I have to apologise for the poor quality of some of the pictures in this set. We visited Jordan in 2002, and one of my cameras was a Kodak DC215, which I don’t think rated a megapixel! The better pix are scans of the prints and slides I took with my ‘real’ cameras.
Many tourists confess to disappointment when visiting a well-known landmark, and finding it didn’t measure up to their expectations. Occasionally, though, you come across one that far exceeds what you were expecting.
Two sites in Jordan exhibit this quality. One is the well-known rock city of Petra, to the south of the country; the other is the less well-known Graeco-Roman city of Jerash, which lies about 50 km. north of the capital, Amman.
Jerash is claimed to be the most complete Roman ruin outside Italy. It conforms with what most people would imagine such a city looked like, so you don’t need to be a committed historian or archaeologist to enjoy it, or to imagine what it looked like in its heyday.
What first-time visitors often fail to realise, though, is the scale of the place. It wasn’t a temple, or a villa … it was a city! It deserves more than a ‘quick look around’ and a couple of pictures before piling back on to the coach to the next attraction. Allow at least half a day; comfortable shoes and plenty of water are recommended; we also counsel taking at least three times as much film as you think you’ll need.
If you want something to eat after your tour, we thoroughly recommend the ‘Green Valley Restaurant’, just outside the modern town, to sample some ‘genuine, Bedouin’ cuisine. The owner, we were told, has four brothers … all farmers who grow vegetables, and raise sheep and chickens. So, the food is all organic, fresh … and delicious!
When we visited in 2002, Jordan’s tourism industry had suffered badly because of recent events … we could disregard guide-book information about places being ‘tourist-ridden’. However, in order to attract visitors back, many sites … including Jerash … allowed a 50% discount on entrance fees to non-Jordanian visitors.
Many people who haven’t been to Petra will still be familiar with the much-photographed Treasury (which featured in the film ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’) but no amount of photographs … or even TV documentary … prepares the visitor for what lies beyond. It’s about a three mile hike to the restaurant near the head of the canyon; and again, we’re dealing with a city here, not just one or two buildings!
The books tell us that Johann Ludwig Burckhardt discovered Petra in 1812. However, ‘discovered’ maybe isn’t the right word, for the Bedouin have always been living there, right up until fairly recently.
Some of the caves do still house shops and restaurants, although nobody lives permanently in Petra now. The guides say that, when the Bedouin people were rehoused elsewhere, one old lady refused to move. She said that she wanted to die in the home she’d always known. The then Crown Prince Hassan paid a personal visit to try to persuade her, and the old lady produced a dagger (which probably gave his security people a bad moment) and said she couldn’t disobey a Prince, so would he please kill her now.
The authorities relented, and the old lady stayed until she died. So, maybe living in a cave isn’t as bad as it sounds?