Today marks our last day in Jordan and Israel. We packed last night, readying for our border crossing from Jordan to Israel, and the necessary security and customs clearances for our flight back to the US. Despite it being our farewell day, we had a busy schedule, and our first stop was the largest of the Decapolis cities in the Near East, Jerash.
Jerash, Jordan. Dubbed the "Pompeii of the East," Jerash is a Greco-Roman ruined city located 80 miles north of Amman (though Jerash was never buried by a volcano). The impressive, beautifully preserved ruins of Jerash include places of worship and other buildings from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and early Muslim periods. Remains in the Greco-Roman Jerash include the Corinthium column; Hadrian‘s Arch; the circus/hippodrome; two large temples (dedicated to Zeus and Artemis); the unique large oval Forum which is surrounded by a fine colonnade; the long colonnaded main north-south street, Cardo Maximus; the Byzantine church of Saints Cosmas and Damian with its mosaic floor; a large south theater and smaller north theater; two baths, and a scattering of small temples; and an almost complete circuit of city walls. Jerash was the home of Nicomachus of Gerasa (c. 60 – c. 120) who is known for his works Introduction to Arithmetic, The Manual of Harmonics, and The Theology of Numbers. Recent excavations show that Jerash was already inhabited during the Bronze Age (3200 BC – 1200 BC). The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. The triumphal arch (or Arch of Hadrian) was built to celebrate his visit. Excavation and restoration of Jerash has been almost continuous since the 1920s. We entered Jerash on the south side through Hadrian’s Arch and made our way to the Oval Forum or Oval Plaza which measures 90 X 80 meters. From the Oval Forum, we climbed to the Temple of Zeus (162 AD). Another staircase led to the temple itself, which was surrounded by 15 meter high Corinthian columns. From the Temple of Zeus, we walked to the large south theater. Kay, Seig, and Janet began singing Amazing Grace, and was surprisingly accompanied by bagpipes and drums. Then, to our surprise again, a number of Muslim teenage girls climbed on the stage and began doing a cultural dance to bagpipes and drums. They moved down to the floor of the theater, and pulled members of our tour group into their circle. It was a memorable, profound exchange of cultures, and for me, one of the most gratifying activities of the trip. From the large theater, we reluctantly moved to the Propylaeum or gateway that led to the sacred precinct of the Temple of Artemis (150 AD). A monumental staircase, which once had high walls, leads up to a horseshoe-shaped terrace with the foundations of an open-air altar. A second staircase leads through a colonnade of 22 Corinthian columns and into the sacred precinct. We descended the stairs to the Cardo Maximus, the main Roman road in Jerash. The Cardo Maximus was lined with a broad sidewalk and shops. It is still paved with its original stones and bears the ruts of chariot wheels, and ancient manholes accessing the underground sewage system which ran the full length of the street, into which rainwater was channeled through holes on the sides of the street. The stones are laid at an angle in about 10-meter segments, interspersed with an approximate 1-meter wide construction joint. The purpose of the stones being laid at an angle was to soften the chariot ride. As we continued on the Cardo Maximus, we came to a large nymphaeum, or monumental fountain. It was constructed in 191 AD and was faced with marble. From there, we walked the Cardo Maximus back to the Oval Forum, then exited by the hippodrome where chariot races and sporting events were held. Chariot races were being held today, but we did not have an entrance pass, and were not allowed to take pictures. We did see some Jordanian “Roman” soldiers who were participating in the races. From there, we stopped at a Jordanian restaurant for lunch where Kay and I split a plate of lamb kabobs.
We traveled from Jerash through the Jordanian countryside for the border crossing between Jordan and Israel. Along the way, we passed through several Jordanian towns, and saw entrenchments and military equipment aimed at the West Bank. We changed buses and guides (our Israeli guide was about an hour late), and made our way to Tel Aviv, stopping for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. At Tel Aviv, we dropped off members of our group who were to catch a later plane, and arrived at the airport some 3 hours before the flight. While it took some time, getting through Israeli customs and airport security was not a big issue. We boarded our airplane for the 13-hour flight home.
Photos of this trip may be seen at: https://picasaweb.google.com/DunnGoneTravels/IsraelAndJordan2011?authkey=Gv1sRgCIL-g8GBjtb-Lw&feat=directlink