19th Oct 2012 - 21st Oct 2012 - Egypt & Jordan
The final few days of the trip saw us heading to the Jordanian capital Amman. En route, we stopped at Mount Nebo, believed to be the site of Moses’ death. There is a memorial church at the top, along with a couple of mosaics and, on a clear day, fantastic views over Jordan, the Dead Sea and into Israel – Jericho and Jerusalem. Unfortunately, there was a lot of haze and so we couldn’t see quite as far as Jerusalem. A short way from there, we stopped at a workshop supporting disabled people, who were making mosaics. Finally, around lunchtime, we arrived in Amman. We checked in to the hotel but didn’t stay long as we were soon back out and driving north to the former Roman city of Jerash.
These are some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the region, largely built in the 1st Century AD for Emperor Hadrian, although the original foundations were built by the Greeks in the 4th Century BC. Outside the city is Hadrian’s Gate, built in 129AD, which had a Corinthian’s head at both the top and bottom of the column, showing extra respect to the Emperor. Just outside the city is also a hippodrome which used to be able to seat 15,000. Entrance to the city was then through a smaller arch, the South Gate. Just inside the city is now a museum, followed by the Temple of Zeus and then the Forum. This is the Oval Plaza, shaped in such a way to make people keep walking after entering the city. This is the heart of the city and is surrounded by columns on all sides. There are over 9,000 pillars throughout the city giving rise to the nickname “the city of pillars”, of which 68 were in the Oval Plaza. During the Roman times there were between 30-35,000 pillars. Beside the Forum, is the South Theatre, an amphitheatre that currently seats 3,500 although it used to have a second tier and would then seat 5,000. To demonstrate the acoustics, there are Jordanian bagpipers who belt out music at random intervals.
Further through the city, we saw the ruins of a church, again with a large mosaic on the floor and then the Temple of Artemis. This was the most important building in the city, and consequently the largest, because the Goddess Artemis, daughter of Zeus, was the God of the city. Sadly, large parts of the city were destroyed in the large earthquake in 749. From the north of the city, we walked back down the Cardo Maximus, the colonnaded Main Street, back to the Forum and then to the entrance of the site. As this was the last night of the tour, we had our farewell dinner at a rooftop restaurant, complete with a few cheeky cocktails. The group began to split up pretty soon as some had early flights and so Georgia, Dawnda and Sube all left dinner early to get their cabs. And then, I was roommate-less.
By the next morning, a lot of the group had left for the airport with most of the rest due to depart by lunch. This left just Robyn and I with an extra day in Amman, so we went out to see the city together. First stop was the Citadel, high up on a hill. The Citadel consisted of a Temple to Hercules, built between AD161-80 although only a few columns remain, the National Archaeological Museum, housing hundreds of artefacts and the Umayyad Palace, dating from around AD720 and consisting of a Colonnaded Street, Cistern, Basilica and a Mosque. There were also panoramic views of the whole city and from there you can clearly see just how many mosques are present. It also made for an impressive surround sound system when the Call to Prayer happens. We walked down from the Citadel, past the Roman Forum and up to Rainbow Street. This is the same street we’d had dinner on the previous night and apart from restaurants is also home to many embassies including the Saudi Embassy which had a ridiculous display of gun power outside it. It is also the street where the King was born.
Robyn wanted to buy some presents for her sons, so we took a taxi over to the main shopping area and had a look around. For a conservative Muslim country, some of the clothes and in particular the underwear on display in the shops seemed very hypocritical. We decided to walk back to the hotel, which took us around 45-60 minutes so we treated ourselves to a couple of hours rest in the afternoon. That evening, we headed out again for dinner, having asked the hotel for directions to some respectively priced places. We walked for 10 minutes following their directions and ended up back at the main shopping area, so we had clearly taken a very scenic route during the afternoon!
The next morning we were both flying home but not until the afternoon/evening so I was not impressed to be woken up by the Call to Prayer swiftly followed by a set of church bells. At least it was the last day though! Robyn and I decided to head out in a direction we hadn’t yet explored but there wasn’t really anything to look at apart from about 7 or 8 armed police cars outside a building that we couldn’t quite decide if it was a bank or a court house. It was clearly important whatever it was! Soon after, it was time to head to the airport and the end of my trip.