First full day in Jordan: Jerash and Dead Sea

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Middle East » Jordan
March 7th 2020
Published: March 8th 2020
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Our first full day in Jordan with Talal, our leader, and Oust, our junior leader (he is training to be a leader), and our driver, Mamoud. During our Jordan trip we have the same bus, same driver, wifi on the bus, and filtered water. Yeah - I love it. And they are not so aggressive here about paying for a toilet - at least not yet. I heard there is panic buying of toilet paper in California (because of Coronavirus), and my friend Brian jokingly asked me "If they let you back in the country, bring us some toilet paper". Is it really that bad?

This morning we visited Jerash. The drive there is beautiful: rolling hills, agriculture, lots of vegetable and fruit stands near the road. There are tons of pomegranates around here and I had fresh pomegranate juice at Jerash.

Jerash is the site of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as Antioch on the Golden River. Ancient Greek inscriptions from the city support that the city was founded by Alexander the Great and his general Perdiccas, who allegedly settled aged Macedonian soldiers there during the spring of 331 BC, when he left Egypt and crossed Syria en route to Mesopotamia. However, other sources, namely the city's former name of "Antioch on the Chrysorrhoas, point to a founding by Seleucid King Antioch IV, while still others attribute the founding to Ptolemy II of Egypt.

After the Roman conquest in 63 BC, Jerash and the land surrounding it were annexed to the Roman province of Syria, and later joined the Decapolis league of cities. The historian Josephus mentions the city as being principally inhabited by Syrians, and also having a small Jewish community. In AD 106, Jerash was absorbed into the Roman province of Arabia, which included the city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman). The Romans ensured security and peace in this area, which enabled its people to devote their efforts and time to economic development and encouraged civic building activity.

Jerash is considered one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy. And is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the "Pompeii of the Middle East" or of Asia, referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation.

Jerash was the birthplace of the

South Gate - Hadrian's
mathematician Nicomachus of Gerasa (Greek: Νικόμαχος) (c. 60 – c. 120 AD).

In the second half of the 1st century AD, the city of Jerash achieved great prosperity. In AD 106, the Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the province, and more trade came to Jerash. The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129–130. The triumphal arch (or Arch of Hadrian) was built to celebrate his visit.

Jerash flourished during the Greco and Roman periods until the mid-eighth century CE, when the 749 Galilee earthquake destroyed large parts of it, while subsequent earthquakes contributed to additional destruction. However, in the year 1120, Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin, atabeg of Damascus ordered a garrison of forty men stationed in Jerash to convert the Temple of Artemis into a fortress. It was captured in 1121 by Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, and utterly destroyed. Then, the Crusaders immediately abandoned Jerash and withdrew to Sakib (Seecip); the eastern border of the settlement.

Jerash was then deserted until it reappeared by the beginning of the Ottoman rule in the early 16th century. In the census of 1596, it had a population of 12 Muslim households. However, the archaeologists have found a small Mamluk hamlet in the Northwest Quarter<sup

Me at South Gate
id="cite_ref-8" class="reference"> which indicates that Jerash was resettled before the Ottoman era. The excavations conducted since 2011 have shed light on the Middle Islamic period as recent discoveries have uncovered a large concentration of Middle Islamic/Mamluk structures and pottery. The ancient city has been gradually revealed through a series of excavations which commenced in 1925, and continue to this day.

Remains in the Greco-Roman Jerash include:

• Numerous Corinthiancolumns
• The Tetrapylon of Jerash
Hadrian's Arch
• The circus/hippodrome
• The two large temples (dedicated to Zeus and Artemis)
• The nearly unique oval Forum, which is surrounded by a fine colonnade,
• The long colonnaded street or cardo
• Two theatres (the Large South Theatre and smaller North Theatre)
• Two communal baths, and a scattering of small temples
• A large Nymphaeum fed by an aqueduct
• An almost complete circuit of city walls
• A water powered saw millfor cutting stone
• Two large bridges across the nearby river.

The Dead SeaI've been looking forward to this - floating in the Dead Sea. They recommend that you don't get the water in your eyes or mouth. I accidently got some in my mouth and it tastes dreadful. You really can just lie back and float. We all got a mud bath too. You smear the mud on and let it dry, then scrub if off. My skin felt great afterwards.
The Dead Sea (Hebrew: יָם הַמֶּלַח Yam ha-Melah lit. Sea of Salt; Arabic: البحر الميت‎ Al-Bahr al-Mayyit or Buhayrat, Bahret or Birket Lut, lit. "Lake/Sea of Lot") is a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.

Its surface and shores are 430.5 metres (1,412 ft) below sea level, Earth's lowest elevation on land. It is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2%!((MISSING)in 2011), it is one of the world's saltiest bodies of water – 9.6 times as salty as the ocean – and has a density of 1.24 kg/litre, which makes swimming similar to floating. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea's main, northern basin is 50 kilometres (31 mi) long and 15 kilometres (9 mi) wide at its widest

The Cardo, the main street
The Dead Sea is an endorheic lake located in the Jordan Rift Valley, a geographic feature formed by the Dead Sea Transform (DST). This left lateral-moving transform fault lies along the tectonic plate boundary between the African Plate and the Arabian Plate. It runs between the East Anatolian Fault zone in Turkey and the northern end of the Red Sea Rift offshore of the southern tip of Sinai. It is here that the Upper Jordan River/Sea of Galilee/Lower Jordan River water system comes to an end.

Formation theories

There are two contending hypotheses about the origin of the low elevation of the Dead Sea. The older hypothesis is that the Dead Sea lies in a true rift zone, an extension of the Red Sea Rift, or even of the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa. A more recent hypothesis is that the Dead Sea basin is a consequence of a "step-over" discontinuity along the Dead Sea Transform, creating an extension of the crust with consequent subsidence.

Sedom Lagoon

During the late Pliocene-early Pleistocene, around 3.7 million years ago, what is now the valley of the Jordan River, Dead Sea, and the northern Wadi Arabah was repeatedly inundated by waters from the Mediterranean Sea. The waters formed

Temple of Zeus
in a narrow, crooked bay that is called by geologists the Sedom Lagoon, which was connected to the sea through what is now the Jezreel Valley. The floods of the valley came and went depending on long-scale changes in the tectonic and climatic conditions.

The Sedom Lagoon extended at its maximum from the Sea of Galilee in the north to somewhere around 50 km (30 mi) south of the current southern end of the Dead Sea, and the subsequent lakes never surpassed this expanse. The Hula Depression was never part of any of these water bodies due to its higher elevation and the high threshold of the Korazim block separating it from the Sea of Galilee basin.

Salt deposits

The Sedom Lagoon deposited evaporites mainly consisting of rock salt, which eventually reached a thickness of 2.3 km (1.43 mi) on the old basin floor in the area of today's Mount Sedom.

Lake formation

Approximately two million years ago, the land between the Rift Valley and the Mediterranean Sea rose to such an extent that the ocean could no longer flood the area. Thus, the long lagoon became a landlocked lake.<sup id="cite_ref-Kafri2010_20-1" class="reference">

The first prehistoric lake to follow the Sedom Lagoon is named Lake Amora (which possibly appeared in the early Pleistocene; its sediments developed into the Amora (Samra) Formation, dated to over 200-80 kyr BP), followed by Lake Lisan (c. 70-14 kyr) and finally by the Dead Sea.

Lake salinity

The water levels and salinity of the successive lakes (Amora, Lisan, Dead Sea) have either risen or fallen as an effect of the tectonic dropping of the valley bottom, and due to climate variation. As the climate became more arid, Lake Lisan finally shrank and became saltier, leaving the Dead Sea as its last remainder.

From 70,000 to 12,000 years ago, Lake Lisan's level was 100 m (330 ft) to 250 m (820 ft) higher than its current level. Its level fluctuated dramatically, rising to its highest level around 26,000 years ago, indicating a very wet climate in the Near East. Around 10,000 years ago, the lake's level dropped dramatically, probably even lower than today. During the last several thousand years, the lake has fluctuated approximately 400 m (1,300 ft), with some significant drops and rises. Current theories as to

the cause of this dramatic drop in levels rule out volcanic activity; therefore, it may have been a seismic event.

With 34.2%!<(MISSING)a href="">salinity (in 2011), it is one of the world's saltiest bodies of water. The mineral content of the Dead Sea is very different from that of ocean water. The exact composition of the Dead Sea water varies mainly with season, depth and temperature. In the early 1980s, the concentration of ionic species (in g/kg) of Dead Sea surface water was Cl (181.4), Br (4.2), SO42− (0.4), HCO3 (0.2), Ca2+ (14.1), Na+ (32.5), K+ (6.2) and Mg2+ (35.2). The total salinity was 276 g/kg. These results show that the composition of the salt, as anhydrous chlorides on a weight percentage basis, was calcium chloride (CaCl2) 14.4%!,(MISSING) potassium chloride (KCl) 4.4%!,(MISSING) magnesium chloride (MgCl2) 50.8%!a(MISSING)nd sodium chloride (NaCl) 30.4%! (MISSING)In comparison, the salt in the water of most oceans and seas is approximately 85%!<(MISSING)a href="">sodium chloride. The concentration of sulfate ions (SO42−) is very low, and the concentration of bromide ions (Br) is the highest of all waters on Earth.

Since 1930, when its surface was 1,050 km2 (410 sq mi) and its level was 390 m (1,280 ft) below sea level, the Dead Sea

has been monitored continuously. In recent decades, the Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking because of diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River to the north. The southern end is fed by a canal maintained by the Dead Sea Works, a company that converts the sea's raw materials. From a water surface of 395 m (1,296 ft) below sea level in 1970 it fell 22 m (72 ft) to 418 m (1,371 ft) below sea level in 2006, reaching a drop rate of 1 m (3 ft) per year. As the water level decreases, the characteristics of the Sea and surrounding region may substantially change.

The Dead Sea level drop has been followed by a groundwater level drop, causing brines that used to occupy underground layers near the shoreline to be flushed out by freshwater. This is believed to be the cause of the recent appearance of large sinkholes along the western shore—incoming freshwater dissolves salt layers, rapidly creating subsurface cavities that subsequently collapse to form these sinkholes.

Additional photos below
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Nymphaeum - water fountain area


Water wheel to cut stone


Oval Palace

South Theater

Main gate

Making pomegranate juice

Making pomegranate juice

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