Jerash and back, with lettuce.

Trip Start Nov 30, 2007
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Trip End Jan 17, 2008


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Flag of Jordan  ,
Monday, January 7, 2008

The hotel had listed a number of trips available, but nobody else seemed interested, so I wound up on my own, and decided to do the daytrip to Jerash. Jerash was a Roman city, part of the Decapolis League (a group of semi-independent cities) and was qute prosperous back in the day.

The ruins of Jerash are well-preserved, and the organizers make a big deal of reconstructing parts of it; many of the major structures either have been done, or will be rebuilt. I'm sort of torn; on one hand, the rebuilt stuff is less authentic than the original, but it's also a lot better to see structures rather than piles of rocks.

The main highlights of the site strted with the Hadriatic Arch, a massive and ornate triumphal arch built for a visit by the emperor Hadrian. An unusual large round plaza -- finally, with Ionic columns rather than Corinthian capitals! connected the arch with the Temple of Zeus and the Cardo (the main north-south road). The temple was lqargely unreachable, but the theatre nearby was open, and in fine shape. Three members of the Arab Guard were playing pipe and drum on and off in the theatre; "Scotland The Brave", amusingly.

There were a few small churches from the Byzantine era on the site as well, but most of them were still in ruins -- those don't bring in the tourist buck, maybe? I wandered the ruins of (I think) the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, and saw some wonderful patches of mosaic -- mostly gone, but the edges remained and were beautiful. I refrained from grabbing some loose mosaic stones, but only barely.

From there, it was over to the Temple of Artemis, the largest structure on the site, with beautiful columns still standing. I wandered back along the cardo to the entrance and looked for a ride back to Amman.

The ride back was the best (since I survived) taxi ride I think I've taken. I wound up as the only passenger in a microbus, for 4 JD, about $6 (a 45 km trip). The driver, Omar, didn't speak English, but that didn't stop him from talking. I tried to put on a seatbelt, but it wasn't working, and Omar assured me that Arabs don't wear them. It didn't help that the next thing he did was weave all over the road while searching the dash and glovebox for cassettes, eventually settling on a Qu'ranic recitaton played at unreasonable volume and him aswering along with the crowd on the tape. A few minutes later, he pulled over to the side of the road -- to buy Romaine lettuce from a vendor. He handed me one, and started to rip off the outside leaves, and then eat the stems of the inside leaves, throwing the rest of them outside the window. He indicated  should follow suit, so we rolled down the highway, driving unsafely and throwing lettuce out the window. After that, we came up a ridge and I started taking pictures of the vibrant sunset. He pulled on a side road to an out-of-the-way viewpoint, and I got to take a few nice shots. On the way back into Amman, with the Qu'ran blasting, he started talking about religion and politics (I generally refrained, especially since I couldn't speak Arabic). At one point, he indicated he had Saddam Hussein in his heart. It was just the most bizarre set of events.

I'm finishing this up in an internet cafe (found a good one, yay!) before heading to my (freezing) hotel room for some shut-eye. I took a cab to the 'burbs (and then two back, because cabbies don't know anything, and/or I can't pronounce anything) and had a meal of... chinese food! Awesome! I was totally craving it, and now I'm full of rice and soy sauce and MSG and toffee banana.
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