Day 9: Minora-rity Report in Jordan !

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Mike and Bone met with the rest of the Road Scholars for a pretty good breakfast in Nazareth. The Boys had considered a quick walk around the city afterwards but were dissuaded based on feedback from a few others that tried and found the surrounding area a little too skanky.  

After breakfast, the Road Scholars loaded up on the Bus for a drive to the Israeli-Jordanian border. At the border, the Road Scholars bid adieu to Udi Avitar or better still "Udi the Foodie."

The Border Crossing was a strange affair. The objective was for the Road Scholars to simply show their papers, walk across the border, and board a new bus. That is simply not the way it worked out! (at least for the Bone)


A Cross (e.g. Angry) Border!

As expected, everyone had to run their luggage through scanner as they crossed into Jordan. The politically incorrect Bone's luggage set off all sorts of alarms and it seemed that 2 divisions of the Hashemite Royal Army were ready to deploy to battle the heinous enemy attempting to penetrate the sacred border! They took the befuddled Bone into a local office with Jordanian officers yelling at Bone in perfect Arabic, unfortunately, Bone knows English, some French, some Spanish, and some Italian, but ain't no Arabic!!

After 20 minutes of a tense standoff, a short fella with a big smile came up to Bone and said "Hi I am Kamal, your Road Scholar Guide for Jordan," it was the beginning understanding of just what horrible thing Bone did!

Well it was only one thing, but it was a BIG one! A huge sin! Bone brought a minora into Jordan from Israel, which apparently verboten in Jordan. The entire trip was held up for an hour, Bone was detained for a $7 trinket! Despite Bone's protestations of it being his personal property, the Jordanian Army stated was to be taken from Bone (with no compensation) and sent back immediately across the Border!! It obviously was too dangerous to simply throw it away, it may you know conjure its black magic to end the world as we know it!, No, best to ensure it was sent back across the border, so no harm could be done!  With that completely dumb-ass resolution, Kamal led a pissed-off Bone, with his ransacked and depleted luggage to the inquiring Road Scholars that were trying to figure out what the hell was going on!

Well, Welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan!

One may think that Jordan is another ancient country, while there are many ancient civilizations that were in the area, and the Bedouins have been around since the Roman times, the country of Jordan is actually a fairly new 20th century British construct!

As the Bus bounced and bumped on the back roads of Jordan to a famous Jordanian restaurant on the way to Jerash, Kamal gave an overview on the country.


The Arid Desert Plains of the Eastern Jordan Valley

Jordan’s founding can be traced to the end of World War I when the Sharif Hussein of Mecca, and his sons Abdullah, Faisal and Ali, members of the Hashemite family of the Hejaz helped the British break the area away from the Ottoman Turks through the machinations of T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia.)

After the War, the British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, travelled to Transjordan in 1920 to meet with a crowd of six hundred Transjordanian notables that the British government would aid the establishment of local governments in Transjordan, which is to be kept separate from that of Palestine. The second meeting took place in Umm Qais on 2 September, where the British government representative Major Fitzroy Somerset received a petition that demanded: an independent Arab government in Transjordan to be led by an Arab prince.

After being a British Protectorate from the 1920’s, on May 25 1946 King Abdullah I declared independence in the Treaty of London, signed with the British Government upon ratification by both countries' parliaments. On 25 May 1946, the day that the treaty was ratified by the Transjordan parliament, Transjordan was raised to the status of a kingdom under the name of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Arabic, with Abdullah as its first king.

King Abdullah was assassinated at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1951 by a Palestinian militant, amid rumors he intended to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah was then succeeded by his son Talal, who would soon abdicate due to illness in favor of his eldest son Hussein, who Mike and Bone grew up with.

Kamal ended his introduction at the restaurant with how to this day, Jordan is organized by Bedouin tribes vs. states or provinces. With that everyone was ready to for a taste of Jordanian cuisine!


Homemade Pita Bread for the Road Scholars!

The lunch was interesting and much appreciated. It had freshly made pita bread, fattoush salad, and shish kebab. Unfortunately, the next day several of the Road Scholars regretted the fattoush salad!!

After lunch the Road Scholars barreled down the road to the Northern Jordanian city of Jerash, which is the largest city of the Jerash Governorate in Jordan, but in ancient times it was one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities in the ancient Near East. Settled by humans as early as the Neolithic period (c. 7500-5500 BCE) and founded as a Hellenistic city in the 2nd century BCE possibly by Alexander the Great!

As they walked up to the entrance of the historical area  Kamal explained Jerash also stood at the nexus of trade and communications between Damascus and Petra, as well as the trade routes running north and westwards towards the Mediterranean ports of Tyre and Joppa (Jaffa) in what are now present-day Lebanon and Israel, respectively, hence, why it was a logical place for a thriving city. 

He then shared that the founding of Jerash, as a city, likely occurred around 175-164 BCE under the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (r. 175-164 BCE) of the Seleucid (A part of the Alexander the Great Greek Empire).

Seleucid rule over Jerash was brief, and after the death of Antiochus VII Sidetes in 129 BCE in battle against the Parthians (Persians), Jerash fell under the control of a series of successive, warlord-kings who ruled the city until 102 BCE. The chief beneficiaries of the power vacuum following the collapse of the Seleucids Empire were the Jews who quickly established their own kingdom with Jerusalem as their capital under the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty (140 BCE-37 BCE).

The Hasmonean Kingdom reached its apex under the rule of the warrior king Alexander Jannaeus (r. 103-76 BCE) who besieged and conquered Jerash at the turn of the 2nd century BCE. The Hasmonean Kingdom would control Jerash until 63 BCE, and their lasting legacy to the city was the establishment of a Jewish colony as well as the facilitation of stronger trading ties between Jerash and the coastal cities under Jewish control.


Guess Who!? Hadrian and the Hadrian Gate!


Mike and Bone, roman Jerash!

In 63 BCE, as a result of the Roman Pompey's Settlement in the East, Jerash became part of the Decapolis, a group of ten semi-autonomous cities located in the Roman province of Syria, which lasted from 63 BCE to 106 CE. Each of these cities retained a measurable degree of freedom but relied on Rome for its defense and some matters were the prerogative of the Roman legate of Syria. The Romans defeated the Parthians in Syria in 38 BCE, and Jerash entered into a period of immense Nabataean influence in the 1st century CE, due to the wealth of Nabataean cities like Petra (in Jordan), Mada'in Saleh (in Saudi Arabia), Bosra (in Syria), and Avdat (in Israel). Archaeologists have uncovered Nabataean coins and Nabataean art throughout Jerash, and there are also many inscriptions invoking Nabataean gods in Jerash as well. A temple dedicated to the Nabataean god Pakidas is located near the one dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. The Roman-Jewish historian Josephus makes mention of Jerash in the 1st century CE, as a rich city populated by both Syrians and Jews.

Jerash's “Golden Age” dates from the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, our friend Hadrian’s Boss (98-117 CE) who incorporated the city of Jerash into the new Roman province of Arabia in 106 CE. Located in close proximity to the province's capital of Bosra, Jerash profited from its prime location at the axes of several trade routes. Trajan, himself, is partially responsible for Jerash's boom in growth as he ordered the construction of new roads, including the Via Nova Traijana (Trajan's New Road), which connected Bosra to the Red Sea gateway city of Ailaon, which is located on the Gulf of 'Aqaba. Most of the structures that Mike and Bone saw that afternoon date from the second century CE.


The Gateway to the Hippodrome!

The Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE) stayed in Jerash during the winter of 129 AD, and this extended sojourn was celebrated with the construction of a triumphal arch that is known as Hadrian's Arch, that Mike and Bone are in front of. Jerash's wealth at that time enabled an ambitious program of public works to be undertaken, including the construction of a new Temple of Artemis in the middle of the second century AD.

However by 749 AD, a series of earthquakes made Jerash uninhabitable over the first couple of centuries of the Early Middle Ages. By the time the medieval chronicler William of Tyre (c. 1130-1186 CE) visited Jerash, he wrote that the city was long since abandoned and in ruins.

With this overview of the long history of the City, Kamal led Mike, Bone, and the rest of the Road Scholars through Hadrian's Gates into the archeological site and to the Jerash Hippodrome for a late afternoon tour!


Inside the Jerash Hippodrome

While Mike and Bone has seen the Hippodrome (for chariot racing) in Rome, and Constantinople, the Jerash Hippodrome was simply amazing in its size and structures still in place! 


The Jerash Hippodrome Stadium!

 In its day, the Jerash Hippodrome could hold 15,000 spectators! After letting the Road Scholars wander around a bit Kamal then took the Team deeper into the center of the archeological  site!

Hiking around the South Gate!

Kamal took the Team to a dramatic view down the hill of the entire town of Jerash through the amazing South Gate. Next, Kamal took Mike and Bone to check out the Temple of Zeus.


The Temple of Zeus

The Temple of Zeus was built in the course of centuries on the eastern side of a hill facing the original settlement core of Jerash (where the museum is today). It is divided into two terraced levels connected by stairways. It was completed and consecrated in 162 AD very likely by Hadrian himself!


The Road Scholars wandering into the Oval Forum

As the Boys wandered into the Oval Forum (all Roman cities had a forum) they noticed its unique design that cleverly connects two divergent main axes of the ancient city that includes the much older Sanctuary of Zeus, with the original settlement of Jerash on the opposite hill (where the museum stands today). When, at the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the new Cardo was laid out as the city's north-south connection and main street, it had to incorporate the central Sanctuary of Zeus in a representative way, which was not possible through a frontal approach because of the river valley and the rules of Roman urban planning with a rectangular street network.

One of the ironies of Rome was every Roman city followed a strict blueprint, which is why Jerash looks so much like Ephesus and others,  but in the original city, Roma, the original haphazard mess of street layouts was never fixed from 2,500 BC to 2023 AD! Next, Mike and Bone went to check out the epic Southern Theatre to soothing sounds of Scottish Bagpipes?!?


Soothing Scottish Bagpipes in the Southern Theatre ?!?

Sure enough!  there were some Jordanians dressed as Romans playing the Bagpipes for tips in the iconic Southern theatre. 


Clowning on the Colonnaded Main Street

After checking out the very cool amphitheatre, the Road Scholar Mob headed onto the classic main street. That was laid out exactly like Ephesus with a beautiful set of columns, with the foundation of shops and homes along the road. Along that cool road Kamal took the Road Scholars to the Temple Artemis!


Talking about the Temple of Artemis

Kamal told the Boys that the Temple of Artemis was built in the middle of the highest of the two terraces of the sanctuary, along the Main Road. Archeologist feel that the temple is one of the most remarkable monuments left in Jerash and the Roman East.


Mike and Bone in the Temple of Artemis!

As Mike and Bone sat with the other Road Scholars hiding from the hot sun, Kamal explained that Artemis was the patron goddess of the city and was the Hellenistic interpretation of a local deity was likely worshipped before the arrival of the original Greek colonists, who instead imported in the city the cult of Zeus Olympus (you really gotta love them religions!) The portico around the temple was designed with six by eleven columns, of which only eleven columns in the back are still standing. Those Corinthian capitals are very well preserved and bear the signature of Hygeinos, the contractor in charge of carving the bases, shafts and capitals of the columns.

At the end of the 4th-century the pagan cults were forbidden by Constantine' edicts and the temple was largely abandoned for worship with the Jesus cult coming into the area. By now it was pushing 6:00 PM, it had been a loooong day, with the tour of Gerasha (the Roman pronunciation!) ended, Kamal suggested that they get back to the Bus before sundown. Apparently the natives can be restless with tourists! `


Road Scholars on the (Main) Road Home!


"Errr - Where's Scott?!? (first of many)

On the trip back Mike and Bone encountered the curious case of Scott Muller, esq. The 80 year old from Silicon Valley was a nice guy but as been mentioned earlier shown signed of dementia.  As soon as Kamal mentioned that they should be back on the Bus, they noticed that Scott was missing! Jerash probably was not a spot that you would want to be left at for the night as an American!!


So for the next 20 minutes as it got darker, the 20 odd Road Scholars were frantically back tracking through the whole archeological site with cries of "Scott!?!", "Scott!?!", "Scott!?!" Finally Scott showed up puzzled, and joined the re-gathering group on the Bus for a ride up to Jordan's capital city, Amman. For the remainder of the trip, Mike and Bone got tagged for keeping an eye on the errant elderly Road Scholar!


The Hotel in Amman was very nice, but highly secure. They stopped the Bus, checked it over and under for bombs, then made everyone scan their luggage (like an airport) before entering the Hotel.

The dinner that night was sooo much better than the slop they had been eating in Jerusalem to the point the Boys enjoyed a few brewski's with the fine meal. It has been a long day and a new country, so Mike and Bone hit it around 10:00 PM that evening.