were very friendly.  For the most part, we didn’t have a problem communicating but then again, we were mostly in places where tourist frequented.  One of those places was Rainbow Street.  Haytham dropped us of there late one Saturday afternoon.  There Saturday is like our Sunday so most of the shops were closed.  There were several restaurants and cafes open but we weren’t hungry so just walked around.

Our last day in Jordan was a busy, busy, busy one.  We started the day out by visiting the Citadel, high on a hill in the center of the city.  It was, really, the only touristy thing we did while in Amman.   Settlement at the Citadel extends over 7,000 years.  Many different populations have inhabited the Citadel area which was primarily used as a fortress.  David and I spent over 3 hours exploring all the ruins and visiting the archeological museum they have opened to display all the ancient artifacts that have been unearthed there.  


As you enter there are tour guides who are available to take you around.  However, if you have time, I wouldn’t recommend hiring them.  I can’t remember the cost for a tour but Haytham was good about telling us before we would enter a place where the tour was offered.  Of course, the minute we stepped in, they all came running up to us and tried to get us to take a tour.  They started out at about $10 or 15 over the price that Haytham had told us.  After about three times of saying no, thank you, the price dropped down to what it was suppose to be.  I was so mad, that even if I had wanted a tour, I wouldn’t have taken one!  So, a word of caution to you….find out the price of a tour before you actually go there.  I would ask at an information desk or the hotel concierge.  They should know and tell you honestly what the price would be.  We opted not to take the tour as I had my guide book, which outlined every site.  Also, as we started walking through, we realized that each place of interest had signs with descriptions in English and Arabic.

The first impressive ruin we saw as we walked up a small incline was the Temple of Hercules (built 162-166 AD).  This temple was larger than any temples built in Rome.  There is speculation that it might not have been finished as there are no columns on the rest of the structure.  These columns would have been to the portico.  



Nearby the Temple of Hercules is the Archeology Museum. It had items dating as far back as the Stone Age over 40,000 years ago.  There were so many interesting and fragile items.  It is amazing that they have survived for so many years without getting destroyed.  One item was a swan figurine made out of a shell and ivory, from the 5th century AD

                          


There were ancient Anthropoid (person shaped) coffins made from clay.  This shape was more popular in Egypt than in Jordan and Palestine.  These coffins were found in 1966 in the Ragadan Palace in Amman.  They date from  the 13th-7th century BC.  

                                      


Also on display, were the oldest statues of the human form to be found in the world today.  It was discovered at Ain Ghazal, a settlement from the Neolithic period near Amman and are made of plaster.  It is estimated that this statue was made between 8,000-6,000 BC. 

                           

From the museum, we made our way to the ruins of the Umayyad Palace which is an example of an Islamic city from 730 AD.  It had a mosque, souk (or market place) which was located around the open courtyard or rahbah,  hammam (a Turkish bath) and the palace with a reception and throne room.   Also, in the palace were residential areas.  In 749 AD, there was a large earthquake that destroyed many of the buildings and a year later, the Abassids overthrew the Umayyad ruler.  They took over the palace and divided the residential rooms, making them much smaller. 

This is a photo of where the ruins of the mosque and the dome of the Reception Hall.  The Reception Hall was in the shape of a cross.  There was much debate as to whether it was open or had the dome.  It was finally decided that it had the dome and this current dome was reconstructed by Spanish archeologist.  




The Colonnade 
Residential Area

We even came across the ruins of a Byzantine church at the Citadel.  It was built in the 6th or 7th century.  The nave has a mosaic floor that is now covered for protection.  I love this picture as it shows variety of cultures found at the Citadel.  This is of the ruins of the Byzantine church in the foreground and the Temple of Hercules in the background. 





Next, we traveled north to Aljoun, a city that has a population of 94,450 and boast of a 600 year old mosque.  We didn’t stop in the city but went directly to the Qala’at ar-Rabad Castle that is over 1,000 years old.  It was built between 1184 and 1188. In 1214, a new gate was added in the southeastern corner.  At one point, it had seven tower.  It is an impressive sight as you are driving through the city and see it perched on the nearby hill forever protecting the city from the crusaders and other invaders over the years.  It was also part of the pigeon post, which allowed messages to be flown by pigeons from Damascus, Syria to Cairo, Egypt in a single day.

Over the years, it was destroyed and rebuilt by invaders.  However, in 1837 and 1927 mother nature did most of the damage with earthquakes.  Today, it is slowly and steadily being restored.  We spent a good hour and a half exploring this interesting place.  It amazed us how thick the walls were and how they were able to construct such a fortress back in the 1100s!



Qala’at ar-Rabad Castle

The stairwells were fun to navigate but
would never be allowed in the US!
Coffee or tea?


















From Aljoun, we traveled a little south to Jerash. What an amazing history and ruins this city has to offer!  Although it was never on a major trade route, over the years the city of Jerash has thrived because of the rich soil in the region.  As in early times, the hillsides today are full of a variety of fruit trees and plants.  The city is full of fruit stalls selling impressive figs, apples, berries, plums and most of all, olives.

Jerash has been inhabited since the Neolithic times – which began in 10,200 BC and ended between 4,000-2,000 BC.  I tell you, the history in Jordan continues to blow my mind!  It is so amazing to stand some place and know that thousands of years ago, others stood in the same place!  It was settled as a town during the reign of Alexander the Great in 333 BC.  However, for the most part, Jerash has been the creation of the Romans.  After the conquest of the city by General Pompey in 64 BC, Jerash became part of the Roman province of Syria and then became known as the city of Decapolis.

During the next two centuries, the city prospered due to trading with the Nebataeans (from Petra) and the rich agriculture of the region and the mining of iron-ore.  Jerash has one of the most amazing ancient Roman ruins in impressive condition.

Entrance into the city of ancient ruins is through the grand triumphal arch built in 129 AD to mark the importance of the visit from Emperor Hadrian.  By the 3rd century, the city had grown to 15,000-20,000 in population and was given the rank of Colony.  In 747, a catastrophic earthquake struck and began the demise of the city.  After the earthquake, the population shrank to a quarter of its former size.
In the 12th century, there was a brief time Jerash was occupied by the Crusaders but by 1878, when the Circassians from Russia arrived, the city was completely deserted.

By the time we arrived for a tour, it was late afternoon.  We had stopped for a typical Jordanian lunch,which wasn’t on our itinerary for the day.  By having lunch, we didn’t really have enough time to thoroughly enjoy the ruins.  There was just so much to absorb as our guide walked us through the sights.

This is David, myself and Haytham, our guide, in front of Hadrian’s Arch the entrance to the ruins.  It is 42 ft high.   The architectural details were beautiful and hard to believe so well preserved after all of the years they have been exposed to the elements.

Once through the arch, we walked past the Hippodrome where the chariot races were held.  Today, re-enactments of chariot races are held at the Hippodrome during the summer tourist season. I understand that it is quite an event to see with a parade of 40 legionnaires march and demonstrating their military skills.

Once past the Hippodrome, you reach the south gate and walk through to the impressive Forum area

constructed in the 1st century AD.  This picture gives you an idea of the size and the 56 beautiful columns outlining the Forum.  It is 295 feet long and 160 feet at the widest point.  This was the plaza for the city, the heart of the social and political life and the marketplace.

Rather than continue on with the narrative, I think it would be best to share as many pictures as I can with a brief description as I feel that my words can’t begin to do this majestic place justice. So, hopefully, my pictures can!

Monumental stairway leading to the Sacred Courtyard

Temple of Zeus
North Theater used for Government meetings
Learning a Bedouin dance

Herding goats among the Roman ruins.

While in Jerash, we ate a delectable

The Green Valley Restaurant

lunch! Haytham took us to the Green Valley Restaurant.












The Jordanians start their meals with mezze or appetizers. We had tabouli, baba ghanoush, salad in tahini sauce, pickles, olives and bread.  Then, came the main meal of rice, potato, veggies in tomato sauce and meat of some sort that David and Haytham ate.  All was washed down with a drink of mint and lemon juice.

Amazing bread!

The bread was incredible.  It is used to scoop up the food.  They cook it over the coals in the oven
behind the men.

Dessert was tangerines and mint tea.  It was all so yummy and I ate so much…especially the bread!

Water pipes at the restaurant.

As we were driving to the airport, Haytham told us about education in Jordan.  Children are required to go to school from the ages of 6 to 16.  At the end of high school, the student takes a final.  This will determine what they will study at the university.  The government will pay for the college education and the family of the student is responsible for expenses.  It the student doesn’t want to study what the government says they have to study, then the family needs to pay for his education.  Haytham said that after graduation, they can apply for the job but they may never get one.  Jobs go to people with connections.

Leaving Jordan at the airport, we had to pass through security before we were able to check in. It was so chaotic.  The Jordanians have no real sense of queuing.  Quite a change from living in London, where queuing originated!   Men, especially, cut in front of women, which I didn’t handle very well!

There is a separate security area for women to go through.  It was a separate, private room and I was searched by a female.

There was one lady, who was very interesting. I would have loved to have a picture of her but didn’t want to offend her.  She was traveling with several women, possibly her family, who were all wearing burkas of black robes and scarfs wrapped around their heads.  The older lady, had lines on her face that gave her such character. Her burka was a beautiful olive green, her scarf was embroider with green and gold.  Light beads, like prayer beads, slipped through her fingers.

Another interesting person was an elderly man.  He was immaculately dressed in a black suit.  Before passing through security to get to his gate, he draped his head in the popular red and white scarf, similar to what Palestinians or Arabs wear, over his head.  He was short in stature, had a very kind face and spent his time standing in line talking on a cell phone.

While our plane was en route to Dubai, a man got out of his seat, on his knees and said his prayers.

I just found Jordan such a fascinating country.  It was so full of history, the people were so friendly and welcoming.  I tried to learn a few words in Arabic.  Spelling phonetically – n

am is yes, la is no, yallah is let’s go, shokrun is thank you and salam is hello.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the word for please.  People just loved it when I said a word or two in Arabic.  I had a couple ask me if I knew Arabic!  I would smile and go through my repertoire.  I loved saying “no”….la, la, la, la!  David asked me why I learned how to say no in Arabic when I didn’t understand what it meant in English!

I so hope to return to Jordan and live there to visit more of all that it has to offer!  I would highly recommend a trip there!

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