10.23.2011 - 11.26.2011
Amman is the capital of Jordan and while it’s is not particularly known for its tourist sites, it does have a few and the city makes a great base for exploring the Northeastern part of the country. While walking around the city, we visited a Roman fountain and amphitheatre. Amazingly, the Roman amphitheater is still in use today, most recently as the staging for the Amman marathon (any takers for next year?). The city is spread out over 19 hills (still interested?). We also took a policeman’s recommendation for lunch and stopped by a local fast food restaurant for some great shwarma and hummus. We were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the locals and the lack of hassling. Most people we walked by would say “Welcome!” and keep going. When we stopped in a shop to buy a souvenir, the price was fixed and fair, and the shop keeper extremely nice. He even asked us to join him for tea. After lunch and shopping, we also explored the Citadel, a hill top fort that was occupied by the Romans, Crusaders, and many others over hundreds of years. Each occupier added its own temples and personal marks to the site, so it has some interesting history. The Citadel also contains a museum with artifacts from 6,500 BC. Really amazing!
A view of the Amphitheatre and city from the Citadel
Some young girls on a school trip to the Amphitheatre
A 6,500 year old statue- thought to be one of the oldest sculptures ever found
In front of the Temple at the Citadel
A view of the city of Amman- and coincidentally the world's tallest free-standing flagpole- apparently the North Koreans claim the tallest but it is supported by cables which is, of course, not really free-standing (just in case it comes up on Jeopardy)
On our second day we headed out via public transportation to the Dead Sea. We spent the day at Amman Beach which was a nice mix of locals and tourists. What’s amazing about the Dead Sea is that it’s the lowest point on Earth, something like 1,300 feet below sea level. Because of constant evaporation, it is also extremely salty- 10x the salinity of the ocean. Even the densest person becomes instantly buoyant and the moment your feet leave the bottom, you float right to the surface like a fishing bobber. The water also has an oily feel (like ocean water mixed with baby oil). Jeff, who can absolutely not float, laid on the surface of the water forever marveling at his newfound ability. Plus, like I said in the last posting, the brush burn he got from falling in the tunnel hurt him like the dickens (salt on a wound). It was a fun experience and we also enjoyed some great people watching. Muslim women swam fully clothed while the Western women wore bikinis - it was quite the coming together of cultures, but everyone was cool with the other. We took refuge afterwards in the pool for a few hours before heading back to Amman. Luckily, we got a ride back to Amman with a local. He gave us the lift for free and refused any payment even after dropping us off at our hostel. While driving back, Jeff commented on the radio station he was listening to because it was more Western and our new buddy said “Well, this music is ok, but really, this is my kind of music” and he turned on Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler”. He and Jeff were fast friends
The classic Dead Sea photo- feet up, reading a book
Totally amazed with his newfound buoyancy
You can even float on your stomach- just don't put your face in- the water BURNS your eyes
A Muslim woman in her swimming attire
The next day we traveled via public transport to Jerash, located about 30-miles north of Amman. It was at one time an important Roman city that today has the ruins to prove it. It was cute too, when you ride on public transportation, the locals really look out for you. When we asked the bus driver if this was our stop, he said “wait, I drop you closer”, and then the locals on the front of the bus had a healthy debate regarding where the best and most convenient place to drop us would be. I am really digging the Jordanians! Jerash is enormous and well preserved in parts. It consists of several amphitheatres, roads, temples, and other stone structures. There were even several excavations going on while we were there sponsored by France. We also watched a “Roman re-enactment” which included a Roman Legion, chariot race, and Gladiator battle. In the end, it was the kids in the audience who were the most impressed. There was, however, one “gladiator” who liked to flex his pec muscles and then point at the old ladies in the audience- it was pretty hilarious to watch them giggle like little girls.
A view of Jerash's ruins
The Roman Legion re-enactment- they even used Latin commands
The Chariot Races
Some of the ruins
What was the entrance and road into the city- it must have really been impressive in its heyday
After 11-days in Jordan, it is time for us to move. We really enjoyed our time here and especially enjoyed the people. Jordan is relatively easy to get around and there is a lot to see in one small space. Interestingly, we met more American tourists here than in any other country on our trip so far. We would definitely recommend a visit! Next stop for us, Jerusalem, Israel.