Monday, February 28, 2011


Monday, December 5th, 2005 Jerash, ancient city

Our morning wakeup call came at 6:30 am. By 8 am we were on the bus and headed out of Amman on the King’s Highway to visit the City of Jerash located to the north and about an hour’s distance. It is also the hometown of Samur and we had the opportunity to meet one of his daughters who worked at one of the venues that we visited during the day. Along the way we saw the University of Philadelphia; so the name still survives today. And we thought it was only in Pennsylvania.

Jerash has been compared to Pompeii for its fine state of preservation and to Ephesus in Turkey for the quality and quantity of ruins. One of our group, who’d been to Ephesus, agreed that it was indeed as good if not better than the Turkey site. I told Jim that now he doesn’t need to go to Turkey! (I don’t think he agreed and yes, we did visit Ephesus on our trip to Greece and Turkey in 2007.) We saw Hadrian’s Arch, the Nymphaeum, temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis, and several theaters and churches laid out along colonnaded streets. We walked in the second century before the birth of Christ as we strolled for two hours through this magnificent archaeological site.

While we were standing at the top of the Amphitheater, yes we always climb to the top for the view; we enjoyed Paul’s singing from the “sweet spot” that Samur had shown him. We could hear him singing and Samur speaking very clearly as though they had a microphone. For our entertainment (and a few tips) we had several costumed guards playing bag pipes.

We also enjoyed a show from the Roman Era that demonstrated the battle techniques of Roman soldiers, some gladiators fighting and two horse drawn chariots racing around the arena. From the arena we walked to a local restaurant and enjoyed lunch before hiking back to the bus.

We were late arriving at the school of Father Joseph in Anjara; but had an opportunity to see the school children still on site and visit the church to see the beautiful mosaic on the walls of the church. This church is famous and considered a pilgrimage church as they come to see the life-size wooden statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. It is believed that Jesus Christ and his disciples including the Virgin Mary passed through Anjara once and rested in a cave there during a journey between Jerusalem and Galilee. The mosaics tell the story of that visit. Pope John Paul II visited this very site on his tour of the Holy Site of the Middle East in 2000.

Our next site was the Saracens’ castle at Ajiun. Saladin built this twelfth century castle during his campaign to drive the Crusaders from Jordan in 1189. Located much higher in the mountains, the women shivered and shook from the cold weather as we wandered through the beautifully preserved castle with galleries, towers, staircases and many chambers forming a medieval maze to enjoy. But, coats would have been nice! We all thought that Samur was dressed with more layers than necessary when he arrived this morning and now we knew why.

By 3 pm we were at a olive press company where local farmers bring their olives to be pressed for the oil. Definitely not a typical tourist site but they were very gracious in allowing us to see the process from start to finish. Sixteen liters of olive oil costs $75.00. Later we stopped along the highway at a small roadside press designed to split the raw olive so that the locals could then process them for eating. Kevin agreed to bite into one…tasted very bitter he said!

Heading back in the late afternoon we enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the highway outside of Amman overlooking the Jordan River and Dam (we tried to find the green glow just as the sun dips but no one saw it). Noticed a farmer plowing his field with a horse; very labor intensive country. We had a brief respite and time to get ready for our home visit dinner this evening after arriving at the hotel.

This evening we drove to a private home located in an industrial area of Amman for dinner. On the way there we passed by the hotels that had recently been attacked by terrorists. All were up and running again. Our guide said he’d had dinner in the very restaurant where the wedding party was bombed only a week before the tragic events. Hotels now have installed concrete barricades to prevent cars from driving to the front of the hotels. The security at all hotel entrances has been beefed up also and they are very serious about checking those that enter the lobby.

Our home visit was to the home of an employee of the tour company. The husband works by running errands for the company; therefore they have very limited income. They spoke very little English, so Samur translated for us. They have eight children and are very poor. There is no furniture in the home. We sat on pads around the walls. Her table was a sheet of plastic laid on the floor and she knelt there as she served us our dinner. The fourteen year old daughter carried the plates to each of us and we ate on our laps. After dinner we toured the apartment and found that the beds were also pads on the floors. The only “furniture” was a refrigerator. But, everything was extremely clean and freshly painted. This was very different from our home visit in Egypt; but probably more rewarding in that we felt that we were really helping them by providing the family an opportunity to earn some money plus the few hostess gifts that we’d brought with us to give to the family.

A short bus ride back to our home away from home brought our third day in Jordan to an end. Tomorrow we travel to Petra in the desert.

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