Day 10 Mud Ado about Nothing

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After a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast, Mike and Bone were ready for another day in Jordan with the Road Scholars!  The first stop was ................. Philadelphia!?!


"I am not being silly, it really is Philly!" 

First stop of that morning was the highest point in the capital, a Roman site now called the “Citadel” where the city was founded. First thing Mike and Bone learned is that the Romans didn’t found it. In fact, it is older than the city of Rome itself!  Amman is the world's oldest and most consistently inhabited city, have originally been founded in 7250 BC!

Kamal told the Road Scholars that back in the day, we mean really, really back in the day! The area around Amman was populated in the Neolithic era, in fact the 'Ain Ghazal site in the outskirts of the city, they discovered a set of statutes that are considered to be the oldest near-human-sized statues ever found.

At that time, the site was a typical Neolithic village. Its houses were rectangular mud-bricked buildings that included a main square living room, whose walls were made up of lime plaster. The site was discovered in 1974 as construction workers were working on a road crossing the area. By 1982, when the excavations started, around 2,000 feet of road ran through the site. Despite the damage brought by urban expansion, the remains of 'Ain Ghazal provided a wealth of information for archeology.

The area truly came to prominence in the Iron Age when the city became the capital of the Ammonite Kingdom,  and became known as "Rabat Amman". Rabat Amman provided several natural resources to the region, including sandstone and limestone, along with a productive agricultural sector that made it a vital location along the King's Highway, the ancient trade route connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia. As with the Edomites and Moabites, trade along this route gave the Ammonites considerable revenue. Several Ammonite ruins still exists in parts of the Amman Citadel.


The Awesome Citadel Landscape

The next phase of Amman involves the dude known as Alexander the Great during his conquest of the Middle East and Central Asia swept through the area and founded new cities in the area of modern-day Jordan, including Umm Qays, Jerash and Amman. Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Macedonian ruler of Egypt, who occupied and rebuilt the city, named it "Philadelphia", evoking "brotherly love" in Greek. The name was given as an adulation to his own nickname, Philadelphus. Hence the name that led to Ben Franklin, Independence Hall, and the Broad Street Bullies, all so American, was actually Greek!

When the Romans conquered much of the area in 63 BC, inaugurating a period of Roman rule that lasted for four centuries. In the northern modern-day Jordan, the Greek cities of Philadelphia (Amman), Jerash, Gedara, Pella and Arbila joined with other cities in Palestine and Syria; Scythopolis, Hippos, Capitolias, Canatha and Damascus to form the Decapolis League, a fabled confederation linked by bonds of economic and cultural interest. Philadelphia became a point along a road stretching from Ailah to Damascus that was built by Emperor Trajan in AD 106. This provided an economic boost for the city in a short period of time.


The Roman Theatre of Amman 

Roman rule in Jordan left several ruins across the country, some of which exist in Amman, such as the Temple of Hercules at the Amman Citadel, the Roman Theatre, the Odeon, and the Nymphaeum. The two theaters and the nymphaeum fountain were built during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius around AD 161.  

The theatre was the larger venue of the two and had a capacity for 6,000 attendees. It was oriented north and built into the hillside, to protect the audience from the sun. To the northeast of the theatre was a small odeon. Built at roughly the same time as the theatre, the Odeon had 500 seats and is still in use today for music concerts. Archaeologists speculate that the structure was originally covered with a wooden roof to shield the audience from the weather. The Nymphaeum is situated southwest of the Odeon and served as Philadelphia's chief fountain. The Nymphaeum is believed to have contained a 6,500 sq ft pool which was 9.8 feet deep and was continuously refilled with water. During the late Byzantine period in the seventh century, several bishops and churches were based in the city.


Roman Theatre of Amman 

The highlight of the Citadel tour that morning was the Roman Temple of Heracules towering at the top of the mountain. Kamal relayed to Mike and Bone that there are only two complete pillars that are 30 feet high left, there is an inscription close to the temple dates back to around 160 AD. Next they checked out the Umayyad Palace.


The Umayyad Palace  


How Amman influenced the Ancient World

In the 630's, the Rashidun Caliphate conquered the region from the Byzantines, beginning the Islamic era in Jordan. The Muslims renamed Philadelphia back to "Amman" and moved it under the district of Jund Dimashq. A large part of the population already spoke Arabic, which facilitated integration into the caliphate, as well as several conversions to Islam. Under the Umayyad caliphs who began their rule in 661 AD, numerous desert castles were established as a means to govern the desert area of modern-day Jordan, several of which are still well-preserved. Amman had already been functioning as an administrative centre. The Umayyads built a large palace on the Amman Citadel hill, known today as the Umayyad Palace. Amman was later destroyed by several earthquakes and natural disasters, including a particularly severe earthquake in 747. The Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasids three years later where Amman's importance declined by the mid-8th century after damage caused by several earthquakes rendered it uninhabitable.


Kamal, Pointing out the King's Palace (The Jordanian Flag in the Background)

Kamal brought the Road Scholars back to the 21 century for a few moments to point out King Abdullah II palace (shown in the back of the picture above.) The Raghadan Palace is a crown palace located in the Royal Court compound of Al-Maquar, constructed in 1926, the property became the residence of King Abdullah I (from Lawrence of Arabia fame.) The palace is constructed in a traditional Islamic style, with colored glass windows modeled on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. 

With that Kamal let the Road Scholars wander around, checking out ancient caverns (shown above), and the rest of the Citadel!


Mike and Bone in Amman!

Walking around it was easy to see the different era and owners of this ancient, historic hill, from the earliest homesteaders to the Romans, and Arabs. Each left their imprint on the Citadel. Walking around, Kamal gave the Boys a very interesting social studies lesson of the modern, Middle East.


A Palestinian Camp(?)

Jordan has a large Palestinian population from the Zionist takeover of what is now Israeli. Many of the Palestinians have been "pushed across the Jordan River into Jordan, and have been there for over 80 years. A "Palestinian Camp" is at the foot of the Citadel  with close to a 100,000 people being supported by the UN and Jordan. While not a "camp" camp with tents, when the Road Scholar Bus drove through the Palestinian neighborhood, the extreme poverty was very apparent. With the sweaty visit of the Citadel complete, the Team, needed to "clean up with a dip into the Dead Sea! 


Cruising and Carousing through the Jordanian Desert to the  Dead Sea! 

The ride from Amman to the Dead Sea was an interesting two hour ride through the deep desert.  As the Road Scholar Bus grew closer to the Dead Sea coast you could see very parched farm lands pop up along the road until the Road Scholars pulled into the very swanky Movenpick Resort Dead Sea and Spa!


Grateful Dead Sea! 

In the midst of the abject poverty of Jordan and its citizens site the 5 Star Movenpick Resort Dead Sea and Spa where the Road Scholars had the "opportunity" swim in the Dead Sea.  Always ready to try something new, Mike and Bone were all in! Swimming turned out to be an interesting event. EVERYBODY warned the Road Scholars to not get any of the sea water in your eyes or expect a major burn. The chemical concentration is now so high that it really is not healthy for man nor beast, except the Mud!


Dirty Boys! 

or expect a major burn. The chemical concentration is now so high that it really is not healthy for man nor beast. Except the Mud! Apparently covering oneself with Dead Sea Mud is seen by some as an almost religious experience. Families in Jordan flock in droves to the shores of Israel and Jordan to partake in this dirty endeavor. What are you supposed to do? Float in the Dead Sea for 10 minutes (it is really hard to do much else trying to keep the water out of your eyes and the fact that it is impossible to stay on your feet with the buoyancy!) After swimming, apply the Dead Sea mud directly on to your body conservatively from the buckets of the mud placed in sheltered areas near the shore at Movenpick, then wash it off. The net result for Mike and Bone was they were hungry!  After swimming, Kamal led the Road Scholars to another buffet lunch in Movenpick. By now the courses were pretty well known, shish kebab, kibbeh, tabouli salad, and pita bread!

After lunch the Road Scholars hit the road for one of the most iconic places on the trip,,,, Petra!


A Scenic Sunset on the Jordanian Desert 

One of the beautiful things out on the desert is the stunning sunrises and sets, and Jordan certainly provided the Boys several in their time there. Halfway to Petra they stopped at a Tourist Trap as a rest stop where Mike and Bone caught this awesome site. It turned out to be only one of two interesting sights!


A Minora in Jordanian !?! 

Less than 48 hours earlier, there was a huge kurfuffel over Bone bringing a "demonic" minora into the pure, Islamic, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This 10 inch piece of white metal in Bone's luggage, threatened all life as the Jordanians knew it, and had to be walked immediately back across the Border, before it triggered Armageddon. SOOOO imagine the surprise to Mike and Bone to see a very expensive, silver minora for sale in a Jordanian Tourist Trap!!! Confronting Kamal with this religious indignation, he simply smiled and walked away. Apparently it is only evil if you buy it outside of Jordan!

Around 7:30 PM the road weary, Road Scholars pulled up into Petra and checked into their Hotel. Now Mike and Bone were getting really tired of buffets of middle eastern cuisine. They noticed that they passed an Irish Pub and two Pizza Joints on their way to the Hotel. So rather than dining yet again with the Road Scholars the terrible two stepped out into the Sunday evening to check out Petra!


T.E. Lawrence in Petra!?! 

Walking through the city they saw a souvenir stand dedicated to T.E. Lawrence. The very famous World War I Brit was a big fan of Petra. Lawrence travelled to Petra both before and during the war and was captivated by the majestic beauty of the Nabataean temples and tombs carved into the rock. Mike and Bone were also gob smacked by the city.


Downtown Petra 

It was apparent that the modern city of Petra was built right next to the archaeological site, with the hotel right next to the Jordanian National Park Entrance. After a short evening stroll up and down some hills, Mike and Bone settled on a "House for Pizza!"


Pizza Hut,,, Errr House ?!?

Mike and Bone picked on of the two places and met a young (22 years old) pizza proprietor that bought the little tourist pizza joint from his dad.  He spoke fluent english and dickered with the Boys on the challenges of being so young and running a business, ignoring the obvious trademark infringement of their name and logo! Mike and Bone ordered the classic cheese and pepperoni, which they got after an appropriate 15 minutes, and the verdict!?!

Not too bad! Maybe a 6.5 out of 10. Considering being in a foreign land and a tourist trap, it was not the worst "Za" the Boys had eaten and it was way better than the buffet alternative. Sated, the Boys needed a good ole Guinness to wash down the "Za," unfortunately, they were not gonna get it. The "Irish Pub" was just a bar that served german and jordanian beers. Mike and Bone tried a couple of Jordanian beers that weren't too bad, but not Guinney's.  Regardless, the pizza and beer in town was a great break from the monotony of the Road Scholar buffets!

After the beers, the Boys out in around 11:00 PM, they had a big day in front of them.... Petra!