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Away to Jordan

April 15, 2017

Admittedly, Jordan was not on my bucket list. In fact, few places in the Middle East are; and at this point in my life, with that part of the world becoming ever more dangerous, I figured my window of opportunity was just about closed. But a totally unexpected invitation to staff a travel writing expedition there opened the door to a place I quickly came to love.

Amman, my starting point, is a sprawling city built on seven hills. The heights of the Citadel offer 360 degree views of central Amman, including the Roman theater far below. On the Citadel itself  (occupied since the Bronze Age) rises what remains of the Temple of Hercules, built in the second century A.D. during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The mammoth statue of Hercules, estimated to have stood 13 meters tall (42 feet) has disappeared except for a section of one hand and an elbow.

The other highlight atop the Citadel is the Umayyad Palace and the surrounding homes, built by the Umayyad Arabs in the 8th century A.D.

Finally, remains of a Byzantine basilica testify to the rich diversity of Amman’s history. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On this first day, before the rest of the group arrived, I was approached at the Citadel by a taxi driver named Waleed, who offered to show me the other highlights of Amman, and perhaps take me out to Jerash and Mt. Nebo, two important sites I would miss because I had to come home before the workshop ended. While I would normally have reservations about turning myself over to a total stranger, I had a good feeling about Waleed, and hired him for the whole day.

The first stop on our city tour was the Black and White Mosque, a dizzying pile dramatically rising from a quiet plaza on another of Amman’s hills.

Waleed, wanting to make sure I had the authentic Jordanian experience, took me through the souk, stopping at a sweet shop he proclaimed to be the best in Amman to get me a plate of knafeh. It has a thin crumb crust, then a layer of cheese (similar to fresh mozzarella), followed by a thin layer of crumbled crust and topped with a honey/rosewater syrup and crushed pistachios. Served warm, it’s heaven!

Knafe

Next stop, the King Abdullah Mosque, aka the Blue Mosque, which couldn’t be more different from the Black and White. This modern (c. 1989) structure accommodates up to 7000 worshippers for prayers — inside and outside.

In contrast to the soaring, spacious main mosque, the women’s mosque is off to the side…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the center of the city, the Roman Theater is a gathering place and entertainment venue. A small textile museum at one side includes lovely examples of traditional robes and accessories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA quick zip through the souk and its stunning array of produce…

Then it was off to Jerash…but that’s another post!

One Comment
  1. Marlo Quick permalink

    You were right to trust your instincts with Waleed. He sounds like an excellent host. What an experience to stand among such ancient buildings and artifacts and imagine all the lives that have been lived there.

    Like

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