Exploring Jordan: Amman, Jerash

I had very little expectation of  what to see during my one week of travels  in  Jordan, which was a pre-trip to the Overseas AdventureTravels Israel trip, The Holy Land and Timeless Cultures. Of course, I was very excited at the thought of seeing Petra. After having just spent three weeks in Egypt on their trip Egypt and the Eternal Nile, I was as equally taken by the trash I saw in the Egyptian countryside and cities as I was by the antiquities. Jordan however, was a completely different experience. There is always high expectation with Egypt travel, and not as much with Jordanian travel. And perhaps that is what made the difference. I was delighted with everything I saw in Jordan.

Upon arrival in Amman, it was clean and green. Both jumped out at me after the barren soil and trash in  I saw in Egypt. All throughout the trip, Jordan struck me being so green, maybe because of rain fall, maybe because of the Jordan River. Amman we certainly green and clean. One guide told me that that they must clean the trash nine times a day in Amman. In Egypt they don’t clean at all. So, there is still a garbage problem in Amman, but not one tourists are exposed to.

Our tour saw the many faces of Amman, from the rich neighborhoods of present times, to the Hercules ruins of the past. Also, part of this country are the many cultures coming from various parts of the region. There are Syrians, Palestinians, and just about every other Arab nationality in Jordan. The Saudi Royal Family built many of the roads. And keep driving, and you will see signs for Iraq.  Amman and all of Jordan seemed to be a melting for the Arab world.

Jerash was such a treat, and so few others were there to see and experience the ancient churches, temples, amphitheater, and huge central area that looked like it was home to a significant number of people. Hadrian’s Gate is one of the first of the antiquities you see, but the entire area was astounding with beautifully preserved antiquity and in some cases, mosaics. Its especially refreshing to see this amid newly awakening spring flowers, mustard and lavender amongst them, but in some places, there were even more variety. Did you know that some pepper grows on trees? We spent about two hours there, and it hardly felt like enough time. I could have kept on going down different paths taking pictures with shots of the spring flowers. The Oval Forum and Cardo Maximus in Jerash, the Colonnaded Street in addition to Hadrian’s gate (which is the entrance), are the major sites you see in ancient Jerash. But they are so stunning and so well preserved amid the spring flowers, that it’s a treat, no matter how much antiquity you have seen prior. You can easily see grooves in the paving stones left by Roman chariots. We were told that much of the ancient city still lies under the present town and consequently has not been excavated.

We also went to Mt Nebo where Moses is said to have lived, died, and been buried. He never made it to he Promised Land. A number of major biblical figures passed thru the area, and in modern times, the Franciscans took it over, so it’s pretty much a Christian site with crosses. Most don’t associate Moses with Christianity, so it can be a bit confusing. Also, at the site was a huge statue that looked like a cross, but I recognized it immediately as the sign used when doctors take the hypocritic oath. Sure enough, it’s also used as a sign for healing. Inside the church on the grounds are beautiful mosaics.

In modern times, when we think of the Holy Land, we think of Israel. But ancient cartographers included Egypt, Jordan and Israel as the Holy Land. We saw an ancient map on the floor of a nearby church with a mosaic of the Holy Land map.  So technically, if you tour these three countries as I did, you are taking a tour of the ancient Holy Land according to the cartographers of the day.

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