Thursday, April 28, 2011
I've been very busy during the last few weeks, and though we still have one month left here in Amman, the time seems to be slipping away. Recently we have embarked on many adventures around different parts of Jordan and I am pleased to see the weather change from chilly and rainy to a constant state of warmth and sunshine. I love it!
The past few Fridays have brought us to several locales around the country. We went on a tour with Doctor Rababa of the desert castles in Al-Azraq, a desert province in the northeast of Jordan which borders Iraq. The last of the castles was an Arab stronghold during the 1916 revolt against the Ottoman Empire, and had been used as a headquarters for the famous Lawrence of Arabia. The head administrator for that same castle was a Jordanian Druze (a sect of Islam) who sat with us and explained some of the differences between the Druze faith and mainstream Islam.
After visiting the last of the desert castles we went to the Azraq Oasis which is now a protected wildlife preserve. It was once a huge oasis covering large swaths of would-be desert, but due to constant pumping of the waters from the oasis to cities like Amman, the size of the pools have been reduced to a fraction of what they were 30 years ago. 1 in 4 cups of water in Amman come from Al- Azraq, and yet preservation of the oasis requires that water be pumped into it daily. It was a truly beautiful place, and I was amazed that such a lush, green landscape could exist in the middle of the brutal desert.
Last week we took a trip to Northern Jordan, firstly the Hellenistic city of Jerash, which contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the entire country. The ruins are remarkably well preserved and the weather was fantastic! After spending the morning in Jerash we moved on to the northwestern city of Ajloun, famous for its thick forests and mainly for the huge Ajloun Castle which was built on the highest summit in Jordan. There in the castle we met one of Doctor Rababa's relatives who happened to be a curator in the museum, and he gave us a wonderfully detailed tour. Jordan is a very small country with a population of only about 6 million - everyone is either related via tribal association or knows each other because they live in the same city.
This weekend we took a trip to the northernmost city in Jordan, Irbid, which is situated in the corner between the Syrian and Israeli borders. We had breakfast at Doctor Rababa's sister's house, then some of his relatives accompanied us to Umm Quais, another one of the ancient Roman cities which were built across the region during the height of the empire. From the hill upon which Umm Quais is built, you can see Israel/Palestine and the Golan Heights of Syria sprawl out before you - a truly amazing view, like so many to be found here.
We have had many adventures and come a long way with our studies, and though I will be sad to leave Jordan I am very happy with my results thus far. I have 3 weeks left to spend here before I head back stateside, and this weekend we'll be taking our final trip to Petra and Wadi Rum. I can't wait!