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Published: October 26th 2017
To be sure, travel with companions is a different way to travel than my accustomed solitary own - way experience. In several ways it was a better way to go. One good thing about having experienced global travelers for company is that they have great ideas about what
P should be doing. Among them was a day tour to JERASH, highly recommended by Jordan tourist expert, family and fellow Trini, Janine. Ally and Margaret had arranged that visit to fill our Day one. It was an excellent choice.
Jerash is the site of an ancient Roman city and the well preserved Hadrian's Arch. The drive from Amman to Jerash took us past rolling hillsides covered with neat rows of olive trees, which is a major crop of Jordan. As in Egypt it is common for people to buy raw olives in the market which they cure in brine at home 10 to 14 days to their taste. We passed several roadside stalls laden with neat displays of produce in boxes, pomegranates, melongenes, tomatoes, crates of green and black olives.
Jordan is neat and tidy everywhere unless you are in the city centre where you will find the usual
noise, dust and bustle of city life. Outside the city you hardly find litter, few random plastic bottles, the roads are well marked and motorists drive according to the highway code. Here too the houses are monochrome, pale in color but without the blanket of dust seen everywhere in Egypt.
Our drive took us past several small bakeries supplying local communities with their local flat breads made in several forms. Ityhad our driver stopped at a little village bakery, with a bunch of people waiting at the doorway, to buy us an enormous piping hot flat bread the size of a paratha. That cost him 1/3 of a Jordanian Dinar ( roughly 0. 25 cents US or TT$ 1.50) and the 3 of us couldn't finish it. It tasted really good.
We visited the ruins of the 900 year old hilltop castle at Ajlun, 70 km north of Amman, still standing tall, well preserved with a dry moat and classic arches. This was our first point of use for our Jordan Pass. My companions did the interior climb while I stayed on the outskirts enjoying the quiet of the surrounding countryside. From its high ground the castle guarded
three wadis (dry valleys, the main trade and travel routes between Jordan and Syria) which descend towards the Jordan Valley, protecting the country from Crusader attacks (Christians were the terrorists of the day, using religion as a cover for economic assault).
Built by the Moslem ruler Saladdin in 1184 AD the original castle had four towers; arrow slits incorporated into the thick walls, surrounded by a moat averaging 16 meters in width and up to 15 meters in depth. In 1215 AD, the Mameluks expanded the castle, adding a tower in the southeast corner and a bridge that can still be seen decorated with pigeon reliefs.
Outside the castle we enjoyed an interaction with vendors selling tea and one man bubbling a pot of tomato choka, perfect accompaniment for our Jordanian bread! Then we were on our way to Jerash a must-see activity according to Janine. She was right.
Jerash is a sprawling Roman ruin with many well preserved features including Hadrian's Arch.
The guidebooks say it runs a close second to Petra on the list of favorite destinations in Jordan, boasting an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back 6500 years to the
Bronze Age. Jerash lies on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins. Conquered by General Pompey in 63BC, it was one of the ten great Roman cities of the world Decapolis League. Under Roman rule, known as Gerasa, it enjoyed its Golden Age and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world.
Like so many desert ruins it lay hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, revealing paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls.....HOWEVER NONE OF THAT could match today's star power and attraction, Nefertiti and Cleopatra of the West. They were mobbed by a large group of school girls on an educational visit to this venerable site. The children refused to go away, entranced by today's guests, Alison and Margaret of Trinidad and Tobago! They were hugged, they were jostled over for a seat next to them, they wanted us to repeat Arabic words they said, they giggled, they sang, they asked us to sing, they were into lipstick, they besieged us with
questions, do you know Justin Bieber, can you say my name, what is your name, can we take your photo.......
And so it went for the better part of half an hour, which their teachers indulged. Amphitheaters, arches of triumph, colonnades, Roman columns stood unnoticed. It was a treat to meet the fresh young faces of today's Jordanian girls now entering their teens. We found out that wearing the hijab was their choice, a couple girls said they wouldn't wear it, a couple others said they would soon start wearing it but most seemed to think they would start at age 20, and they wanted to. When it was finally time to go we exchanged hugs and kisses a plenty. What a delightful and memorable encounter!
Ityhad took us to a souvenir shop selling genuine (I. E. not made in China) souvenirs, proceeds would go to help refugees from Syria and Palestine etc. Prices at the shop were higher than at our roadside shops near the hotel, so hopefully the refugees really will be helped.
We closed off this day with a drive by beneath the huge walls of the Citadel near our hotel the Burj al-Arab,
then a stroll to the other Roman ruins close by, watching citizens out in the cool of evening as darkness fell. Went to the nearby farmers Market and made a purchase, 2 kilos of mixed olives. Which were later seized and taken from me at Cairo Airport as I boarded flight to JFK. @#%$$!!
Tomorrow we head to Petra.
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