Why I returned

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
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Trip End Oct 29, 2006


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Flag of Jordan  ,
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The key reason that I wanted to return to Jordan was to see the city of Jerash. Jerash rose to prominence in 64 CE when it became a city of the Decapolis, the commercial league of cities formed by the Roman Emperor Pompey. The entrance to the city is impressive, with the Triumphal Arch of Hadrian still standing guard after almost 2000 years.  The city is enormous, and it is estimated that 90% of the city is still unexcavated.

We had the most lovely guide, who was passionate about the city.  He lamented that 80% of tourists in Jordan only visit Petra and never make it north to Jerash.  It is definitely their loss. The city has defiantly withstood many earthquakes – with a circle of columns surrounding the spacious forum.  It evoked images of Roman traders and the sound of hawkers. Ruts in the cobbled streets are testament to the chariots that used to traffic the city

Jerash is a typical Middle Eastern city in that there are remnants of several cultures here. There is evidence that there were inhabitants before the Romans, then the Byzantines, then there were the Umayyads, the Ottomans, and finally the Chechnyans who were fleeing persecution by the Russian czars.

The most impressive part of the site is the temple of Artemis.  The temple must have been awe inspiring when it was in use.  It is simply enormous.  The columns are exquisitely carved, although the stones are a bit helter-skelter from the various earthquakes. The main amphitheater is lovely. Though the niches have long since lost their statues of the gods, the theater is for the most part intact. To my horror, Jordanian military were playing bagpipes as we entered! We were told that this is a hold-over from the time of the British mandate. Apparently a Scottish division was stationed in Jerash - and when they left, they gave the Jordanians permission to play the bagpipes. I guess this is an early example of globalization gone awry.

As we looked down at the end of the site, we could see a third amphitheater – evidence of a very rich cultural past. In the end our tour guide invited us back next year when they are going to have finished the gate at the other end of the city.
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