Jordan

I’ve been sitting on pictures of my trip to Jordan in October for months, because between the Omicron surge and the invasion of Ukraine, it felt obnoxious and tone deaf to post about a fun escape abroad. It still feels that way, to be honest, but a little less so in light of the fact that there’s no end in sight to either the pandemic or Putin’s inhumanity.

The reason I went on the trip in the first place was because of its good timing: I was in-between jobs, the pandemic seemed to be in-between surges, and my New York-based friend was in the middle of a short-term consultancy in Amman. I had hoped to go to Jordan and Israel in the same trip, ever since I found out that there is a daily 30-minute flight from Amman to Tel Aviv as well as a couple of easy land crossings. But COVID restrictions and passport difficulties made it impossible, unfortunately.

So, here are some highlights of Jordan, a truly breathtaking country.

Amman:

There are Roman (and Ummayad, and Byzantine, and other) ruins sprinkled throughout the city. At the top of one of Amman’s many hills is a cluster of them called the Citadel, and it includes the Temple of Hercules. The city lights up the temple’s remaining columns at night, and they loom beautifully over the city.

There’s a Roman amphitheater and plaza near the Citadel.

Back to modernity. Spice shops in Amman are a delight. I bought zaatar and sumac home. Those big spongey things are loofahs.

There’s also a lot of nice street art.

And there are beautiful and balmy restaurants, including the one below, my favorite in the city. I went for my birthday, which fell towards the end of my trip.

I visited the Jordan Museum on my last day to read more about the various civilizations whose ruins I had seen during the trip. It was fascinating. There were Dead Sea scrolls, too. I could actually read some of it! I could not, however, understand any of it.

Amman is a series of hills, and if your primary transportation is your feet, you do as much climbing as walking. Below is, I kid you not, the middle of one of the staircases that provide vertical detours to pedestrians, so they don’t have to spend hours walking along the roadways that take more snaking routes.

Umm Qais:

These ruins in the north are distinctive for their black basalt columns, a rarity. There is also a beautiful view to the Sea of Galilee to the west and the Golan Heights to the east. I had some complicated feelings looking westward towards the country that I call Israel and that Jordan calls Palestine. Because this blog is not a forum on which I feel comfortable discussing those feelings, let’s just leave it at that.

Jerash:

I had never heard of Jerash before my trip, but the Roman (and Hellenic, Byzantine, and Umayyad) ruins here were the most mind-blowing ones I’ve ever visited — and I’ve visited them in maybe eight or nine different countries. Not sure why they are not as well-known as Petra, but they should be.

Can’t remember the exact age, but I believe the mosaics below are over 1500 years old.

The chariot ruts are still visible in the roadways.

And the fact that the writing is still legible on some of the ruins is amazing.

Petra:

Pictures can’t do justice to the Nabatean ruins of Petra. You just have to see them in person. That said…

We spent one afternoon going halfway into the ruins via the “front entrance.” You walk through a canyon for twenty minutes and then the Treasury reveals itself in the most eye-popping way. The second day, we got up at the crack of dawn and entered Petra through the “back door,” i.e. we hiked through Little Petra and the area between Little and big Petra. That way, we saw the Monastery first and then walked all the way back through to the front entrance.

Wadi Rum:

I was told that this desert would change my life. I was doubtful, and then it sort of did. On the way out, I just thought a lot about how expansive and abundant the universe is.

Bedouin barbecue is made in a pit in the ground.

Lots of ancient writing and drawings.

Attempting to sandboard, below. I did not succeed, though I saw others fly down the mountain. In the image, I am not actually in motion; I am wriggling around trying to get unstuck.

Everywhere else:

The smallest hotel in the world, in a VW Bug. 🙂

The proprietor made me a gift, just because. Gift-giving is huge in Jordan. It’s the only country I have been to where shopkeepers give you things instead of selling them to you. Very sweet. (Two other distinctive things about Jordan that I have never encountered in another country: trees that smell like semen (all over Amman; I was actually relieved when I realized the source was floral and not human), and ubiquitous ghost drivers.

A crusader-era castle.

A Grand Canyon-like area.

Mount Nebo, below. Supposedly where Moses saw the Promised Land before his death.

Food:

So much good food. SO SO SO SO much. A few highlights, and no descriptions, below, because I need to wrap this up stat and head off on my next adventure. To be continued…

Bye!

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