Petra, Kerak, Jerash,and Amman: Jordan, The Final Round.

I’d like to start today’s blog with good news! Last night Sean and I were over at a potluck dinner, and one of our friends said to me, “Hey, Kim, last night I Googled ‘Muttla Ridge’ and your blog was the first hit.” He said my post on Muttla Ridge was the first thing to show up. I was so excited to hear him say that; it’s really rewarding to know that my blog is read, and that hopefully, HOPEFULLY, people with questions about life in Kuwait find some sort of an answer here on my blog. I love blogging, but sometimes feel defeated with how arduous it can become. Did you know it takes approximately two and a half hours per post? (45 minutes to select the photos from my iPhoto album, 45 minutes to upload to the blog, and 45 minutes to caption and write.) It would be faster if we had better internet, but I don’t mind relaxing and taking the time to do it. It’s a very rewarding experience, and allows for me to reflect on our journeys as well. What is even MORE rewarding, however, is when our friend told me that my blog showed up as the first hit on Google! Cheers to that!

Moving on, this is the final post on Jordan, in which we finish up our trip to Petra, spend a day in a castle in Kerak, wander the Roman ruins of Jerash, and taste delicious food in Amman. Let’s get started, shall we?

(Additionally, this post will have interjections and additions by Sean. Kim is off to Zumba and I thought I’d edit some things. You will know me by the *)

Here I am with my mom and sister waking past a Bedouin trinket shop, ready to ascend the steps to the tomb above us. This was our third day in Petra, and once again we never saw the same thing twice! If you look at the steps above us, hopefully you can imagine how nerve-wracking it was to clamber around these ruins. There was absolutely nothing stopping the rocks from crumbling away and send you toppling over the edge. Regardless, the views and the adventure was too tempting to think twice, so clamber we did.

(*This is the start of what are called the “Royal Tombs”. The largest one you see at the top with the massive columns is called “urn tomb”. Archeologists think it was a Nabataean King in about AD 70. To put that into perspective, that is 9 years before Mt. Vesuvious erupts onto Pompeii.)

Dad and I at the tomb in the above picture. From this vantage point you can see many, many ruins in the far background, as well as little speckles of people just below us. My calves were aching by the end of the trip! Note how warm it was in comparison to the photos from Dana nature reserve; Petra, when the sun was out, reached a warm seventy degrees in the afternoon!

(*The white square tent in the bottom middle was the ruins of a Byzantine Church floor. The mosaics of the floor were still there with beautiful color depicting animals, important foods, and trades at the time).

They had a guard stationed at the tomb in traditional dress. I don’t know if this was more for affect or for legalities. Either way, I loved it. I think he spent more time texting on his cell phone than he did watching the tomb, though.

(*Most of the secrutiy is faux security. With the exception of the security at the Siq. Kim and I tried to go around them into a hike through the water drainage system and they were not having it. The standoff ended with them bringing us into their police hut and asking “Do we have a problem?” Really, there was no reason we couldn’t go on that hike, they just wanted us to pay for a guide that we probably did not need. Oh well 🙂

I loved the Bedouin children; they were so eager to interact with the tourists. They would approach you and ask things like, “Hello, what’s your name?” Or, “Where are you from?” The biggest conversational point was always, “Buy some postcards, one Dinar.” While I wasn’t buying any postcards in this picture, I WAS being enlightened by their explanation of the sign.

(*The local Bedul spoke English very well, as well as Italian, French, and German! These kids, in their broken English, are explaining to Kim what the sign says – despite their probable illiteracy. They were adorable.)

Ahhh, the hike has begun! On our third and final day, after we explored the tomb in the above photos, I convinced my family to get a “secret look” at the Treasury. There was a rumored hike that wound you up through the mountains to a viewpoint that overlooks the treasury from above. After climbing about a thousand steps, we took a break for lunch overlooking central Petra. You can see ruins far below us. I was so proud of my mom for completing this hike—it was a killer!

At the top of one of the peaks we climbed during this hike we found a Bedouin home. Close by was his donkey, where Sean was eager for his “Zorro shot”. The cool thing about Petra are the random donkeys you find stationed all over the hills, munching on dried grass and soaking up the sun. I think Emily wanted to take them all home with her : )

(*…almost did it)

Here we are. The secret view above the Treasury….

While the lighting wasn’t ideal, it was a beautiful experience. We had the lookout all to ourselves!

(*The reason this is called “The Treasury” is because of the large urn on the top of the tomb. You can see it on the very top of the tomb above the circular roof. The locals believed a legend that the urn contained the gold of an Egyptian Pharaoh. By the bullet holes in the urn you can tell that some of the Bedouin believed the legend…)

We loved this hike; it was a view that few people would ever experience on their trip to Petra. It was a difficult hike, and not without risk—it would be only too easy for one of us to tip off the edge of this cliff and make good use of the tomb below us! ; )

(*All of the buildings you see carved into the walls are tombs for the dead. They would cut a hole on the inside of the rock in the tomb and lay the body into it. They would often come back and exhume the body to have a ceremonial fest with it, like a party. This is very common in many cultures around the world. The Incans would be dragging their dead kings around in litters for centuries.)

After our hike, the sun was low in the sky and it was time for rest. Seeing as it was new year’s eve and our last day in Petra, my dad was in the mood for celebration. He asked me to haggle with the camel-man, and I obliged. Shortly thereafter, us three ladies took a bumpy ride on a camel all the way back to the edge of Petra! I love the above picture; the lighting is perfect, the camels (and their riders) look great, and you have a perfect view of the ruins behind us. *Sigh*.

I had never ridden a camel before—those things are REALLY high up! If you fell off, you’d have a long way to fall! The ride wasn’t uncomfortable, it was like riding a horse, kind of. The gait of the camel made the experience. It wasn’t a trot or walk or a horse, it was a longer, flowing gait. I loved it!

I think my mom could have ridden that camel around Jordan for the rest of the trip!

After we left Petra we made our way north, back to the town of Kerak. I love this picture because you can see how, in the hill country of Jordan, people have constructed their towns within the rolls and crevices of the hills. This picture was taken from the castle itself, and I just imagined what the guard of the castle saw looking over this land hundreds of years ago…

(*…He would have seen Saladin launching projectiles from his trebuchet at Kerak Castle! That little hill you see before you was one of the weaknesses in defending Kerak. A weakness that Saladin exploited in his conquering of the castle in 1189. At the time, the Castle leader was Raynald de Chatillon, a Frenchman known for his ruthlessness. Raynald was known for keeping control of his area through barbarous manners. From the picture above we are standing on the edge of the castle. That is the same edge that Raynald would hurl victims to their death, but not before encasing their head in a wooden box so they would maintain consciousness as they hit the bottom. More painful that way…   When Saladin finally did conquer the castle, he personally beheaded Raynald! Oh I love history…

Lastly, if you have ever seen the move “Kingdom of Heaven” with Orlando Bloom, that film depicts the exact events I described above and has a significant scene in Kerak Castle.)

The castle at Kerak. Note the figure standing on top of the ruins—of course, it is Sean!

After Kerak we drove my mother to the airport the next morning for our goodbyes. As a school teacher, she had to return a week earlier than my dad and sister. We left with heavy hearts, but happy souls for the time we spent together was precious, priceless, and unforgettable! Once we left the airport we headed north two hours to the ancient town of Jerash, home to the largest site of Roman ruins in the Middle East. Sean was chomping at the bit to arrive—he couldn’t wait! (Side fact: On the way to Jerash we passed the FIRST McDonald’s we’d seen in Jordan. After Jerash, we drove forty-five minutes out of our way to return for a McFlurry and fries…)

Here, Sean is posing on the stables of the hippodrome in Jerash. You can see Hadrian’s arch in the background.

(*This place was so cool! Roman Ruins! All my life I’d read about them, heard professors talk about them, seen pictures of them in books, watched countless videos depicting Rome…but now, I was finally seeing them for the first time with my own eyes. And not only seeing them, but climbing all over them!

I’m proud of my wife for getting all of the info above correct :).  The hippodrome in the right of the picture is one of the best preserved hippodromes in the world. It is also, if I remember correctly, the smallest remaining hippodrome in the world. The very unique thing about this hippodrome is that they still have chariot races in it! Unfortunately, because of the poor weather the day we were in Jerash, they were not performing. I’m standing between stables near an entryway to the hippodrome.)

This is my favorite view in all of Jerash. The weather was poor, but we had ample time to explore the ruins. Before we arrived, I had no idea that Jerash was an entire Roman CITY that had been unearthed!

(*Standing atop the Temple of Zeus).

The Roman theater in Jerash. Popular with the tour groups, you could stand in a special spot in the center of the theater, and the Romans had engineered such flawless acoustics, that the ENTIRE theater could hear you utter a single whispered word!

(*It was quite fantastic. While we were there a tour group from Spain arrived and a woman stood in the special spot and sang “Silent Night” in Spanish, which I imagined to be Latin as my eyes drifted around imagining a crowd of raucous Romans hundreds of years ago brought to a standstill by the amazing voice and amazing acoustics of the woman singing.)

Here we are walking on the original road in the old Roman town. This road was where they held the markets; you can just imagine chickens walked around, donkey’s braying, and vegetables being sold.

(*The blocks on the road are angled that way so that they would not develop groves from the carts that were constantly going through.)

This is the temple of Artemis. It was amazing to see temples for the Roman gods! As the patron god of the city, this was the highest point in Jerash.

At this point, the cloudy skies turned into a rough downpour, and as beautiful as the ancient city was to explore, they didn’t preserve many roofs to hide under! We headed back to Amman for our final days in Jordan.

Our final two days in Jordan consisted of eating delicious food, exploring the souqs, and enjoying a Turkish bath! I had my fill of olives in the above picture; he even let me take a bag of them away for free!

At last, we all hopped on a plane and returned to Kuwait. My dad and sister called our apartment “Sean & Kim’s Resort”. It was a big change from the cold, wet hostels of Jordan! We all had a hot shower (or three), washed all our clothes, and reclined on soft couches to the sound of Emily learning guitar with Sean.

I look forward to showing you pictures of their time in Kuwait with us, where they experienced the country with new eyes, just as Sean and I did only a few months ago. Afterward, anticipate a blog on the beautiful country of Oman, where Sean and I recently attend a conference.

I encountered a quote I’d like to close with. I wish you all the best and will write again soon.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. —Marcus Aurelius

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