Thursday, October 23, 2008
Kingdom of Jordan: An Undiscovered Jewel
By KJ Howe
I just returned from a trip to Jordan in the Middle East. It felt like walking into another world, one that echoes deep historical and biblical significance as well as a fascinating modern culture. The trip kicked off in the capital Amman one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world. Built on seven hills, you can visit the ancient Citadel, including the al-Qasr, "the palace," which dates back to the Islamic Umayyad period. Corinthian columns mark the site of the Byzantine basilica which is thought to date from the sixth or seventh century AD.
After discovering the city, take a short side trip to Jerash, one of the most complete ruins of a provincial Roman city in the world. Jerash was buried under sand and rubble for centuries until its discovery in 1806, and excavations began in 1925. Two theaters, an unusual oval-shaped forum, temples, churches, and baths round out the breathtaking sights. Fans of Roman times take note…there is a reenactment of gladiators fighting to the "death" and chariot races.
Ready for more? Visit Mount Nebo, a traditional burial site where Moses was buried or tour the mosaic Byzantine churches. Afterwards, stop by a fascinating mosaic workshop and learn how mosaics are crafted. Next I visited a crusader castle called Shobak, created by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Damascus to Egypt.
Wadi Rum was also fascinating. T.E. Lawrence lived in the desert with his Bedouin friends and allies during World War I in this stunning vista of sand dunes and rose-tinted mountains. I also had the opportunity to ride a camel as it prepared for an upcoming race. These amazing animals can run up to 47 km/hr!
The highlight of the trip was Petra, a city carved in the mountains and set in a canyon that only has one entrance, known as the "Siq," a narrow passageway which could be easily defended against attack by an invading army. Petra is a death city with great facades of tombs and burial halls, courts, and temples, all hewn deep in the mauve, rose, ochre and blue sandstone. Stunning! You can have a tour by one of the Bedouins who lived in the caves there.
For anyone who loves shopping, gold souks and street bazaars will fulfill all your needs. And if you feel in need of pampering, stay at a spa by the Dead Sea where you can float in water so high in salt that you feel like a cork bobbing on the surface.
Spending time in Jordan conjured up potential ideas for both historical and modern novels. Regardless of the time period of your books, Jordan’s setting would be a character in its own right. If you could travel to any country in the world, where would you go?