“As-Salaam-Alaikum” from Amman, which means “peace be unto you.” We like that. Here’s a combined blog, with the first part from Brayden and the second from my sister Brooke.
We’ve been touring Amman and its surrounding villages and sites in the last few days here in Jordan. We toured the city of Amman in Jordan, the Citadel, visited the ancient Roman City of Jerash, went for a nature hike Aljoun forest and explored the Aljoun forest.
We began our day by driving to a foundation called Wild Jordan that preserves wildlife and nature in Jordan. From there, we walked the streets of Amman. All of the buildings were made of white sandstone and were all bleached by the scorching sun.
During the summer, it can get up to 50°C which converts to 122°F. Many of the streets had garbage on them, and the buildings on either side all had cracks and cuts all over them. In some deserted parts, tons of trash was all piled up everywhere. On the streets, there were many streets that sold knock-offs (fakes) of everything. I even saw a Beats Pill, that had an “F” instead of a “B” in the middle of it.
While crossing the roads, because crossroads are nonexistent and traffic is pretty crazy, we had to play real life Crossy Road or Frogger to try to get across many times, just stepping out into the traffic and the honking and jumping forward and backward to avoid the cars. We also visited a vegetable and fruit market where locals sold all types of foods and fruits. The market was packed with people, but there was a beautiful aroma from the nuts and fruits and foods. Towards the end of the market there was less fruit, and we kept seeing stores where people could buy heavily used clothes, like shoes, glasses and coats. In the section that we were, which was the old part, most of the stores had knock-offs and items where very cheap, because this is where the middle class lived. In the western district, where the rich people live, items are high quality and expensive, so only the people living there could buy those items. That’s what our guide Elias told us.
After walking through the city, we came to the ancient Roman Theater. Seven thousand people fit inside of the theater. The theater was built in 120-130 AD. Similar to many other Greek and Roman theaters, if you clap your hands in the middle of the stage, you can hear it even if you are in the back row of the theater. After looking at the theater, and climbing all the steps to get to the top, we went to the Museum of Popular Culture, which displayed costumes, tools and traditions throughout the Arab region and the land that is now Jordan. It has a really, really long history.
Next, we visited a Roman ruins site called The Citadel on top of a mountain overlooking Amman. Amman was first called Rabbath Ammon then Philadelphia and finally now it is called Amman. In this site, there was a huge temple to Hercules. Now, there are only a few marble columns and Hercules’s hand and elbow remaining. In the site, there was an archeological museum that had all sorts of ancient items that were uncovered. They even had animal bones from 1,000,000 years ago. There were many bronze, stone and iron tools inside of the museum. Also, they had the original Jordanian Dinar coins on display. We walked to the end, where there was an ancient Roman palace. The palace was in a very poor state. Many of the stones had been stolen or lost, and almost all the buildings had collapsed and weren’t ever going to be restored. We walked back to the car and headed for the city of Jerash.
We drove for an hour, and then came to the ancient city. Jerash is said to be one of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy, it was a little like Ephesus but even more amazing. The Romans conquered areas and then left them to be pretty politically independent, just using taxes from the regions. Jerash was on a major trade route, and one of ten city-states built to manage the Arab regions also called the decapolis. The Romans were great at conquest, at managing conquered lands, and at building amazing cities, temples, libraries, coliseums and a huge empire.
We walked into the main gates which were called “Hadrian’s Gate” and were built for the Roman Emperor Hadrian who came and visited Jerash After entering the gates, we walked through a small building, until we came to one of the main streets.
Jerash was built in 1200 BC, 3200 years ago! At the time, 25000 people lived in Jerash, which actually wasn’t too many, compared to cities like Rome. On the main street, there were many shops from the Roman period. Behind the shops, there was the Hippodrome, where the Romans would race horses and chariots. We walked in through a tunnel and came out onto the sandy ground where horses and racers would’ve stood thousands of years earlier. We ran around the track once and then ran back up into the stands. One lap around the Hippodrome is 500 meters long, which is around 546 yards. We walked on until we came to a large pavilion, that was surrounded by large marble columns. On top of a hill behind us, there was a temple dedicated to Zeus (Greek), or Jupiter (Roman). Zeus/Jupiter is the main god in Greek and Roman mythology, so his temple was massive. Although, his temple was in poor shape, so it didn’t look as beautiful as the other pieces and parts of the ruins. We walked all around the huge site, and got to stand inside of the Temple of Artemis, the patron god of Jerash. Back in the Roman era, only priests and the emperor could go into the temples, so we felt really divine walking in and standing inside the altar area and thinking back to the Roman period.
We walked through the ruins for a while longer, and then headed back to the car exhausted. That night, we all got showered up and put on some nice clothes to meet one of dad’s friends named Yazen and his wife named May. I’m not sure how to spell them, but they were really nice people. We had a great dinner, with barbeque and meses (starters) and a really fun time talking to them. Yazen had a crazy story about negotiating his way (and our uncle sean) up to the Temple Mount to pray and visit in Jerusalem. He is really funny, but then was mad at dad for buying dinner!
At the start of today, we went on the soap makers hike. The soap makers hike is a hike full of green nature. We saw many olive trees. Did you know, that black olives and green olives can be from the exact same tree!! We saw a wild strawberry tree that doesn’t actually grow strawberries which had a redish pinkish trunk. It looks like a manzanita tree. We also ate a fig straight rom the tree and it tasted like jam. On the hike we could see Syria from on the top of the mountain I felt very angry and sad about Syrians because they don’t deserve to have to leave and flee from their homes because of IsIs. We felt strange to look across the border, to the mountains inside of Syria from the Jordan side. An interesting and really sad fact about the Syrian problems is that there are over 1 million refugees from Syria now in a refugee camp at the Jordanian border and that makes that one single refugee camp the third largest city in all of Jordan right now. To help the kids, the schools in Jordan operate in the morning (8am to 2pm) for Jordanian kids, and then stay open from 2pm to 6pm for the Syrian refugee kids. The whole thing is hard for a kid to understand, and my dad says that it is hard for him to understand too!
Then, we went to the Ajloun Castle. We learned that the people who were defending it had poisonous arrows that they got from snakes venom. We saw them making a T.V. show it was very amusing. We lost a lacrosse ball when we made a film clip on the very tippy-top of the castle that went over the edge and hit someone in the head. (see photo)
Just kidding that’s all just makeup for the movie we watched them filming!
The castle was built to keep Crusaders out of the land. They used pigeons to communicate from Damascus to the red sea. The castle was finally conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century. It was cool.
At night, we went out into the Amman town to have a dinner in the home of a local Amman family. They cooked a tasty meal with meats and rices and vegetables and tea and we sat with them and their kids and talked about stuff just like we do at home, like games and sports and schools. Did you know that in the Jordan public schools there is one teacher in a classroom and maybe 55 students! I am happy to go to Creekside!
We are excited to head south to visit Mt. Nebo and Petra and Wadi Rum!