Switching it up and heading to yet another destination for today’s A-Z Challenge post – Jordan! Specifically the ancient city of Jerash. For those not totally comfortable with their geography, Jordan is located in the Middle East. It shares borders with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine, and looks across the Red Sea to Egypt. And it is without doubt one of my favourite countries to visit – it’s has history to rival Egypt’s, vast and beautiful landscapes, sea frontages, mountains, and some of the most welcoming and hospitable people.
I visited Jordan back in August 2008, spending about 10 days there after having already spent 3 weeks travelling around Turkey. It was a trip I’d been looking forward to but was fearful I would not be able to do. Let me explain. I’d be pretty sick for quite a number of years leading up to this trip, then in April of 2008 somebody was finally able to diagnose what was wrong. I had an ultrasound and the operator says “Oh! You have a tumour!” When I asked, peering at the screen, where it was, she informed me “the entire image is tumour”. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Fast forward a couple of days and I’m sitting in a consultancy room meeting my surgeon for the first time. I’m told my tumour is large (a diameter of at least 12cm) and that I’ll be cut open across the abdomen from hip to hip, and possibly up the centre of the torso. (feel free to enter whatever expletives you like – I said them all). When he asked if I had any questions, being the traveller I am, I asked if I’d be okay for my trip to Turkey & Jordan in just 4 months time and how much the operation would cost because, hey – I’ve got travel to pay for. Well … my surgeon claps his hands and bangs his desk and starts raving about how wonderful Jordan is and that I must visit Jerash! He tells me I’ll be fine, schedules my surgery for 2 days away and charges me next to nothing for my operation (I shit you not – AUD$500! For an invasive 2.5 hour surgery, anesthetist and a week in a private room in hospital. Bargain!). It was also the first time I’d taken note of Jerash.
So, fast forward … and here I am at the end of my long trip, Jerash was my second last stop in Jordan. I had already visited the two main sites I was desperate to visit – Petra and Wadi Rum (those are links to my earlier posts on each place) – and even though nothing was going to beat either of them for excitement level, Jerash was worth the visit. It’s located in the north of the country and is essentially a ruined city, Roman ruins specifically. The area around Jerash, like much of the Middle East, has a seriously old history – settlement dates back to the Bronze Age. Then you’ve got expansions under the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. This city has been damaged by earthquakes, destroyed by invading forces, abandoned, rebuilt, reinhabited and so on … until you get the current day ruined remains of what is quite obviously a large old city.
I enter the site through the gateway of emperor Hadrian’s Arch of Triumph, a 13 metre tall structure that was constructed to commemorate the emperor’s visit to Jerash in 129AD. Located to one side is the hippodrome, a large flat area where you could just visualise the chariot races of ancient times (think of the chariot scene in the movie Ben-Hur, you’ll get what I mean). Walking further into the city, there’s a colonnaded street leading towards a large oval area, or to my other side, a slight incline leading up to a theatre. Hearing noises coming from that direction I head into the open air auditorium, seat myself on the tiered stone steps and treat myself to a little show. There are three men, in traditional Jordanian attire, playing instruments. It’s such a wonderful experience, this amazing music so authentic for the country, set among these beautifully preserved ruins. I do have video of it but alas WordPress is not cooperating with my efforts to post it. There are many other structures – theatres and temples – in Jerash but my favourite was the Artemis Temple. Built between 138-174 AD, it honours the goddess Artemis, daughter of Zeus, protector of the city. The columns you see in the below photos are 14 metres high and stretch back 120 metres … so yeah, it’s a large temple!
This post is part of my contribution to the April 2017 A-Z Challenge
For a list and links to my other challenge posts, click here
For those interested in revisiting my 2016 challenge post for “J”, here’s the link: It’s all about the journey …