Friday, May 3, 2013

Thoughts + Jordan Week 2 & 3


Just a quick thought before I continue talking about my stay in Jordan.  Sometimes I just hate going to NYU because today I am wearing my "I am exhausted outfit" also known as my "I am an athlete so ya outfit" which today is leggings (other times it is sweatpants or yoga pants) a long sleeve t shirt, a hoodie and a scarf to pull it all together, but yet I get to class today and every girl is dolled up - I get it its Stern but come on people, its not a fashion show - but yet it is and I fail miserably (well today I do....).  I remember when I visited some of the other schools I was looking at and my outfit would be considered dressed up for some but those were small schools in New England, not in the heart of NYC.  Oh well, I mean don't get me wrong, I love to put on a nice outfit and a pair of heels and makeup just because but I hate it when it feels like I am the only one feeling the pressure of the end of the semester and showing it.  And, it is not that I care what other people think of me but I do think that what you wear gives people impressions of you but I also just wanted to stay in my bed all day today but since I have five classes today, obviously that is not going to happen so I pulled on some of the more comfortable clothing I own.  But oh well, over it. Rant over.

SO ok, Week 1 ended with SN, most of the students in the program, and me taking a weekend trip to Amman.  Week 2 came and classes became much more intense and more regular.  But we got to go on our first group sanctioned trip outside of Irbid - but only for the day.  We visited three sights: Um Qais, Ajloun and Jerash.

So we left fairly early in the morning (I want to say it was Thursday) and we traveled not even a half hour north west to visit Umm Qais (Qays).  Umm Qais is right at the border of Jordan, Syria and Israel as well as Golan Heights.

 Oh look there is a guard tower! Haha but seriously, I will show you pics a little further down but we literally can look into Golan Heights and right at the border - probably would have scared my mom if I had told her ahead of time. 
 Entering into the large site! Surrounded completely by the ruins.
 Oh look... a coliseum.  By the end of my trip, you are going to be really tired of seeing pics of coliseums.  They kind of are the same at each sight and again at each sight! Also some of the people from my group are hanging out up there.
  Should we go in? I guess we shall - SN entering into a room that may or may not go anywhere....
 Not sure if we can get through -- but we just wanted to get out - the smell was awful!
 Look! the colonnade hall or more likely just a street lined with columns.  It is actually  extremely extensive and quite marvelous. 
 Far top left of this pic, you can kind of see the Sea of Galilee, also known in Hebrew as the Kinneret or Lake Tiberias.  I was supposed to visit it later on but we just became to sick to really travel - maybe for another time.  I would actually love to take my parents, when I graduate next year and we do a huge trip around Israel, perhaps Egypt and a one day trip to Jordan. 
 Another picture of some members of the group looking into Golan Heights!
 Looking back from where I was walking....
 More looking behind....
 Group photo! Some of my favorite people!
 Oh look walking along some dig sites -- a little scared I was going to fall in knowing how clumsy I am and the walls got sort of thin at some points!

 Looking for shade!
Oh look...there is the Golan Heights.

So that was Umm Qais, we got back on the bus eventually and headed down to Ajloun.  It is the sight of a 12th century castle.  The castle is located over a sight of an old monastery and was turned into a fort by Izz al-Din Usama, a general in Saladin army.  It is also the furthest of the Frankish incusions during the Crusades.  Also, it was captured by the Mongols in 1260 and partially destroyed.  However it was an earthquake in 1926 that really destroyed the castle. 

 Before we got to Ajloun, we took a small detour and headed down into the valley on the way to the northern most checkpoint/crossing border to Israel and just look at the vegetation, where did it come from? It is seriously just like Egypt - just right around the river! then becomes brown on either side of it eventually! Oh and below, I did not realize that I should not be taking photos, but I got one! near the border! Honestly, it is pretty intense but understandable so!

 At the visitor center, had to run to the bathroom with SN!
 Now have to walk all the way up that hill - mountain maybe?, to get to the castle on the top.  On the way up, SN bought some of the most delicious apricots I have ever eaten from a vendor!  On the way back down, we all bought some more! 
 Here is the castle...part of it - could not capture all of it with my camera!
 Entering the castle...
 To sling out of the castle for protection maybe? or just rubbish - no idea!
 Group photo!!! on the top of the castle!
 Looking out from the top of the castle - it was actually really pretty.  Nice to see some green for a change! Irbid is very brown!

 Heading out of the castle!
 SN and I taking a photo with our Arabic professor from NYU. 
Goodbye Ajloun Castle.

After our visit to Ajloun, we had lunch near Jerash at a small but tasty Arabic restaurant that offered our group a buffet.  While there, it rained! The one day it rained in Jordan while I was there.  It was incredible.  The locals freaked out.  Couldn't believe it and as quickly and violently the storm came up, it was gone. The heat quickly dried up any evidence of the rain but I got some pictures! It made me so happy.  Unluckily, I would have to go six more weeks before I would see rain - upon my return home in August.  

After lunch and the rain storm, we proceeded to Jerash. Jerash is the site of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerase and the foundation was established by Alexander the Great.   

That's right! There are goats crossing ancient ruins!
One of the two coliseums!

Those are capers in my hands! I ate one - not at all delicious.  Caper plants were all over this site. 
New legislation passed in the last decade, which prevented any building on top of archeological sites.  That is, if ruins or other signs of an ancient city lie below the ground, one can not build on it.  In Jerash, there is a modern wall that surrounds the ancient city and right on the other side of the wall are homes and the town.  So are you going to tell me that there are no more ruins or ancient artifacts buried on the other side of that wall?  But, I guess the government is not going to evict these people, at least note yet.  But it is hard to imagine that there are sights and digs all the way up to the wall, yet nothing on the other side where they continue to develop the land for apartments and stores. 
One of the sights is the shell/remains of an ancient Greek (I believe) church and if you look closely, within the fresca you can see ancient greek writing.  It is incredible to see, as well as the alter. The mosaics must have been just beautiful when they were originally made. 
Walking around the sights I discovered some small tablets of stones on the ground that still had tiles/partial frescoes on them.  Some were still quite covered in dirt.  I just found it so fascinating but also sad, that there is not much, I felt, being done to preserves these ancient artifacts - I attribute that to the state of the economy as well as the control of the government. 
Oh look.... the other coliseum.  One was called West and the other East. 
Right next to this coliseum, I believe is the temple to Zeus (of Zeus?), I did not get to go into the building but it just seemed so magnificent from the outside. 
Within the other coliseum, there were some "locals" performing with bagpipes.  Weird? Well, I learned that when the British were stationed in Jordan, they helped develop/establish the government and army and there is even a bagpipe group within the army that performs at national events.  Also, Queen Noor decided to use this ancient city to host the musical and arts festival of the country each year and therefore the troop of bagpipes would perform here as well.

So my group saw all of this in one day, though it took me more than one day to write this blog post.  The next weekend I was supposed to go to the Dead Sea (which can be accessed by both sides of the Border -Israel and Jordan)with most of the group but we found out that our friend from NYU was leaving so we decided to visit with her instead.  SN, our Arabic professor and myself went into Amman and met up with our other classmate from NYU who had been working in Amman during the Summer.

Oh and while we were there, there was a flash mob.  My first flash mob, and go figure it was in the Middle East.  All this took place in Souk Jara on Rainbow Street.
The rest of the weekend we devoted to trying to eat gluten free (SN is and my headaches were getting worse and I felt like a loaf of bread), so we made spring rolls.  They were so yummy!

Finally Week 2 & 3 are finished! I will upload week 4 next, as well as a recap of this week and maybe something else? Thanks for reading!

With joy,


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