Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 Vacation: Jordan - Day Three - Ajlun And Jerash

Day three was a big day with two very cool sites being visited in addition to expansion of our tour group.

This morning we graduated from the mini-bus to the ... short bus.  Well, the short bus was definitely more comfortable.  We three Americans were joined by a German couple and two Costa Rican couples.  After a few introductions we realized that the Costa Ricans couldn't speak English.  This made the tour guide's job a lot more difficult.  I'm sure it wasn't very pleasant for the Costa Ricans as well.

As we drove north we passed by groves of olive trees.  This area is famous for it's olives and olive oil.  The road wound through hills until we approached the town of Ajlun, the location of a 12th century Saracen castle.  Ajlun Castle was built by the Saracens, Muslims, to protect against the crusaders.  Our first view, as we approached, made it obvious why the castle was erected where it had been - the castle was at the top of a hill overlooking all approaches.  It would be easy to defend and you could keep an eye over a lot of terrain including the valuable iron mines in the area.


We toured the castle including mosaic floorscannonball-sized head-bonking ammunition, a small museum displaying artifacts excavated in the area.  The view off the top of the castle was impressive.  One thing we discovered is that Jordan is in an active earthquake zone and most ancient sites, including this one, had been destroyed in earlier earthquakes.  What we saw today was reconstructed using whatever could be salvaged from the original ruins.


As we were leaving I realized that there was a geocache near the castle.  Unfortunately, I realized this as we were pulling away from the castle.  I wasn't paying very much attention to my GPS.

Our second stop was the Roman city of Jerash.  Jerash, another of the decapolis cities, is one of the best preserved Roman cities in the middle east.  After walking through the gauntlet of vendors trying to sell all all sorts of souvenirs, we enter the Roman ruins through the Arch of Hadrian, past the hippodrome where chariot races are reenacted.  First stop was the visitor's center for lunch.  We met up with the last four members of our group, a Swiss couple, a Canadian, and a Romanian.

After lunch we walked by the Temple of Zeus before entering the piazza.  This was one of the most impressive parts of the ruins to me.  The large area surrounded by pillars hinted at how many people lived/worked/worshiped here.  The call to prayer started and our guide explained to the larger group about the call, how it was recorded in Amman, and it was performed live elsewhere.  The call was definitely more chaotic here but still quite beautiful.


After the call finished we entered an amphitheater and listened to a group, two drummers and a bagpiper, play.  A Bagpipe, you say?  Yep, a remnant of British rule.

After the mini-concert we walked along the main thoroughfare of the city passing by the nymphaeum and ending in front of the steps to the Temple of Artemis.  It was very warm hot and our guide wasn't going to take us up to the temple so a bunch of us, including the Wife, took the initiative and headed up the stairs.  The stairs are actually interesting.  There are seven flights with a deeper step in between each flight.  From the bottom the long steps are not visible and the stairs look like one long flight (signifying the difficult journey to be with the gods).  From the top of the stairs looking down you only see the seven deep steps (signifying the easy journey back home).  It was an interesting illusion.


I walked around the temple and pulled out my GPS to look for a geocache near the temple.  The GPS took me around to the back corner of the temple.  I looked around a bit, getting as close as six feet, when I looked up and saw one of the tourist police looking down at me.  I guess he was making sure I wasn't taking a part of the temple with me.  Not wanting to explain what a geocache was, I abandoned my search and rejoined the tour group.

This was our last stop.  After shopping for souvenirs, we got on our short bus, returned to our hotels, rested up, and packed.  Tomorrow we were heading south into the desert.

Photographs of Aljun and Jerash have been added to my 2010-07 Jordan Google Photos album.

3 comments:

  1. Wow, I didn't even know they built those ancient castles with in-floor electric floodlighting. Those ancients were pretty amazing. ;)

    I don't think I've ever found myself wanting to travel somewhere before just to climb stairs, but now I really want to try that out. And bravo to you for not stealing part of the temple whilst trying to find the geocache!

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  2. I am totally cracking up at geekhiker! What a COOL place!!!

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  3. GH: Our guide said something along the same thing. :)

    As for stairs, just wait for my post about Petra.

    Miss McC: GH has his moments ;)

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