23 October 2012

Jerash and Ajloun

I am incredibly behind on my Jordan blogging but since I returned from the trip with only enough time to do laundry and repack before leaving for another trip, I forgive myself. I was pretty excited to help plan a conference in Jordan which required my presence. Tickets to Jordan from DC are not cheap so work trip plus a few vacation days = steeply discounted vacation! Sarah joined me for a few days and I think we managed to pack in many of Jordan's highlights in just a couple days; starting with Jerash and Ajloun.

Hadrian's Arch

Hadrian got around...an arch here, a wall in Scotland...
The main gate looks easier to side step than those alarms at Payless
Jerash was an adventure before we even got there. When we asked at the hotel for a car to take us the less than 50 kilometer drive, we were told that a car to/from with a driver who would wait a whole three hours would run us 75 JD ($106-Jordan's one of those countries where we lose on the exchange). Sarah was having none of that so instead we took at 5 JD cab to the bus stop where, while waiting for the bus, found a cab driver who would take us both all the way to Jerash for only 12 JD.

Pillar of some sort

South gate and road into the forum

Zeus Temple

We did a lot more walking than we intended to. The cab dropped us off as the visitor's center which is near the South Gate-unfortunately tickets are sold in the market below Hadrian's Arch-so we did a lot of walking back and forth until we finally found the ticket booth. Why you can't buy them at the visitor's center is beyond me.

The whole site is quite large and spread out. Even though we had water I was pretty convinced I was going to die of thirst before we made our way out. Lauren mocked me when I complained of the desert heat but she's all conditioned to it now. Plus there was almost no shade and we all know how very very white I am.

Zeus Temple again

I like pillars
The view from the Zeus Temple was great and we could see the oval forum in its entirety. It's always amazing to me when I visit city ruins how dependent much of the world has become on cities. Jerash, like many ancient cities, held a couple temples, a couple churches, a theatre, baths, and large common areas like the forum where people could gather for-why ever they needed to gather. Presumably the majority of people lived outside the main area of the city. I guess it's kind of like the American mid west-except even my homevillage has a coffee house now.

Oval forum
Entrance to the South Theatre
In order to demonstrate the superior construction quality of the theatre which gave it such great acoustics, a roving bagpiper and drummer, in Jordanian military regalia, play in the theatre on and off during the day. Bagpipes? you ask...why yes, apparently. According to Sarah's very informative guidebook, the British Empire left behind some very interesting traditions-including a bagpiping army.

Theatre stage

Sarah's very good with putting up with my moaning as I'm pretty sure that, by the time we left the theatre and crossed through the forum to main road, I was probably already predicting death by dehydration. However I bravely pushed on, largely since Sarah promised that we didn't have to walk all the way to the North Gate.

Main road with Zeus Temple in the background
This was also my first opportunity to use my brand new super wide angle lens. It was very exciting. Sadly I'm not as practiced as my little brother so I had to actually stop and stand still every time I thought I needed to switch lenses. Brian can walk and talk and chew gum all while changing lenses.

One day...one day...

Along the main road
Right about here I realized that (old ruined Jerash) was probably larger than the village where I lived until I was 22. And hotter. I blame the heat on not only on Jordan being a giant desert, but because genius Romans built the city with such pale stones. So when that burning desert sun is directly overhead and there are no clouds or shade to hide in the ruins were like an inferno.

It as very Dante-also tangent: have you ever wondered why the Seventh Circle is guarded by a Minotaur? Do people really want to get in?

I so wanted there to be water there so I could cool off
Naturally the sight of these seemingly endless stairs up to the Athena Temple was not something I greeted with glee. Those are a lot of steps and there are even more than you can see because once you got to the 'top' there were yet more.
Main entrance to the Athena Temple
But once we did get to the top and saw the Athena Temple I had to admit that it was worth the climb. Even though that middle pillar on the left sways in the wind. That's a little concerning.
Athena Temple
After refreshing ourselves at the Athena Temple we headed back down those horrible stairs and out of Jerash to have lunch. At the restaurant the host kindly arranged another cab for us which would take us to Ajloun, a nearby castle, and then back to Amman.

Ajloun Castle

Sarah has a mission to visit 12 castles in 2012 and since she was not country specific when she set her mission, this totally counted. Supplementing her excellent guidebook was our taxi driver, Abdulhameed who gave us a tour of the castle.

Wonder how hard it was to put in the wiring for the lights?

More stairs. Slippery stone stairs. Yippee
Granted since he didn't speak much English at all it was a silent tour. The only silent tour I've ever had come to think. He walked in front guiding us through the various rooms and outdoor areas, gesturing at things we might find interesting.

As castles go I suppose it wasn't the most fascinating one we could have visited. I mean, there were no flying broomstick lessons or anything. 

Still it was a nice little side trip. Not only did it add to Sarah's castle count but we also found out that Abdulhameed drove people to Petra. So for 60JD, instead of the 150 the hotel quoted us, we got a private ride to Petra that left from our hotel at a time we designated...and not on a bus that leaves from a station not too near our hotel at 6:30 AM.

View from the top of Ajloun Castle

 Up next...Petra!!

1 comment:

Mia said...

What a great trip! It's nice to remember that things can work out when you're willing to have an adventure.