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Jordan: Jerash & Kings’ Highway (12/24-25)

December 26th, 2006 · No Comments

We arrived in Jordan and first visited the most amazing Roman ruins we have ever seen…not what you expect for the Middle East, right?! Then we spent Christmas day driving through the Kings’ Highway in Jordan. With local castles, intact Roman sites, and Mt. Nebo (site where Moses is preseumed to have seen Jerusalem.


For photos, click here:

Jordan: Jerash & Kings' Highway

I’ll be perfectly honest, when we started planning a trip to Jordan and Egypt – I was not especially interested or comfortable with the idea. I might as well go have a picnic in some gang infested inner-city neighborhood, right? Sadly, our media does a very good job of almost training us to feel uncomfortable, nervous about a country or region that we know so little about. So, with that said, our visit to Jordan was eye opening and a breath of fresh air.

Of course, it helped that our guide in Jordan, Sufian Twassi (aka Abu Gazi), was phenomenal in all respects. In Jordan tradtion, it is more respectful to call Sufian, “Father of Gazi” his first born son than by his own first name. The same tradition applies to the women, so Umm Gazi or “Mother of Gazi”. Abu Gazi made us feel unbelievebly welcome in his home, shared his family stories, and really added color to our experience way beyond any lifeless monument or relic could do. (And Robert and Merrill became Abu James and Umm James…)

Our first day we made a few day trips to sites outside of Amman. Unfortunately, Amman is more of a modern working city (although we had some fantastic Lebanese/Jordanian food, there isn’t much to see, historically in the city itself). So, we spent most of our first day near Ajloun (site of an ancient castle) and Jerash (a former Roman stronghold).

Ajloun was the site of many crusade battles where Europeans and Ottomans waged some serious war. The castle site was more or less barren, but it had some great viewpoints of the surrounding valley. Also, we got a decent workout scrambling up and down some pretty steep steps.

The Roman ruins in Jerash were defintely the most impressive that we have ever seen. Our Jerash visit was defined by standing next to a 100ft tall column, watching it sway in the wind, and thinking this was built 1700 years ago! These last few standing columns were enormous in every aspect and really gave a sense for how immense Roman architecture had become.

The theatre was also a fun visit. It is very well preserved and functional to boot. We took turns testing out the keystone, located just in front of the main stage. While speaking to an invisible audience in the stands, one just walks until they are standing on the keystone. All of a sudden it’s like a microphone was switched on – really amazing that it still works. I even tried standing at the very last row at the top of the stadium steps, while Bob was talking at the keystone – he may have well been sitting next to me. Just the accoustics made this a fascinating visit.

The next day we set out for Petra (THE highlight of Jordan). During the 3+ hour drive to and from Petra, we paid a visit to Mt. Nebo (famous Moses site), Madaba (a live Christian city), and Karak Castle (prime example of vaulted Islamic architecture).

Mt Nebo, was historically/religiously an intersting visit. We basically stood where Moses is believed to have looked across the Red Sea and gazed upon Jerusalem. Next we visited Madaba, a strongly Christian town with numerous examples of Roman tile work – as well as a Byzantine mosaics of the known world (back then of course).

During our visit at Karak, Abu Gazi explained the significance of headscarves, who chose to wear them, and why. He also taught us about basic traditions such as marriage in Jordan. We learned that their culture it strongly tied to the extended family unit, respect for elders, and helping those less fortunate. Almost, every major tradition at some point involves a feast. Whenever a lamb or sheep is killed for such an event, the extra (there always is) is given to those in the family who need some help or other members of the community who are in need. I wondered, when was the last time I enjoyed a feast with family and shared that very blessing with others in need? Fortunately, I can improve on that…

Petra? read on…

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