Sunday, 1 November 2009

Jordan. Jerash & Umm Qais.

Today we needed would need the sustenance provided by the simple breakfast of Labneh (a thick cheese like yoghurt) Fig jam, Cheese, Tomatoes, Olives and Halva served by the Chef at the Ajloun Woodland Reserve. The restaurant in the reserve is on the roof top of the visitors centre, it is large with seating for over 80, with just the two of us sitting in it we felt rather lonely!
Following our simple meal we set of to explore the Roman city of Jerash. We had passed Hadrians Arch the day before, but, it was in such good condition that we had failed to realise it was the entrance to the Old Roman city, thinking that it was some kind of Victorian Folly!
Hadrian's Arch, built in 129 AD to honor the visit of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, is located at a road junction, next to a set of traffic lights. You turn into the large parking area next to the Arch, walk through a fake tourist bazaar, find the hidden ticket office and enter the ancient city.I was totally unprepared for Jerash. I found it very interesting, with its Roman streets, with street lighting, aqueducts, sewerage, shops, water feature and theatre. It was easy to imagine the Romans of long ago enjoying life in this city.
The South Theatre built in 90 AD, has been extensively restored. It can seat over three thousand. As we arrived a Jordanian pipe band dressed in traditional dress, started to play a selection of tunes including ‘Scotland the brave’.
At 11.00 we made our way to the Hippodrome to watch a the Chariot racing show, another unexpected pleasure! The show was a short history of Roman Army techniques...how familiar the battle strategies sound. A gladiator show, that the 3 small boys in fount of us absolutely loved and the chariot racing. I learned more about the Romans in this 60 minutes than I ever did at school ?
Once the chariot show was over, we drove our towards the town of Irbid, then on to Umm Qais.
The Roman town of Umm Qais is a lot smaller than Jerash. The main attraction being the Resthouse with its views over the Jordan Valley, the Sea of Galilee, the Yarmouk Gorge and the Golan Heights. We enjoyed a late lunch at the rest house, before descending into the Yarmouk Gorge and the sleepy village of Himmeh.
The drive along the lush and very picturesque gorge road was slow, and you are not permitted to take photos of the area. The Jordanian Military stop you at very frequent intervals and look at your passports and check your camera to ensure that you are not taking photos of the boarder.