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Published: April 30th 2018
Not having been in the Middle East since 2007 when my youngest daughter and I travelled alone through all of Egypt, my adventures this time begin in Jordan. This is our third day here, in an immensely interesting country that is not on most travellers' top lists of places to visit. On our first day here one other female traveller and I arrived in Amman very early in the wee hours of Sunday morning after over 24 hours of travel; long flights with an almost equally long layover at Heathrow made for an inconveniently late arrival time for me, but even being tired I was unable to sleep well that night. I was relieved that I was not the only one arriving so late; now there were two of us belatedly meeting the rest of our group and our guide, Osama, after breakfast later that same morning. All the others had met the day before, and were at least familiar with each other's faces.
Sunday was a busy day, just the way I like any trip to be. We visited Amman's impressive Citadel, with its Islamic, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine ruins. This area of the world is certainly a crossroads and intersection of many cultures and faiths. Climbing into the ancient Roman amphitheater was surprising in seeing its enormity up close. 5,000 people gathered and sat here! Three-tiered seats faced the stage, and all were able to hear as the acoustics were marvelously constructed. I wished for a performace to more fully experience this arena, but that did not present itself.
We walked through the old section of downtown Amman, successfully crossing busy streets by pure divine intervention. Lunch at Tawaheen Al-Hawa was a wonder; so much excellent, delicious food was served that we asked if Jordanians ate this way every lunchtime. No, it was Easter, and extended families, all beautifully dressed, met to celebrate the day with feasting. Felafel, hummus, an eggplant creation, moussaka, tabouli, salads of all kinds, this enormous feast astonishingly followed by the entrees and then dessert: this was certainly the best first meal I've ever had with any travel group. (I don't eat breakfast.) Dinner, while not fancy, was also incredibly wonderful. We walked downtown to eat at the Hamesh Restaurant, world famous for its felafel, known as the best in Jordan, and served to the Royal family. This was day one, an active, golden, warm, exotic, delicious, perfect start to this trip. Our group seemed quite cohesive and friendly; I was very pleased.
On Monday we explored Jerash, the world's best preserved and most complete Greco-Roman city. It should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but somehow it isn't quite on the list yet. Here we saw the massive hippodrome, Hadrian's Arch, and walked through the only Roman oval plaza ever built. The long Roman avenue, the Cardo, is a masterpiece of architecture. While we were there admiring and exploring the temples and Byzantine churches, hundreds of schoolchildren welcomed us to Jordan, practicing their emerging English, saying "Hello! What's your name?", and wanting to take photos with us. They liked my hair and wanted to touch it; pale blondes and silvers must be astonishing if one is used to only seeing head coverings and black-haired people. I was hijacked by groups of schoolchildren so often that my new friends began to watch out for me to make sure I didn't get too separated from our group. This was certainly a kindness as Jerash was mobbed that day by thousands of people, mostly groups of curious and exuberant schoolchildren, and after my finally escaping their clutches, frequently I could not find my group. But all ended well and we all left together.
Another lovely, massive lunch, this time in Jerash, and then we headed further north to Ajlun, not only to visit the famous Saracen castle, but also to see the area where Osama lives. Dinner tonight was in the home of a local family, a simple affair where the women sat at a table while the men ate at their chairs. It grew late and the children were put to bed, but the men continued to enjoy discussing politics ad nauseum, while a few of us ladies tried very hard not to be rude and fall asleep in the house of our hosts, or perhaps it was only I who was projecting my own jetlag and tiredness onto the others. In any case, I was happy to finally leave. I slept very well that night.
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