Our second day in Jordan began with something new and something old. Very old.
STARBUCKS / AMMAN
Our tour organizer, Mountain Butorac, has what we will call an affinity for Starbucks. Even in Italy, the land of the perfect brew, he’s known to frequent this well-known American franchise.
So, of course, we had to stop at the Starbucks in Amman. (We actually go the next day too, but I promise this is almost the only accommodation we give to the spread of American culture). It was actually fun stopping there, and I’ll say the staff was the friendliest and most helpful that I’ve seen at this particular chain.
Our trip to and from Starbucks gave us a chance to see the US Embassy (the largest in the Middle East) as well as some of the more affluent homes (mansions) in this capital city. There are some very pretty and modern sections of Amman. I quite enjoyed having the chance to see and experience, at least a little bit, what this city has to offer.
Leaving Amman, we set out on the Kings Highway, a modernized road that dates far back into history. As I understand it, the ancient road stretches from the Sinai Peninsula, through Aqaba, and up the Jordan Valley to Damascus in Syria. An ancient trade route, it is mentioned several times in the Bible. The ancient kingdoms of Edom, Moab, and Ammon play an important role in the migration of the Israelites out of Egypt. Read Numbers 20:14-21:
But Edom replied, “You shall not pass through,” and advanced against them with a large and heavily armed force.
Therefore, since Edom refused to let Israel pass through their territory, Israel turned away from them.
We will pass along the Kings Highway several times in our journeys around Jordan. Today, we head northeast of Ammon towards the ancient Roman city of Jerash.
Modern Jerash, a city of around 50,000 people, close to the border with Syria, is the site of the ancient city of Gerasa. Inhabited long before the Romans, perhaps as early as the Bronze Age (according to wikipedia … I know, I know), the city might have also been founded by the Greeks when Alexander the Great wandered through.
Nonetheless, we were there to visit the absolutely fantastic and definitely Roman ruins of the ancient city. We all know how well the Romans built things. Europe is covered in them, and as their empire circled the Mediterranean, it’s wonderful to have these in Jordan to visit.
We had a great time there. Photos don’t really capture the essence of the place. As we walked through Hadrian’s Arch, climbed the steps of the South Theatre, and meandered through the Forum and along the Cardo Maximus, I was really struck by how much sheer effort went into building it all.
It took an incredible knowledge of architecture, mathematics, and artistry. Not to mention the skills to not only quarry the marbles and limestones, but to transport them, shape them, and erect them to last 2,000 years.
Looking at the ancient pavements, I was trying to imagine the long forgotten masons that laid them. Were they valued craftsmen? Indentured slaves? Common folk of the area paid for their labors? The sheer amount of effort for all of this just boggles the mind.
And then I tried to imagine all the different cultures that had lived in that area. Greeks, Romans, Persians, Nabataeans, Arabs, … It was hard to wrap my mind around it all.
Rather than post my photos here (let me know if you’d like me to do that), I created a little video scrapbook that perhaps you will enjoy and allow you to share a bit of our experience in this incredible ancient treasure.