Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jordan Day I: Jerash & Ajlun Castle

On my first Jordanian morning, I woke up at 8:00AM and Nadine made waffles which we gobbled up with a drink of orange juice in under 15 minutes before heading over to Sari's, who was our driver, tour guide, and of course best friend during the trip! The first direction on my Jordanian vacation was compass north, to the ancient city of Jerash, famous for its Roman ruins. We reached our destination in roughly an hour, with The Arch of Hadrian looming in front of us, indicating (especially to Nadine :-P) that we had arrived! I later found out that this arch was built to celebrate Emperor Hadrian's visit to Jerash in 129-130 AD...

When entering, the first thing you see is the Hippodrome, a partially restored Roman-era stadium. At only 245m long and 52m wide, it was the smallest hippodrome in the the Roman Empire... 

I took this cover picture with the background of The Oval Plaza, surrounded by a broad sidewalk and a colonnade of 1st century Ionic columns. This Cardo once lined with the city's major buildings, shops and residences. A complex drainage system lies below the stone paving, and chariot tracks can actually be seen in the stone!

Below is the South Theatre of Jerash, which seats more than 3,000 spectators and serves today as the primary venue in The Jerash Festivals. The brilliant design took all the factors in consideration, such as the sun's brightness and direction. For this reason, the theatre was built in a way so to allow the least amount of sunlight to disturb the audience. And the remarkable acoustics allows a speaker at the centre of the orchestra floor to be heard by the entire auditorium without raising his/her voice!

Daily features include bagpipers in traditional Jordanian military dress such as this friendly one we took a picture with!

Next up was The Temple of Artemis (daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo), built on one of the highest points and dominated the whole city. It's an impressive temple ruin dedicated to the patron goddess of the city. The temple was designed to be earthquake-proof so some of the columns move and you can feel it if you insert your fingers between the section of the columns!

Below is the smaller second North Theater, which was planed to be either a small performance space or a city council chamber. If you looks close enough, you'll see that the group of tourists behind us have their arms outstretched like Nadine and me, what a funny British group they were!

By the time we had finished our tour, we were absolutely famished. So for lunch, we went to The Lebanese House. It's one of the oldest Lebanese food restaurant in Jordan, established in 1977 in Jerash by a Lebanese woman named Antoinette Rami, better known in Jordan as Umm Khalil. The food, especially the mezza, was scrumptious! I even tried the famous Labneh Jerashieh, a thick cheese-like yoghurt which also tasted incredible!

After lunch, Esper (Sari's Nokia GPS, which was surprisingly accurate!) lead us to Ajloun Castle, located on the top of a mountain just outside the small city of Ajloun, a mere 10 miles away from Jerash. It's an Islamic fortress, built during the period of the Crusades. The castle is an interesting maze of passages and levels, and offers a wonderful view of the surrounding area of northwestern Jordan... 

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