Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Citadel in Amman

The last stop in our pilgrimage through Jordan. My dad's commentary is in blue.

After witnessing a beautiful sunrise in the desert at Wadi Rum, we rode our camels back to the Bedouin camp and then left for the four-hour drive back to Amman. We arrived early in the afternoon and went straight to the Citadel.

As its name implies, the Citadel is located on the highest hill in Amman, Jebel Qala’a, and the view alone makes the visit worthwhile. There are ruins there, including that of an Umayyad Palace (about 720 AD), an Umayyad Cistern, a Byzantine Basilica from the 6th or 7th century, and some of the pillars of the Temple of Hercules, constructed during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-80 AD), are still standing.

There is a great view of the Roman Theater built in the 2nd Century, which is the most obvious and impressive remnant of ancient Philadelphia (modern day Amman); the theater can hold 6000 people. Immediately in front of the theater one can see what’s left of the Forum, once one of the largest public squares in Imperial Rome. Also adjacent to the Theater is the Odeon, built about the same time as the Roman Theater, it had a capacity of about 500 seats and served mainly as a venue for musical performances.

The Temple of Hercules. On the left of the photo, just below the tallest pillars, you can see a large rock. I read somewhere that originally, as the highest point of the hill, it was an altar for animal sacrifice from the earliest times of this city, which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.

Jordan's first National Archaeological Museum is located within the Citadel. The artifacts include three 8500 year-old statues, but the review of the extensive and rich history of the area was well documented and served to remind us of the sweep of civilization over the millennia.

Above, an ancient sarcophagus. Below, my dad walking through the door of the Umayyad mosque.

As usual we tested the patience of our driver, who was waiting for us when we completed our ambulation. We returned to our quarters, gathered our materials and thoughts, and prepared for our departure early the next morning, including a 3:00 a.m. departure for the airport.

We departed Jordan on time and without incident and, although there had been strikes within Greece during our absence, we arrived back in Thessaloniki on time and without incident.

Above, a piece of a hand and another fragment from a colossal statue of Hercules, which they believe once measured 42 feet tall, making it one of the largest known statues in the Roman world.

By way of concluding reflections on the trip, my dad had these thoughts:

I found Jordanians to be very friendly and very welcoming. I found the country beautiful in its own way, but to some extent not appreciated by its own people: the litter was everywhere. Of all the "western" habits or customs, the Jordanians like "tipping" the best -- yet I'm not sure they understand that a tip is a gratuity, not an expectation.

As for a pilgrimage, there is a lot of Biblical history here in Jordan -- from Wadi Musa to Mt. Nebo to Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan and more. There's lots of Christian history here too, from the many trails of pilgrims to the mosaics and church art, to remains of beautiful Byzantine churches, all of which speak to the understanding of how God and Christ have revealed themselves over the centuries.

There are the experiences too, riding donkeys and horses and camels, enduring the desert, and so much more. In some ways too I appreciated that holy sites were not overly commercialized. I was struck by the contrast at Bethany where on the Jordanian side -- the true site of the baptism -- one walked through the heat and the brush to reach the river, and then went down a few wooden steps and onto the muddy bank. I found this somewhat more authentic than what we saw on the other side: modern buildings (no neon lights, I think), concrete stairways with railings down to and into the water.

The omnipotent power of Rome was visible everywhere, and Karak Castle reminded us of the ongoing battle for dominance in the holy land.

All in all, a very powerful and informative pilgrimage.

For more photos from our last stop at the Citadel, click here.

1 comment:

Larry Edwards said...

A further thought: The Jordanians genuinely welcomed tourists and I think genuinely felt complimented by the fact that these travelers came to Jordan. The Jordanians have mixed but rarely neutral feelings toward their fellow Arabs who live the "the Gulf" states; that is, those with lucrative oil revenues. The visitor to Jordan made them feel important, noticed and appreciated. Of course they welcomed the tourists dollars and euros, but one had the sense that they appreciated the attention, or to be redundant, appreciated the "appreciation" visitors had for Jordan.