Amman


     Our last few days in Kuala Lumpur were something of a hectic scrambling to help bring about this Jordan leg of the journey. At any number of points it seemed unlikely that we would be going to Jordan at all. The whole thing came down to the last hour before we were to leave for the airport in Kuala Lumpur with the US office on line saying we could not proceed, when an email from Amman reached the US coordinator--as we were still on the line--saying Karen had received provisional clearance. The whole thing made for several very stressful days. At any rate, we were able to make our night owl flight, and when we reached our stopover in Kuwait we checked the internet to find that the clearances and rate approvals were all in place. A few hours later we were being met by a company driver in Amman and were on our way to the hotel. The Hotel Intercontinental is just a bit more prissy place than we might haven chosen if left ot our own devices, but with the company covering the bill the place seemed hospitable enough. Amman itself was something of a revelation though, and the hospitality of the Jordanian people amazes me daily.
     Since Karen had to report for work the very next day, we spent the better part of our first day just recovering from the thirteen hour flight. On the next day as Karen went for orientation I began to do a bit of exploring. Amman's interesting history extends well back into the Bronze Age, and throughout that history it has come under the influence of several dynasties including the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Byzantine. Among the most notable of those influences was Rome's influence on the design of Amman, which mimicked to some extent the design of Rome itself. Like Rome, Amman was built on seven hills, or Jebals, and the remnants of its Roman legacy are among the city's most enduring.

Atop Jebal al-Qala'a, one of the most recognizable sites in Amman is the Citadel, two views of which are shown above and below. The Citadel contains the ruins of a Byzantine Church, and is now home to an outstanding archaeological museum complete with good English translations of all of the descriptions on its displays. The displays even contain some remnants of The Dead Sea Scrolls.


The view from The Citadel on one side shows modern Amman bathed in early morning light (above). Almost everything in Amman is built of limestone giving a certain degree of uniformity, while at the same time offering a sense of something solid and enduring. From the opposite side of The Citadel that sense of endurance is reinforced by the sight of The Roman Theater (below) near Amman's old "downtown" area.


To the left of the Roman Theater (as viewed from the Citadel above) is the Hashemite Plaza with the Roman Odeon visible in the lower right hand corner. Although these two sites are relatively close to the Citadel--less than a kilometer--they are nearly straight down, making them a lengthy cab ride. This is true of many things in and around downtown Amman, with the shortest distances often being a  vigorous climb through narrow passages and half hidden stairways.




Above left, Karen roams one of the "avenues" of the Citadel with the domed "audience hall" of the Umayyad Palace complex in the background. The structure occupies the site of an earlier Byzantine church and boasts a dome reconstructed by the Spanish archaeologists who have done much of the investigations here. At right above is one of the many stairways that wind up and down Amman's hills. This is one of a series of stairways leading down from the Citadel to the Roman Theater.







Although Amman has a sizable Christian population it is the cities mosques that dominate the skyline. At top left is the King Hussein Mosque, whose plaza is a popular gathering place immediately adjacent to the city's bustling produce market. More than once in this market have I had merchants refuse payment for my small handful of apricots or peppers. It is I am sure a combination of not wanting to request payment for such a small amount coupled with the Jordanian people's warm hospitality. We have both had strangers walk up to us on the street and say "...welcome to Jordan", and yesterday as we walked to dinner an old man chatting with a businessman in a suit noticed us and turned away from his friend to shake our hands and offer an Arabic greeting.

Two of the more recognizable mosques on Amman's skyline are the King Abdullah Mosque above seen from our hotel room, and the Abu Darwish Mosque below--a complete departure from the typical local architecture. The King Abdullah, with its recognizable blue dome, is said to hold some seven thousand worshipers inside and another three thousand in its courtyard. Although the Abdullah can be seen from our room, there are at least three mosques that are closer. Five times daily the Adhan (the Muslim call to prayer) is sung by the mu'athin. The call is sung over loudspeakers from the minarets of the city's hundreds of mosques. Each mu'athin lends his own distinctive touch to the call, which is sung at times governed by ancient laws--such as the time when you can no longer see the stars or the earliest time that you can distinguish a man's features outdoors. There is also one for midday for when a mans shadow is at its shortest. That prayer ends when the shadow has grown by seven lengths of a man's foot or four cubits.


Above is one of the few reminders that we are in fact in the Middle East. This Jordanian soldier (with his Pepsi nearby) stands watch over some construction to the extremely upscale Le Royal Hotel. Passing through metal detectors and having packages screened each time you enter the more expensive hotels is little more than a minor annoyance. It is a remnant left over from the aftermath of several hotel bombings back in 2004. Still, Amman is host to hordes of western people, and we have encountered more Americans in our few days here than in our past ten-and-a-half months in Asia.