Friday, February 27, 2009

Old Statues and an Unsung City

Petra is a tough act to follow. But we folded our achy bodies into the car at 7:30am on Thursday so we could drive up to Amman (about three hours) to do a quick city tour, lunch, and then visit Jerash about thirty minutes to the north.

Our Amman tour was relatively brief -- a visit to the Citadel overlooking the city plus a visit to the Roman theatre nearby. The theatre was fun, particularly because it's still in use despite being built more than 1,800 years ago. The Citadel provides great views of the city, including one of the world's tallest flagpoles. But the highlights are the small treasures in the museum there. Most famous are the portions of the Dead Sea scrolls, written on leather, papyrus, and bronze. But our favorite were statues that are apparently the oldest statues of humans ever discovered (in Ain Ghazl-Amman in 1985). More than 8,000 years old, the statues reminded us of ET. The two-headed ones are believed to represent the idea of husband and wife coming together to form a single person.

After a yummy barbecue lunch, we headed out to Jerash. To be honest, we had never heard of it, but we are glad our guide recommended it. Jerash is one of the largest remaining Roman cities. The grounds are immense, with Hadrian's Arch, a Hippodrome, temples, tombs, houses, columns, fountains, theatres, yet another amazing mosaic, and a cathedral. Not to mention acres and acres of ground yet to be excavated. Among the high points are the Tomb of Artemis, which contains some of the few columns that have remained standing since the original construction, and the South Theatre, where you can (somewhat incongruously) be serenaded by bagpipe players.

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