Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jordan Tripping Amman, Jerash & Dead Sea.

7th -8th July:
Long day of 16 hours of travel and shifting time zones. Left Swansea at 11.30 on the train to Paddington - arrived around 2.30- then by tube to Heathrow to check in for Dubai. We had a four hour wait around Terminal 3 until our seven hour flight which, of course, meant a time zone shift of three hours effectively lengthening our day.
We then had to amuse ourselves for seven hours before flying on to Jordan. This meant that with the lack of sleep on the trip over the day was punctuated in periods of dozing amidst our luggage which doesn’t make for a great sense of completeness!
Arrived at Amman Airport at 4.00 p.m. to be met by our AtlasTour guide inside passport control and ushered through the routines rapidly and smoothly only to discover that our luggage was to be the last bags off the rack.

Once we were luggaged up our host introduced us to our driver, Saber, and escorted us to the Hotel where we discovered, somewhat disconcertedly,that we were the only guests for the night!! Being the sole guests meant extremely generous meals - the evening meal of chicken, rice and vegetables was bigger than we would otherwise eat as, we found the next morning, was breakfast.

9th July:
Next morning we set off to visit the first of the sites on our itinerary - the Greco-Roman city of Jerash which is on the outskirts of Amman.

We also discovered one of the advantages of touring Jordan at this time of the year.... few tour groups blocking the entrances and sites for when we arrived at Jerash there were about six cars and a mini-van in the car park.

Jerash was one of the ten important cities in the Roman Empire - the Decapolis of Philadelphia (Amman), Damascus, Gadara until the collapse of the Roman Empire.

The city ruins were entered through a triumphal arch built to honour Emperor Hadrian in 129AD into a huge oval plaza which leads into a street of columns that seems to stretch to the horizon. Along this street we could see the remains of temples to Zeus, Dionysius,Artemis and other Roman deities. The temple to Dionysius was converted to a christian church in 359AD which, to my mind, seemed an ideal god’s temple to use as a church as it inversely parallels the way some libraries have been converted to pubs in New Zealand.(Galbraith’s, in Auckland, is a good example of this sort of cultural inversion).

Beside the temple of Artemis stands the Nymphaeum built in 191AD and dedicated to the water nymphs. This building was an impressive one with niches for each representation of the nymphs in the wall opening onto the street and the remains of a fountain in its courtyard.

I explored the South Theatre of the city before heading back to the hippodrome to watch a reenactment of a Roman legion’s drills, a gladiatorial combat and a mock chariot race.

The South Theatre seats 3000 and has what appeared to be perfect acoustics as I, sitting in the top centre of the auditorium, could hear every word spoken by tourists standing on the stage and in the pit below. The theatre was being prepared for a month long cultural event with famous singers and players performing every evening under lights so there was a constant bustle of technicians and sound and light directors mixed in among the few tour groups exploring the site.

The re-enactment group was an enthusiastic presentation of Roman drill manouvres and demonstrations of fighting techniques performed by the 6th Legion of Jerash in full armour. They were followed by Gladiators from the local Gladiatorial school who demonstrated the different types of combat used in such exchanges all to loud calls from a couple of young boys of “Kill Him!! Kill Him!!” as each exchange reached its climax.
They were followed by three teams of charioteers who raced around the hippodrome at great speed in clouds of dust and loud cries of encouragement to their horses.

We left Jerash and drove,literally, down to the Dead Sea for lunch and a float in the heavily salted water. We picked our way across the hot sand and sank into the warmth of the salt lake to watch other groups liberally coat themselves with mud, let it dry into some sort of black armour then wash it off and repeat for as long as good humour held out.

Feeling the heat we retreated to the coolness of the Resort’s swimming pool before driving back to Amman and preparation for day two of our adventure.

1 comment:

workhard said...

Jordan is a beautiful place. Like the pics that u have put up..

Birth Certificate