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May 26th 2009
Published: May 31st 2009
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DAY 44

Today is Sunday and we have the opportunity to go this mornings Mass at St. George's Church, a Greek Orthodox church. It is also famous for housing an ancient mosaic map of Jerusalem.

We dress in skirts, shirts and head scarves. Our leader said we did not need the scarves but we felt we should respect the religion as we had seen some of the local women wear them. Mass starts at 7am and goes to 10am, We get there about 8:15 and stay till 9:00. The women sit in the middles rows of pews and the men sit on the right side of the church.

The church is elaborately decorated with hanging lamps and lights, mosaics and painted pictures on the walls. The altar is hidden behind a panel of doors with only the center door opened. At times the priest will come to the door and bless the people, or comes out to carry the burning incense around the church. The entire time there is chanting. The chanters are never seen but the voices are lovely and come from speakers set on the side walls. The Mass is said in Arabic and nothing is recognizable. The priest at one time brings out a large golden book (bible?) with photos of saints on it and everyone goes up and kisses which ever of the photos they want to and return to their seats. The local people are given plastic wrapped loaves of flat bread to take home with them. The people come and go and there appears to be no set time to come to services as long as you come within the 3 hour period. All very mysterious yet a religious experience all the same.

We have opted to use our free time today to visit the Roman Ruins at Jerash, Jordan. It is an hour drive away from Madaba. What a trooper is Fran. She puts on shoes and hobbles out the door. It makes for a more leisurely walk around the ruins. No rushing around today.

This is one of the most complete and fantastic roman ruins outside of Italy. They are doing a good job of restoring this site. Walking through the Hadrians's Arch takes you back 2000 years. The arch was built to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in 129AD. The first area encountered the massive arena 245 m lx 52 m and could seat 15 000 people to watch chariot races and other sports. The city walls had a total length of 3465 m. and dates from 120 AD and the open area right in front was used as a market place.

There spacious plaza measures 90x80 m and is surrounded by a broad sidewalk and a colonnade of 1st C. Columns. There are two altars in the middle and a fountain was added in the 7th C. The Colonnaded Street is still paved with the original stones with the ruts from the chariots still visible from the 2nd century.

The Temple of Dionysus was modified in the 4th C to become a Byzantine church. The church of St. Theodore built in 496AD. There are two large theatres. The North and the South, the North built in 165 AD and held 800, in 235AD top rows were added to double the size to 1600 seats. The South theatre was built in 92AD and holds 3000 people. This is where we encountered the Arab bagpipers and the drummer. They had just started to play and Angie couldn't help but to join in and do her renditions of the Irish jig. Afterwards an older lady approached and ask if Angie was a professional Irish dancer. Well the poor lady from Belgium obviously has poor eye sight and possibly a little senile.
But that little bit of encouragement gave Angie all she needed to dance with a local tour guide. What a relief to all when she tired.!!!! And Francine recorded it all on her camcorder. Haha.

The weather is pleasant, only about 30c or 82f. And it is back in the minivan and back to Madaba. It is nice to have a view of areas of Jordan as we drive along.

We have a nice, more expensive dinner (about $10-15 USD) on alternate nights and a cheap dinner ($3-4 USD) on the other. Tonight is the better dinner and it is also Wendy's birthday. We all dress up and head off to a very nice restaurant set in a beautiful traditional stone building. We had more fried haloumi, stuffed mushrooms and a dish of chicken and potatoes. And at this restaurant we had alcohol. Angie a whiskey and Fran a shandy. We all sang happy birthday and it was a nice night.

In the North Theatre

We walk back to hotel via the bakery. Even at 9.30pm it is busy, all the hotels and other business and picking up their orders for the next day. We buy some delicious large round buns with a puree of date and touch of aniseed. Delicious and only 50c each.

Jordanian currency (Jordanian dollar JD) is more expensive. 1 JD is about $1.50 US and $2 AUS. So we are spending about twice as much. Luckily the price of goods here are about half of the cost at home and the price of food even cheaper. So we break even in the end.

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