We left our hotel very early to cross the the border into Jordan. This went very smoothly until we got to the other side and our Jordanian guide was not there. He was caught in traffic near the border, a small village had a “market day” and caused a disruption. After a tense twenty minutes, our guide Ash arrived and was extremely apologetic. There were no problems at the border and once he arrived we were able to move quickly to Jerash. Well, as quickly as one can move through small Jordanian villages. Traffic is terrible and there only seem to be general guiding principles for traffic flow.
Since it was getting close to noon we had a quick “sandwich” at a shop in the Jerash parking lot. I had a kabob, roasted beef with some vegetables and a few fries, but chicken was also available. With a drink it was $9 (or 6 dinar), a reasonable price. Strangely the shop was playing Joan Baez’s Greatest Hits, probably because the first song was Amazing Grace and we were a Christian group. It was somewhat surreal to hear her music in a Middle Eastern shop. As much as I enjoy Joan, it didn’t quite fit.
Jerash is a large city and was once part of the Decapolis. It does not have much biblical interest (unless Paul visited during his three years in Arabia), but it is a well-preserved Roman era city, much larger than Bet Shean (another Decapolis city in Israel which we visited two days ago). There are many highlights and I hate the fact we can only spend a short time at the site. Hadrian’s Gate opens to a street and hippodrome, although it is not fully restored. The oval plaza leading to the Cardo is breathtaking, a great picture opportunity.
From the oval plaza we walked up to the a fully restored theater. From a central spot you may speak in a normal voice and be heard throughout the theater. It is fun to watch students speak a few words then step onto the spot, they are always amazed at the amplification. Naturally the bagpipers have to play, although I am not sure why. I would prefer to have a quiet visit, but people seem to like them. I would also like to visit the temple of Zeus nearby, but we did not have the luxury of time.
Passing by the mosaics in the three churches, we walked over to the Temple of Artemis. This massive temple has some of the best pillars we see on the tour and demonstrate how they sway in the wind. There was a coffee vendor (with a fake British accent) so we shared some Turkish coffee (with Cardamon, of course!) We then walked down the sacred steps (seven sets of seven steps) to the Cardo. There is much more to see here, we were only able to visit a few of the highlights.
From Jerash we traveled south past Amman to Madaba and Mount Nebo. We were running behind, so we skipped the Madaba map and only viewed the Dead Sea from Mount Nebo. This is the traditional location where Moses viewed the land before he died. Between the evaporation from the Dead Sea and modern pollution there was quite a bit of haze, but the Sea was visible even if Jericho was obscured.
The long drive to Petra was uneventful, it is a sadly dull drive through the desert and the last part is in the dark. We made it to dinner by 9PM and most people were exhausted. The Petra Marriott is very comfortable, and we have an early start at Petra in the morning.