Window to Middle East

Travel is life and I say this all the time. Being bitten by wanderlust bug from childhood, guess it’s in my DNA. As a kid I always used to tell my parents on how I want to travel across the world specially the countries of Europe and Australia but Middle East never caught my fancy.

Recently I got an opportunity to visit Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan by the Jordan Tourism Board, and I thought why not? After all, another name of travel is to explore the unknowns.

Ahlan Wa Sahlan to Jordan!

Though the journey began from Mumbai, the actual trip started when I touched down Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Jordan, which is considered a holy pathway, is the land of rich civilization and beautiful people, a contrast of old and modern era. The culture of Jordan is a beautiful mix of Arabic and Islamic elements with Western influence now. It is said to be the intersection of three continents of the ancient world, thus the diversity. Music of Jordan, sports like football and basketball, language, hospitality, cuisine are like the perfect puzzle pieces which make Jordan what it is today.

Our first pit stop was Amman, 30 km from the airport. We left the hotel as soon as we checked in. Had our lunch, the enthusiasm was sky high, we hopped in our Sultan (the bus) and left for the historical site of Citadel known as Jabal al-Qal’a in Arabic. It’s an L-shaped hill which is one of the seven jabals that originally made up Amman. Citadel crowns Amman on the East which is filled with historic sites, while the West of Amman is more modern and serves as the economic centre of the city.

The maximum of Amman’s population resides in the west side for its modern inclination, east has been an abode to refugees for a long time who came after first and second war from Arab and Israel between 1948 and 1967. The refugees have Palestinian background but have the right to vote and live like Jordanian citizens. Citadel in fact is considered among world’s oldest continuously inhabited places.

Citadel is a hill with ruins of the Temple of Hercules, an Ummayyad Palace, a Byzantine Church and has a 6000 seater Roman Theatre.

View of 6000 seater Roman Theatre with refugee occupied area in the background

What we saw at Citadel is been enclosed within the fortification walls (ca. 150 AD) and is not even half of what is believed to be still not excavated. Quite fascinating right?

Temple of Hercules (161 – 166 AD)

The most significant Roman structure in Amman Citadel, the hand and elbow fragments (on right side of the picture) belonged to a colossal statue from the Roman period and were found near the Temple of Hercules. The statue is estimated to be 13 metres high, making it one of the largest statues from Greco Roman times. Due to massiveness of the statue, the temple was attributed to Hercules who was renowned for his massive strength.

Ummayyad Palace

A large palatial complex from Umayyad period

I loved the fact that how the Government of Jordan has not only provided shelter to the refugees but also consider them as its own part giving them the rights of Jordanian citizens. Something we don’t get to see everywhere, don’t you think?

Our next pit stop was Jerash, the Gerasa of Antiquity. This Roman city brags of being an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back to 6500 years. Being hidden under sand for a long period of time due to earthquakes, along with wars and turmoil which caused the major destruction – Jerash was later discovered by a German Orientalist Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806 who initiated the excavation.

Arch of Hadrian

We entered Jerash through the magnificent Arch of Hadrian, one of the 12 monumental triumphal arches. It was built to honour the visit of Emperor Hadrian to Jerash in 129-130 AD.

From where I stand – A glimpse of Hippodrome

Jerash’s hippodrome is one of the smallest known hippodromes at 244 meters by 52 meters but quite amazingly it could seat 15,000 spectators at a time for chariot races and other vastly popular Greco/Roman sports.

The South Gate built between 80 – 96 AD

South Theatre

The South Theatre is amazingly designed with great acoustics allowing the speaker at the centre of orchestra floor to speak without raising voice and heard by all in the theatre. I did try the acoustic and they say right.

As captivating was this theatre, the view right behind the stage was breath-taking and definitely reminded me of the movie Leap Year, though shot in Ireland.

The Oval Forum and Cardo Maximus – a view from South Theatre

The oval forum is surrounded by a sequence of 56 iconic pillars and a fountain the centre. I could spend hours at the South Theatre watching down this beautiful and mesmerizing sight!

Barring the history what caught our attention were the Bedouin bagpipe players in the South Theatre. They were really entertaining and friendly and getting this picture clicked with them is definitely going down in my best moments.

The Bagpipe players

We left Jerash when the sun was nearing horizon. On the way to the Rainbow Street for dinner at Sufra we stopped by a valley and captured the beautiful view of the old city at twilight. A sight which is sure to stay in my heart forever.

Sun kissed sky and twinkling lights

Stay tuned to our next blog as we move on to the next stop in Jordan. Don’t forget to leave in your comments and share this with your friends and family!

Written by Stuti

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