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Thursday 11 September 2014

[Wednesday 10 September 2014]

Region Hotel, Amman
DAY 3: Amman B/L/D
Start the day with a visit to the ancient Roman city of Jerash with its hilltop temples, theatres and fountains. Here you can enjoy a walk through the paved, colonnaded streets and spacious public plazas. Then continue to northern Jordan to see Ajloun, one of the most important ecological and historical sites in the Middle East. Also known as Qal’at Ar-Rabad, Ajloun Castle is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture. Built by Saladin’s general in 1184 AD, it was used to control the iron mines of Ajloun, to inhibit the progress of the Crusaders and to protect the communication routes between Jordan and Syria. Return to Amman for your overnight stay.



Day 254 Psalms 104; Job 38; Romans 6
…We went down for breakfast, back to the room, and down to the lobby for a 9am start to the journey to Jerash in the “dolmuş”. The Palestinian “refugee camps” that Asraf pointed out to us were permanent buildings indistinguishable from urban development anywhere else, not regular, multitudinous rows and ranks of cabins as we saw yesterday for Syrians. Refugeedom dating from 1948 or 1967 rather has the look of permanent settlement about it! Palestinians had the right to Jordanian citizenship, and to come and go as they pleased. The terrain became greener as soon as we descended northwards out of Amman, the trees on hilltops — part of the “regreening project” — contrasting with the sandy desert of yesterday’s easterly journeyings. We proceeded through mountainous country, mixed green and brown, and passed a dam providing not drinking water but water for irrigation. We crossed the Jabbok, famed as the river where Jacob wrestled with the Angel of Yahweh.




Thursday 11 September 2014 — 09:46:24
Crossing the River Jabbok


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 09:53:46
Approaching the ruins of Gerasa

The Roman ruins at Jerash, one of the cities of the Decapolis (Gerasa), were very impressive, on a par with Ephesus, spread over a site of perhaps similar area or even larger.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:05:58
The Arch of Hadrian


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:06:34
The Arch of Hadrian


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:06:42
The Arch of Hadrian


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:07:26
The Arch of Hadrian


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:07:42
The Arch of Hadrian

Just the other side of the Arch of Hadrian, on the ground, there lay a large stone, fallen or taken from somewhere. Ashraf pointed out the Greek inscription on it, made difficult to decipher, he said, even for Greek-speakers, because there were no spaces between words. I could make out “ΚΑΙΣΑΡ” (“Caesar”) at one point, and “ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤ…” (“autocrat”; I can’t remember what the last couple of characters were). “What’s an autocrat?” “One who rules by himself: a dictator, despot, tyrant…”


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:13:46
The Arch of Hadrian (left) and the Hippodrome (right)


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:13:54
Shop units beneath the Hippodrome terraces


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:14:10
Entering the Hippodrome


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:14:56
Hippodrome: eastern wall and southern arches


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:15:14
Hippodrome, looking south


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:15:34
Hippodrome, looking north


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:15:50
Zoomed-in view from the same location as 10:15:34


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:26:00
South Gate, south side


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:27:30
Kitchens near the South Gate


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:28:06
Kitchens near the South Gate


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:28:54
South Gate, north side


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:29:02
Continuing north-northwest through an arch


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:31:12
Looking southwest, back at the arch


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:31:34
Temple of Zeus (left) and South Theatre (right)


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:32:20
In the opposite direction (north): the Oval Forum


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:32:34
Looking east: the Oval Forum


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:35:38
Oval Forum


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:35:52
Temple of Zeus


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:36:06
South Theatre


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:37:02
South Theatre

Arriving within the South Theatre, we were just in time to be entertained by a two-bagpipes-and-drum trio, who marched around the semicircular “orchestra” of the theatre.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:39:52
Bagpipes and drum in the South Theatre


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:40:06
South Theatre


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:40:16
South Theatre


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:44:12
Greek inscription in the South Theatre


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:48:38
Leaving the vicinity of the Oval Forum…


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:48:52
…and of the South Theatre

We then proceeded in a northerly direction, not along the main street, the “Cardo”, but more or less parallel to it, higher up to its west. The site was occupied till the Byzantine era and beyond, so we visited a group of Byzantine churches, including one dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:54:18
Passing the southern “Decimanus”


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:59:32
Byzantine Church


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:59:48
Floor mosaic


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 10:59:58
Floor mosaic


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:01:34
Church of SS. Cosmas and Damian


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:01:52
Church of SS. Cosmas and Damian


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:02:12
Floor mosaic


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:02:12 (rotated detail)

Ashraf mentioned two other names in connection with this church: “Georgia” and “Theodore”. I had the impression that it was a kind of alternative dedication. At this my ears pricked up, anyway, because those were the names I spotted on that mosaic in the Amman Archaeological Museum yesterday. [Subsequent internet searches when I got home were dishearteningly fruitless till I was compiling a movie from today on 27 September 2014 and stumbled across AtlasTours.Net’s “Jerash” page. It said, “The Church of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, twin brother doctors who were martyred in the 4th century, has the most splendid floor mosaics to be seen in Jerash. An inscription dates the mosaic to 553 AD, and the images include the churchwarden Theodore with his wife Georgia, praying with widespread arms.” Although Georgia and Theodore didn’t appear on the portion of the floor that I photographed today, the mosaic in the museum yesterday, a single figure with outspread arms and palms, must be a copy of part of that floor — either that, or the original, lifted from there. Presumably “ΓΕΩΡΓΙΑ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΥ”, then, means “Georgia [wife] of Theodore”.]


Copy of part of the mosaic in the Archaeological Museum, Amman, seen yesterday
Wednesday 10 September 2014


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:03:32
Mosaic inscription


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:03:32 (detail)

Then we visited the Temple of Artemis, before turning right along the Temple Esplanade and descending to the Cardo by the Monumental Staircases (“Propylaeum”).


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:12:12
Temple of Artemis


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:12:22
Temple of Artemis


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:15:16
Temple Esplanade and Monumental Staircases


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:16:26
Monumental Staircases

We turned right along the Cardo, stopping to look at the public fountain (the “Nymphaeum”) on the way to the southern “Tetrapylon”, the monumental crossroads between the north-south Cardo and the east-west road crossing it, the “Decimanus”. (There was also a northern Tetrapylon, which we didn’t visit.)


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:21:04
Cardo, looking south


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:24:28
Nymphaeum


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:25:46
Cardo, looking south


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:26:26
Marks of chariot wheels


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:28:08
Niche originally containing a small image


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:30:18
At the southern Tetrapylon, looking north along the Cardo


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:30:18 (detail)
Detail of 11:30:18, with the North Tetrapylon visible


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:32:14
Looking west along the southern Decimanus


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:32:38
Looking east along the southern Decimanus


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:32:56
Looking south along the Cardo


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:36:54
Shop units on the Cardo near the Oval Forum


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 11:43:48
Hibiscus seen on the way out

Leaving there, we boarded the “dolmuş” and went to a restaurant for lunch. Outside, one of the staff was making flatbread, kneading and spinning the dough before slapping it onto the upper part of the round, stone oven.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 12:08:02
Making bread outside the restaurant where we had lunch


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 12:09:12
Entering the restaurant

It was a buffet lunch. I had a bottle of 5% a.b.v. Amstel beer. The restaurant staff started buzzing around Jacqueline, as yesterday. They presented her with a fruit-and-vegetable “sculpture”. Don’t think it was just because they fancied her; I think it was her birthday. On second thoughts, why then was there no singing of “Happy birthday to you”? The manager in jest negotiated with her dad, offering twenty camels. Dad insisted on 100 camels and a villa. They took photographs of themselves with her.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 12:37:18
Gift for Jacqueline


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 12:37:48
Photos with the staff


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 12:38:50

The journey to the next stop, Ajloun Castle, took about an hour. Also called Qa’lat Al-Rabad, Qa’lat Aijloun was built in 1184 by Salah ad-Din’s nephew, and was involved in 13 campaigns over 400 years. As we approached, really “must-photograph” views of Jabal Auf with the castle atop it kept coming into view, but by the time I’d got the camera set up a corner had been turned or roadside trees had got in the way. The shot I managed to get halfway up the approach to it did it no justice at all.




Thursday 11 September 2014 — 13:51:58
Approaching Ajloun Castle on the coach


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:00:44
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:02:00
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:03:06
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:03:26
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:04:08
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:04:54
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:05:06
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:06:10
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:07:54
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:13:12
Views from Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:13:34
Views from Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:16:20
Views from Ajloun Castle (just visible: northern tip of the Dead Sea)


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:27:36
Vaulted ceiling coming to a point over the door


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:27:48
Floor mosaic


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:28:20
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:29:10
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:29:16
Ajloun Castle

We looked round a little museum before we left.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:31:58
Ajloun Castle


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 14:32:38
Ajloun Castle

I finally managed to get a fair representation, if blurred, of the castle atop Jabal Auf as we bounced along the road back to Amman.


Thursday 11 September 2014 — 15:03:06
Final view of Ajloun Castle from the coach

At one point or more than one, we passed a sign warning of an approaching crossroads, and I noticed that the symbol used was an “x” not a “+”.

I wondered whether the orientation of the cross had some religious significance, or “avoiding-religious significance”. I tried to think what they were like back home. (On 8 October 2014 I looked into it in some detail.) When I was little, signs like this one would be seen from time to time.


“Old” type crossroads sign (Highway Code, 1954)

More often than not, though, they were like this.


“Old” type crossroads sign (Highway Code, 1959)

Later in the UK, all the old-style road signs were replaced by “Continental”-style ones. The one below, though, was labelled on the website where I found it as “obsolete”.


Obsolete crossroads sign of the “new” type

This appears to be the current version of the sign.


Current crossroads sign

We’d mentioned to Ashraf about needing to change the dollars we’d not spent on visas, and on the way back we stopped at a money exchange. I got just over 106 dinars for the $150. The dollars back home cost £92.88; if I’d have got the 106 dinars at Lloyds Bank, I later reckoned, they’d have cost £98.35. So we didn’t lose out by getting dollars needlessly; rather, we gained slightly.… Transferred today’s 82 photos and 24 videos off my camera (16:36–16:43). Went through the photos using Windows Photo Viewer and rotated those that needed it (16:52–16:57). Janet went out for a wander. The store we visited yesterday was to the right, so she thought she’d go left to see what she could find that way.… “I turned left out of the hotel today,” Janet wrote, “and walked precariously on the rough-and-ready pavement.” The word “pavement” implies that the sidewalk was actually paved, but for much of its length it was unmade and full of dust and rocks. Walking along the road was sometimes a preferable option. She continued, “I discovered a local takeaway/restaurant I’d spotted previously when we’d gone that way on the coach, and decided to get a cold drink and watch the world go by. I bought a can of Diet Coke for 40 [piastres] and sat at a table — and observed. Fascinating. I was ‘the animal in the zoo’,[i] even though nobody batted an eyelid at my presence! There were three birds in cages chirping away. I sat for about ½-hour then purchased another can of Coke and a one-litre bottle of Pepsi Diet/Light, and was amazed that they only cost me 90 [piastres]. Then I walked gingerly back to the hotel. At ca.6.30pm we went for dinner, but when we arrived at the dining room we were advised that it would not be open until 7.00pm. So we sat in the lounge and ‘observed’ until it did. We enjoyed. We returned to our room. [John] had the runs… so I went in search of toilet rolls, just in case! What a hoo-hah! Interesting, though, as there was a wedding party in the lobby with very loud music (a drum, a pipe and bagpipes). Deafening but fascinating. I finally got more rolls and returned to our room.… It’s now 9pm. I’ll pack what I can then hit the sack.…” I can’t remember what I was doing at this point, and suppose I went to bed when Janet did (ca.10pm?).

[i] Animal in the zoo: I used this expression in China, where in a number of locations we were openly stared at as novelties or oddities by older folk, and surreptitiously photographed using mobile phones by younger.

[Friday 12 September 2014]



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