23 June 2012

No Taxi – Bus

The day started out well.  The sun came up, people started honking horns in the street, and we got to sleep in until about 8:30.  Perfect.  Today is washing day.  We got all our gear together to give to Andrew.  I feel a bit sorry for the washing machine, as it contains all the sweat from Thailand, plus the salt and sand!  Andrew had no problem  with this, which was great.  The guy doesn’t seem to sleep.  He was up when we went to bed, and up again in the morning (Or still up, not sure which).
Time to make some serious decisions.  Where are we going tomorrow?  Madaba, stay here, or another as yet unknown location?  What are we doing today?  Lazy day doing blog? Jerash? go south?  The lazy day was ruled out, as we are a bit over this part of Amman, and don’t want to taxi all over the city.  We may be a few streets away from the best place in Amman, but we wouldn’t know about it.  So go south or north?  Well, if we go south we will backtrack when we do go south.  So Jerash it was.  David was up at this time, and asked if he could come along as well.  We had no problems with this, as we had enjoyed their company yesterday, so were happy to have them along for this ride.

Jaresh is famous for the shows it put on in the ancient theaters.

The plan:  Go to Jerash, come back to Amman early and do the blog.  Work out tomorrow.  Why do now what you can do later?  Ha!

Getting there was easy.  We now have intimate knowledge of the North (Tabarbour) bus station.  Easy to get to by Taxi, and we know that if you cross the road to catch one, you can shave 25 centis from the fare (Cheapscates that we are).  The ride across town is now familiar, and we can pick where we are from the types of streets.  About halfway there are all the tour agencies, past this the car rentals, then the clover leaf in the highway, where you have to do 2 U-turns to get to the station.  I love this here.  The big dividers in the road making sure you have to do u-turns to get where you are going.

At the station we had more good luck.  The bus was about ready to go.  No problemo.  Let us grab some water and we will be off.  Hurry Hurry.  2 stay here, 2 go!  OK.  Run (Walk mildly quickly) up and grab a few bottles of water and back.  10 minutes later the bus is off.  Hurry Hurry!  Again the same route to Jerash.  This shuttling back and forwards is annoying, but it is easier here.  Hopefully that will change in the south, or we will have to find a different spot to shuffle to/from.

Making camels out of sand

Enter Sandman

We were dropped off directly across from the ruins.  This makes it easy.  As soon as we got off the bus, we had taxi drivers asking where we wanted to go.  Still, with Sophia’s arabic, and us ignoring them, we crossed the road and were over the street.  The entrance was on this side, and as we approached, we had to go through the standard stalls.  Most of these are the usual.  Jewelry (Glass beads, fake gold, bracelets for the week, etc) scarves and headdresses, paintings of Jordan, food and drinks.  There was also a coloured sands stall.  This we had seen in Amman, but were not interested in stopping and getting hassled.  This time the guy seemed nice.  He was more than willing to let us take photos, and when we asked about it, he gave us a demonstration of how to do them.  With a pallet of 9 or 10 different colours he created a picture of a camel in the desert in front of the hills.  He made it look so simple and the bottle was full and done in five minutes.  The skill involved!

Taking our leave we went and got our tickets.  8JDeach!  considering we had been paying 1JD for everything else.

However this is the second most visited place in Jordan.
With tickets in hand we all headed off into the great ruins of the romans.  Great is the right word for it.  The first thing that you can see is the South gate.


Beautiful archway detail

This is over 13 meters tall in the main arch , and this is half the size of what it used to be.  It is very impressive.  From here we headed into the hippodrome.  This is where the romans did their chariot racing.  This has been resurrected and twice a week they put on new races.  At the moment there was only the one lonely horse.  The race looked like it had been over for ages.  All the other horses were finished, cleaned down, and left the arena, and this poor one was still only half way through!  Its going the distance.  There were a couple of people there watching it.  In reality, I think they were just after the scrap of shade.



Oval? Where was the Architect?

Moving along to the pillars in the distance.  This brought us to the central forum and temple of Zeus.  The forum here is a bit weird.  It is an oval shape rather than the standard circle.  We went into a bit of a museum in one of the tunnels under the temple.  The excavations at this site is being carried out by the french.  It shows on the information boards.  There is Arabic, side by side with French, and right at the bottom, in half sized font without light is English.  From there we went up to the temple proper.  It has a commanding view of the region, and although the pillars were only repositioned in the 1960’s you could imagine the scale involved.  The pillars are massive.  The whole area is ringed with them, and the sense of scale is huge.  While we were admiring the impressive architecture of the temple we started hearing bagpipes.  We thought our ears must be deceiving us. Oh well.  We needed to head on, as we were only about 5oo metres into the 3km long site, and were already taking our time.

Taking in a play, or listening to bagpipes, its all good if you bring a cushion.

From the temple we headed directly across to the amphitheater.  Why have everything so far apart.  Pray then go to the theater.  Good combo.  As we went up to the entrance we heard the bagpipes again.  There were two people inside.  One was a drummer, and surprise surprise, there was a bagpipe player.  They were both dressed in traditional military dress.  Kahki uniforms with a colourful sash over the shoulder.  These guys play for the tourists.  So we decided to go up in the bleaches and check out the accoustics.  They were brilliant.  We could clearly hear them talking way down at the bottom, and the music was quite loud.  You can clearly imagine what it would have been like 2000 years ago when this place was in full swing.  The babble of 5000 people dying down as the performers come out on stage to entertain the crowd.

Strolling through the main street.

Back down to the forum, and up the pillared highway that runs north through the town.  This is over the top.  The entire road is still covered with the original flagstones.  There is some subsidence, but it is in very good condition.  There are groves in some of the flagstones from hundreds of years of carts going over the same place.  Not as deep as in Rome or Pompeii, but still very clear.  Along the sides of the road there were long lines of columns.  These defined the road area from the stall areas.  These pillars originally covered the entire road on both sides.  Wandering down we came to the first crossroads.  In Jerash there is the main North-South road, and there are another two East-West roads.  This divided the community into eighths.  In the middle of the site there is another Temple to Artimus. The god of fertility.  There is a nice sign here saying that in 600 and something or other, the Christians were given the right to pillage the roman temples for the new christian churches.  The churches were created behind the temple.  There is nothing left other than a few more columns.

Shopping for Andrews

At about this time, we were all starting to get a bit parched.  You could buy water in the park, 1JD for a small one.  We thought we would stick it out and get some at the end where it is cheaper.  This meant that we sped things up though.  The summer desert sun didn’t do it, but without water…  It would be a shame to die of dehydration  in the middle of a city!  We had managed to do most of the site already.

Big Fountain.

There was the bath house.  A nice big building, but you couldn’t go into it.  Although there was a massive baptismal font out the front.  Then up the hill a bit was the remains of another church.  This one was still being excavated, and the mosaic floors had not been removed yet.  It was great to see them in place.  It give context as well as scale to a building.  This makes all the difference.  And although parts of the mosaic are missing, you can see how delicate and intricate it is.  Lastly there was the political amphitheater.  Smaller than the first, but just as nice.  Apparently this is where all the governance speeches were given.  It would be a sight to see if we did that in Australia (We may even have more input and interest in politics.  Its amazing what the thought of a tomato to the head can achieve.
The old forum area was in the middle of the columned street, and it had its own central fountain and spaces for shops around it.  Then room for the street stalls, and finally if you were lucky, the customers.  Although I don’t think they have had a customer in a long time.  There was no upkeep, and looked a little worse for ware.  I wouldn’t have bought anything there for a start.  The offerings were slim pickings already.  Firesales over the last 1000 years have cleared most of the back stock, and there were only a few 100kg rocks left.  Too big to fit in our bags.

Columns in the main temple. Stretching out to god.

Job done we headed out.  The bus had dropped us on the corner of the main street so we headed there to catch the return bus.  Simple.  Like everything in Jordan.  The taxi drivers flock there like seagulls gather around a fish and chips shop.  They were telling us that there are no busses.  How did we get there then?  Taxi drivers will say and do anything in this country to get a fare.  We knew there was a bus, and went looking for the bus station.  Thinking that it would be in the direction our arriving bus went, we followed that road.  At one point we came across a fuel station and there was a minivan there.  He did the standard “Welcome to Jordan, where are you from, where do you want to go”  We explained the situation to him, and he offered to take us to Amman for 20JD.  Whole discussion about service busses, and another guy came up and offered his services.  5JD to Amman.  Each?  No.  Just 5JD.  He was a regular guy going to Amman anyway, and that would more than cover the fuel.  Perfect.  We all piled into the car.  Sophia in the front as she speaks some Arabic, and can practice on the way.  This was a lot more comfortable than Ajlun.  Our driver Nihad, worked in Saudi and was only back home on holidays.  On the way he stopped for fuel.  5JD.

Mosaic in Church

He also bought a box of MishMish (apricots).  On the way he offered to take us for coffee at a friends restaurant.  This set off alarm bells, but we are cynical.  We all agreed to go, and ended up at an Italian place in west Amman.  It was near a uni and quite trendy. We all had coffee or tea, and Nihad had a shish.  After an hour or so of talking about friends, family, Jordan and the like, it was getting dark.  On leaving David offered to pay the bill.  18JD.  I suppose for where we were, service fees and taxes etc, it was reasonable, but still stung.  On arriving back at the hotel, Nihad wouldn’t accept payment for the ride.  I think he saw our expressions with the bill!  It was definitely worth it, as he is a really nice guy.

Dinner.  Hashims.  I am not sure if it was mentioned the last time we ate there, but is a famous place that now has over 20 chain restaurants in Amman.  It serves vegetarian food.  Mainly bread and dips.  Fantastic and cheap.  All in all a very good day.



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