God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Moses, Crusaders and Romans--A Time Capsule


Sometimes I am struck by the irony of calling things "old" in the United States. Our old is so not old in terms of recorded civilizations, history and what is known about man. Granted, there may be unknowns, unexplored treasures hidden in places not found, but where that may be is mysterious. We just don't go back very far.

As I write this post, I am awed by Jordan and what we experienced in our short 3 days there--Petra with the Nabataean civilization going back at least to the 1st century BC; the King's Highway an ancient route mentioned in the Biblical book of Numbers and traversed for centuries and centuries by travelers and traders of the ancient worlds; Mt. Nebo where Moses stood while God laid before him the Promised Land which he could not enter; the Crusaders' Fortress of Kerak built in the 12th century but a place that was historical Moab at the time of the exodus (13th or 15th century BC), the ruins of the Roman/Islamic citadel in Amman, the incredibly preserved and complete ancient Roman ruins of Jerash--one of the most comprehensive Roman ruins we have visited in our travels and, finally, Amman itself which was the home of the Old Testament Ammonites captured by David in the 10th century B.C. All of this within less than a day's drive of each other. These places are old!

We left Petra early in the morning as we wanted to take the longer route--the King's Highway--back to Amman. We were enthralled by the landscape as we tried to imprint the past on what we saw. As the picture above shows, this is desolate, desert, dry country. It is part of where Moses and his people wandered for 40 years. Now there are Bedouins eking out what to us appears to be subsistence living. The land seems no more hospitable now than it was when manna fell from the skies and yet, the Bedouins resist government efforts to dislodge them from their heritage. Their history is their DNA.

Our first stop was the crusaders' Kerak fortress, another fascinating first for us. We all know of the crusades, crusaders, atrocities and motivations of those times; however, we had never really seen a Crusador fortress and that is definitely what this was. It was large, complex, built of huge stones, situated on a hill overlooking the countryside, pretty impenetrable by enemy forces. We clamored around it for a while, climbing steep steps and exploring dark, dungy rooms.

Next, at a small village, Bashar, our driver/guide, stopped and bought sandwiches and food for a picnic. Along the road, not too long after this stop, there was a man with a small tent, table and chairs. This was our picnic setting. I will admit we were a little hesitant to eat the sandwiches as they were mostly vegetables with dressing type sauce and the shop from which they came really didn't inspire confidence; however, we knew that it would be terribly culturally impolite to refuse Bashar's offering. The reality was that the sandwiches were good and we remained quite healthy.

I am sure that this is a traditional stop for Bashar as the Bedouin had handcrafted jewelry and other items for sale which, of course, we bought. Where and when else would we have such an opportunity and they clearly would offer us good memories when back in rather mundane San Diego. This is where I took one of my all time favorite Casey pictures--one of those moments when by sheer accident the stars aligned for perfection.


From here we traveled down the King's Highway to the town of Madaba which has a very old Christian church with a famous mosaic floor. This town was the Old Testament Moabite town of Medaba. We spent a few minutes there and then traveled on to Mt.Nebo. 

I had really looked forward to this part of the trip but it was not what I had anticipated. I had in my mind's eye a high, majestic mountain looking over plains far below on all sides. It wasn't as high as I anticipated and with the construction on the churches, the fencing and other obstructions plus people (although not what it might be in better times) there was not the time for reflection nor were there the vistas that I would have liked. Because it was very hazy that day--which I understand is not unusual, we could not see Jerusalem in the distance and could barely make out Jericho which is not too far below. We could look in the direction of Jerusalem and so ended with at least a sense of the topography.

By this time we were tired--it had been a long day and we were ready for the hotel--which was an interesting experience in and of itself. For reasons I do not understand, Ahmed (remember he who planned our trip) decided we needed an end of trip treat and so had us staying at the Hotel Intercontinental--where the ritzy, jet-set, diplomates 1% stay. We didn't see what their rooms would have looked like, I might add, but I am sure ours was not one of them.

When we arrived at the hotel, there were blockades across the portico, requiring all vehicles to stop and have major security scrutiny including running detectors and mirrors under the car--reminiscent of when we crossed Checkpoint Charley in the days of the Berlin Wall. Having passed inspection, Bashar was allowed to park and help us and our luggage into the hotel.

The hotel had 3 restaurants...fancy, more fancy and Mexican. We opted for Mexican in Jordan to compliment our Italian and Indian in Egypt. Much to our surprise it was pretty good--almost like home.

Next and Finally: Roman Ruins and Home.


B.J. Greenwald said...

Dripping envy here. Jane, the mosaics in Madaba were from when? They are quite magnificent! I just love your blog, as you might have guessed!

Mindy said...

I'm loving these posts Jane!!!!!!

sandrac said...

What an incredible experience this must have been. I can't even imagine seeing a fortress from the days of the crusaders. And such a great photo of Casey!