Monday, October 18, 2010

Jerash and Ajloun

Oct 18 - We started our day with a bus ride to Jerash to the north of Amman where we saw the ruins of the ancient city of Jerash, known as Gerasa during its Roman heyday when it had a population of 15,000-20,000.  It is amazingly well preserved.  We entered Jerash through Hadrian's gate.
And here is a close up of the stone work at the top.
Like all Roman cities it was centered on the Forum.  But unlike most Roman cities, this Forum is elliptical rather than rectangular.  This was a response to the local terrain and an elegant solution to turning from the gate to the main road.
Of course, like all Roman cities, it has a Theater.  In this one there were Jordanians performing on bagpipes.  Apparently, the bagpipe originated in the Middle East., although I imagine the originals were made with goat skins rather than Stewart plaid.
Apparently these theaters had reserved seating for the elite.  Note the letters on the seats.  These would correspond to letters on small pieces of pottery, which were the equivalent of tickets.
And of course there are temples.  In this case one to Zeus and one to Artemis.  The temple to Artemis would have been huge had it been completed.  This is a view from the temple looking out.  I am sitting in front of and to the side of the niche where her statue would have stood.
Of course this is just the inner portion of the temple, it extended all the way down to the main road.  We ambled our way down the steps from the temple and stopped at a Nymphaeum, or fountain, the name comes from Nymph, in this case water nymphs.  I took a close up of the stone work at the top, it is just exquisite and amazingly well preserved.  The niches would have held statues of the water nymphs, each holding a vessel from which water poured.
After wandering the site for most of the morning we were treated to a Roman spectacle.  In this case a demonstration by Roman soldiers of  typical maneuvers, a small group of gladiators and a chariot race.  I will confess that I did condemn one of the gladiators to death for the simple reason that he could not use his weapons properly - he was armed with a trident and a net and couldn't really fight with either, the last straw was when he flung his net up into the air.  Here is the trumpeter announcing the start of the show.
He really did blow that horn, and he wasn't half bad.  Here are the Roman soldiers, apparently formerly of the Jordanian Army.
And here is a shot of the three contestants in the chariot race. 
I didn't bother taking a shot of the gladiators.  They were a pretty scurvy lot, with rather bad wigs.  The horses were pretty scrawny as well.  It was a fun show but, despite the Gladiator soundtrack playing in the background, only a shadow of the real thing.  It did give you a sense, however, of what it must have been like.  We were sitting in a Roman Hippodrome watching a Roman spectacle.

Our lunch was at a Lebanese restaurant and then we traveled on to Ajloun, even further north to see the Hilltop Castle - the Qalaat Errabadh built in 1184 by Muslims to protect themselves against crusaders where I enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee with cardamom before spending some time wandering the castle.
Tomorrow we head to Petra.

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