Our last day we were not going to be beset with boredom as we had more to do--a city tour of Amman, visiting the citadel and finally, to end our time, exploring the amazingly preserved Roman city of Gerasa known today as Jerash. I need to thank my friend Liz for encouraging us to go to Jerash as we had about decided that we would be too exhausted by the end of our trip and, having been to many ancient Roman ruins in many countries, we thought we could bypass this one. Liz, whose pictures in the link above far surpass ours, convinced us otherwise. Thank goodness.
Amman is one of the most ancient cities in the Middle East with archeological finds dating back to the Neolithic period and permanent structures appearing in 3200-2300 B.C. and fortifications beginning in 2200. In Biblical history it was Rabbath Ammon "the great city of the Ammonites." Somewhere around 250 B.C. it was renamed Philadelphia. Eventually through many upheavals, conquering and annexing, it became part of the Roman Empire--as did most of the known world.
To begin: the tour of Amman was not very detailed but interesting. The homes of the super, super (really super) wealthy are as impressive, well more so, as any we see in La Jolla or other rich American enclaves. Of course, we are talking about Middle East wealth which is rather often beyond the pale. In fact, most of these homes were summer or part time residences maintained by the housekeepers, gardeners, cooks, and such. One of the interesting features is that they all are built of white stone--very monochromatic but beautiful.
But, the west has arrived there in the form of huge, high-end malls with the same ubiquitous stores as one finds in malls anywhere. One had opened just days before we arrived and women were leaving with shopping bags sporting logos with which we are all quite familiar--the same as you find in New York, San Diego, Rome, Beijing, the world over. Of course, walking along side the road were the people leading donkeys, women wearing long burkas and trailing behind the men. The juxtaposition of life is eye opening. There is a lot of construction in areas which seem dominated by international businesses. Jordan is solvent and growing.
From the tour we headed to the ancient hill known as the citadel or acropolis which is right in the city of modern Amman. During Roman rule, there were the typical buildings and grid layout found in Roman cities everywhere. Today there is little left of that history but some pillars and slabs except for a remarkable theater--one of the best preserved in the world. For a fleeting moment, I thought maybe we could take Casey to the opera.)
After the Romans came a Byzantine period with churches and a large cathedral, converted into a Great Mosque at the time of the Arab conquest. By the time of the middle ages, there wasn't much going on there. For me, though, more interesting than the remnants of buildings and known history was the quite small museum which had fascinating finds from neolithic tombs and buried lives. Sometimes when going to museums in the United States we see such things; however, they take on new and different meaning and understanding when they are in the land to which they belong. All of a sudden, people from millennia in the past become real.
And then finally--Jerash--a great way to close out two very exciting, wonderful, memorable weeks. It is hard to imagine all that we did in those few days.
Gerasa was the site of the Macedonian Greek colony established by Alexander the Great when he conquered the area in 334 B.C. (a little history lesson there.) Eventually it became a strategic point in the large caravan trade and became a true urban center. In the process it morphed into several different names, including Antiochia (Antioch.) Eventually the Romans descended and made it theirs and prosperous. It was transformed into "a planned, architecturally city typical of the Roman East." (Jordan, Past and Present.) Eventually Trajan and Hadrian both left their marks until finally it became an important center for Christianity. Within the Roman ruins that dominate Jerash, there are remnants of Christian churches.
Casey had a serendipity event in the ruins which added fun for all of us. As the three of us were exploring rooms within walls, we heard Italian. There was an Italian couple who had hired an Italian speaking guide as they entered the ruins. We sort of hung back and listened, encouraging Casey to make himself known which eventually he gathered up the courage to do (believe it or not, Casey is shy.) They were totally astounded, of course, to hear this boy who had been speaking English with his parents, suddenly start speaking to them in perfect Italian. Soon they invited Casey to walk along with them. We assured them that we did not speak the language and were not trying to piggyback on their guide. So, we went our way and they went theirs--with us always within eye sight of where the four of them were.
Casey loved it and so did the Italian man who virtually ignored his wife from then on as he focused on this amazing American lad. They all had nothing but praise for his Italian and were amazed.
Back to Jerash--it truly is worth going to. So many Roman ruins are in piles of stone. Of course, there are piles of stone at Jerash but there are still haunting clues as to what was once there. The other interesting thing is how modern Jerash surrounds the Roman town and looks down upon it. New and old are one.
So ended our time. Bashar deposited us back at our hotel, tired, happy and overwhelmed by what we had seen and done. That night we needed to pack and prepare for an 11:00 PM pick up as our plane was leaving at 1:00 AM (as in the morning.) We decided to have an early meal at the Mexican restaurant again as we thought we would try to rest and sleep--what a bizarre thought that was. Of course, we didn't.
And so began a long, arduous, never to be repeated trip home. We had been up for 18 hours. Ahead of us were 28 more hours before arriving in San Diego--Amman, to Frankfurt, to Denver to San Diego. By the time we hit our very own bed, it had been 48 hours since getting out of bed in Amman for our last full day of adventure. Amazingly, we were up the next morning and feeling good--no jet lag then or in the days to come. But....I never, ever, ever want to repeat that trip home...then again, it is a small price to pay for adventure and seeing marvels of this world. Yep, would do it again if it were the only way. You?
Bashar Herzalla--great driver in Jordan firstname.lastname@example.org
Bashar Herzalla--great driver in Jordan email@example.com