AWAY WE GO
The Middle East has been a desired destination of ours for several years. On our attempt to stop in Egypt, we were on a cruise in 2016, the stop in Alexandria was cancelled because of conflicts in Egypt, . We planned again, and then Covid stopped any chance of traveling to the Middle East or for that matter anywhere.
Janice spent several months putting together a trip that would allow us to enjoy the culture and the history parts of” the cradle of civilization!”
We were fortunate with the many miles Janice had collected over the years with Delta; having just hit the two million mark, she could book the flights in first and business class to Cairo; oh yes, comfort! The only hick-up was we could only make the trip if we flew out of Las Angeles; What’s an extra seven hours each way with flights and layover time!
It sounds nuts, making the most extended leg from LA to London on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class was great, Richard Branson does it right! The seats lay down into a bed, with a mattress pad covering the seat, almost a personal hotel room with the amenities including a sleeping outfit!
The rest of the flight was on Air France, they were wonderful, and the seats and service were excellent. We landed in Cairo, Egypt, at midnight and stayed at a hotel near the airport for a few hours of sleep and a glorious shower! We had a car service take us back to the airport in the morning for our flight to Amman, Jordan.
We were laughing about driving around Cairo airport, which might be the most chaotic driving we have ever witnessed; even our seasoned driver had to duck and weave, making crazy turns to get us to the terminal.
A porter took our luggage, and we checked in. After we went through the passport line, we arrived for our carry-on baggage to be screened. This was a cultural surprise to us. Men had their “men only” lines where they would take their sons and leave the mother and girls to fend for themselves. We thought one woman from France went berserk when she saw that the men were treated differently! Welcome to the part of the Middle East culture!
The flight was only an hour on Royal Jordanian Airways, and the service on board was like we use to enjoy many years ago; they served a nice breakfast and accomplished it all in that short time frame. We arrived at the beautifully modern Amman airport.
JORDAN – Home to some of the most ancient cities and natural wonders in the world
Janice had booked a private tour with a company in Jordan to transport us and find the proper people to take us to the various sites. We met our airport person, who quickly got us through the visa process; we then met Hasan, our tour guide, for the next three days he would take us to see many wonders of Jordan. Hasan has been a guide for over 20 years. As we started on our journey through Jordan, his stories and commentary made this experience one of a lifetime. We will talk about Hasan and his stories often as we wander through Jordan with you.
Jerash – The Magnificent Roman Ruins
Our first stop was to visit the ancient ruins of the Roman City of Jerash.
Jerash History – Going back to the Neolithic Period (7500-5500 BC)
The largest intact Roman ruins in the world are in the city of Jerash, Jordan. The settlement of the Jerash area dates back to the Neolithic period (7500-5500 BC). Archaeologists have found settlements, including two human skulls in 2015, that confirm the dates and the existence of ‘The Ain Ghazal Neolithic settlement in Amman. The importance of the discovery lies in the rarity of the skulls, as archaeologists estimate that a maximum of 12 sites across the world contain similar human remains.
Ancient Greek inscriptions from the city support that the city was founded by Alexander the Great and his general Perdiccas, who allegedly settled Jerash with his Macedonian soldiers in 331 BC as Alexander left Egypt and crossed Syria en route to Mesopotamia; others believe it was founded by Seleucid King Antioch IV, while still others attribute the founding to Ptolemy II of Egypt.
The Romans conquered Jerash in 63 BC, with the surrounding land, and annexed it to the Roman province of Syria. The historian Josephus notes that the city was mainly inhabited by Syrians and a small Jewish community in 106 AD. Rome then attached it t the Roman province of Arabia, which included Philadelphia (now Amman), Petra, and Bostra. The Romans ensured security and peace, allowing the local population to develop economically and build the area in Roman style.
Hasan introduced us to our Guide for the day. Amad had lived in the area all his life and was an expert on the ruins. We began our tour by entering through the south gate near the large hippodrome where the chariot races were held.
We went down the main road into the city, walking by where the stores stood, and the temples were built. Jerash survived two major earthquakes, in 745 AD and 1921, so much of the destruction you see in our pictures were from that time. Before the 1921 earthquake, people lived in the village using the buildings as their homes and markets.
The different carvings in the stone and the details that seem to be in most Roman Cities are here too.
Our guide, Amad, was very interesting. His stories brought to life the beauty of the city. When we arrived at the amphitheater, he showed us the spot where if you stood there and talked, it sounded like you had a microphone in your hands it was amazing. The design of this theater produced the absolutely best acoustics.
He talked of the water systems used to bring washing and drinking water to homes and businesses.
The city’s walls extend beyond the city where people live today. This area has barely been uncovered; there are many more digs to happen. Jerash has not been designated a UNESCO site which is very disturbing to the people that care about the history of Jerash. They are given the reason that there are many sites like this around Asia and Europe. The truth is there are none we have seen that are so complete as this city; who knows what goes into the designation?
We stopped to see a demonstration of how they create sand pictures in bottles, which is a real craft. They tried to convince us to purchase some, even saying we would not see it anywhere and if we did, he would give us $10,000; well, of course, we found many other artists doing this later in Jordan.
On our way out of the city, we stopped at the hippodrome, where games were held, chariot races being the largest. Until COVID, the Jerash antiquities group did chariot demonstrations twice a day, John pretending to be driving a chariot to get the flavor of the stadium.
After all our discussions, in a few hours, the tour was over, It was very memorable and something not to be missed in Jordan. The Greek and Roman influence throughout the Middle East is important, evidenced constantly.
Amman, Jordan, for dinner and to the Dead Sea
Amad left us with this thought, “ There are two kinds of silence, one is the silence of fear, and the other is the silence of knowledge.”
We were done for the day, so Hasan picked a place for an early dinner in Amman. He wanted us to experience a traditional meal served at a family event, such as an engagement, a wedding, or an important holiday. The restaurant was Don Quijote en Ammán. It was one of Hasan’s favorites. We learned at our first supper together with Hasan he smoked as soon as we sat down. A person in charge of the smoke comes over with a large water pipe (Shisha), and he puts the tobacco into the top, covered in tin foil with charcoals on top of the foil. He then gets the pipe going and replaces the end of the line with a new filter for Hasan to use. The smoke smelled of fruit and was not offensive at all to us.
Hasan ordered all the food, and there was more than enough! Lamb dishes and chicken dishes with lots of pita bread and different humus and other dipping sauces. It was a local place, so we had a real Jordanian feast. The food was amazing, with so many flavors and different spices. The one thing that Janice noted was when the food was served, the men got their food first on their plates but more amazing, since John was a guest, all of his food was prepared on his plate, that is, chicken taken off the bone, all the meat cut, and when the bananas were served for dessert his was open and cut into bite sizes pieces. Janice’s food was put on the plate to fend for herself…Again, part of the Middle East culture!
We drove down to the Dead Sea, where we stayed for the evening at the Marriott Dead Sea.
The Marriott Dead Sea Hotel sits right on the Dead Sea with magnificent facilities. This is a picture from our balcony. The lights in the far distance are Israel on the other side of the Dead Sea. Our schedule did not allow us to take advantage of all the amenities, but our room was very nice, and the breakfast was great. Awesome View!
We would be heading out in the morning to Madaba to see some important churches and where mosaics are still a very important art form. We will also visit Mount Nebo, where it is said Moses died.