Jordan is a country with Syria in the north, Iraq in the northeast, Iraq in the south, Saudi Arabia in the east and Israel in the west… Since the country is situated at the edge of the Arabian deserts, it had strategic importance during the course of history. According to historian Bernard Lewis, the greatest cause of wars in the Middle East, both past and present, has been the desire to seize or control trade routes between the East and the West, along with the struggle for territory.
Our trip commences from the capital city of Amman.
On one of these hills is a Roman castle. Columns that are still standing in the castle and flat-roofed houses lined up like lego on the slopes of Amman can be seen among the arches. A giant Hercules statue has only fingers left. When looked at the size of the fingers, one can figureout how gorgeous the statue was.
This structure in the midst of the vast desert was built during the Umayyad period (710 AD) and used as a caravanserai hotel. It is made of volcanic limestone blocks. There were also small volcanic stones around the layers in different colors. This pavilion is situated on the junction between Iraq-Arabia-Palestine-Jerusalem.
Being the part of the World Cultural Heritage List, this pavilion was built in the 8th century. Umayyad Caliphate might have built it with the aim of resting or moving away from the city. Only the reception hall and the hammam part survived to our day. There is tepidarium, caldarium and service section in the bathhouse.
One of the wall pictures herein is presumed to be conveying a political message. In this picture, six infidel rulers were depicted obeying the seated Caliphate. Four of the names of monarchs written in both Arabic and Greek alphabets were legible. Caesar (Eastern Roman Emperor), Roderik (the last Visigoth King of Spain), Persian Emperor and Emperor of Ethiopia…The other two are not known as the pictures are in ruins.
A palace in the middle of the desert, a bathhouse with unusual pictures; they surprised me. But since the pictures are partly distorted and there is little light, I could not take good pictures to reflect this environment sufficiently. If you are interested, I suggest you to check “Kuseyr Amra” photos on Internet.
The castle dates back to Roman period. The Ottomans used it as a military garrison while Lawrence did as headquarters. Unlike the other structures we saw, the castle was made of basalt stone. These are dark-colored, gloomy stones…
There are many buildings around a big and gloomy square. The room that Lawrence used was on the second floor of one of them. There is also a mosque inside the castle.
We continue our journey in the desert and arrive at Jerash, an ancient city.
Jerash – Geresa
The ancient city founded at around 100 AD reached its economic and social peak around 200-300 AD. During these periods, trade caravans began to cross here, erasing Petra’s dominance.
The city of Gerasa, which dates back to 6500 years ago and also referred to in the Bible, reached its peak during the Roman period. It is located 48 km north west of Amman…Though the Aramaic language was used on daily life, Greek was the official language. The city being a crowded commercial center during the Roman times suffered a devastating earthquake in 749 AD leaving most of the buildings in ruins, partly under the ground. It was discovered in 1806 by the German orientalist Jasper Seetzen. It is said to be one of the best preserved Roman antique cities.
While visiting this ancient city, it is possible to see all aspects of today’s modern (!) cities. In some parts, social spaces like shops, grocery stores, vegetable markets, hippodrome, church, theaters, etc. are seen side by side as in shopping malls of our day. With a unique elegant architecture, despite its ruined parts…
These small rooms, located side by side, are shops with colorful mosaics on their carpet-like floors. It makes you think that as if you hear the noise of caravans passing by, the bargains made in the shops, maybe the sounds of the intrigues from where they are hidden between the stones.
Marianos Church was actively used between 570-749 AD. Some of the mosaics of the church remained intact and the letters therein are legible.
Hippodrome was used between the years of 220-749 AD to entertain the people and for various competitions. As far as Rome is concerned, one always thinks of slavery and brutal nobles; but people were supposed to be lingered through entertainment.
There is a spectators section, carved out of stone and still partly intact around the 50 x 250 meter square where sports events were materialized.
Nowadays, there are festivals on this ground where gladiator demonstrations are made.
The stone road next to the city walls goes down to the south gate.
The southern gate leads to the southern road, a stone road (south street); made in 110-300 AD. This road is heading to the oval plaza with magnificent columns.
I got so caught up myself that I could not take a proper picture that accurately reflected this area. It is a gathering (forum) area surrounded by very elegant columns. It gives you a feeling of spaciousness that you will want to sit on stone steps and watch around for a long time.
This area, built in 100 AD, was surrounded by 160 columns. Now only 60 of them are intact.
There are sewer holes created by carving stone at the roadside junctions. The road was made with slight inclination to both sides, to prevent rain water from accumulating in the middle …
The Nymphaeum is named after and dedicated to “nymphes”, the water, forest and mountain fairies in the Greek mythology. They are monumental fountain structures in the Greek and Roman architecture with niches, carved on the rock, shaped like a house and decorated with column rows and sculptures. Such structures were built in many places where water was needed in the city.
Despite the collapsed sections, the aesthetics of the stone carved walls behind the scenes and the acoustics of the space are remarkable. Here a group of musicians played Turkish music with local instruments.
The museum is closed down before it gets dark due to security measures. There was a colorful sunset while we were leaving the antique cit in haste.
The city of Salt was an administrative unit affiliated to the Province of Sham in the Ottoman period. It was located on the old main road connecting Amman to Jerusalem.
The city’s alleys consist of shops where everything irrelevant to each other is sold side by side. When you go up to the top, different architectures of structures used as administrative buildings during the Ottoman period catch the eye.
Our other purpose to come to the city was to visit the martyrdom.
Salt Turkish Martyrdom
This is the martyrdom that was built to the memory of the 300 officers, non-commission officers and privates of the 48. Division and 143, 145 and 191. Infantry Regiment of the 4th Army, who were killed while they were fighting against the British troops in the Salt Zone between March 24-26, 1918 during the World War I.
In 1973, a mass grave was found in a cave. The first phase of the monument was completed in 1989 and opened to the visitors. In 2004, the memorial was commissioned to be renovated by Military Attache Colonel İbrahim Yılmaz.
This is a small, clean, modern city. People are also very polite in this city with a dense Christian population and churches located almost side by side.
The most important work in this city is the partly surviving mosaic Madaba map, presumably made in the 6th century AD at the bottom of the St. George Church, one of the examples of early Eastern Roman architecture. On this map, the names of settlements in the Middle East are written and sacred lands, ancient Palestine and Jerusalem are shown by symbols. This map is important as it shows places in the Najaf Desert and others that are not mentioned in other sources as well as showing a detailed map of Jerusalem.
The mosaic, found at the base of one of the old ruined churches, was unearthed in 1884. The scientists realized in 1896 that the fragment of the map, which was largely destroyed, contained the region from ancient Neapolis (today’s Nablus) to Egypt. The map was restored by German archaeologists under the chair of Herbert Donner in 1965-66.
The floor mosaics of the Martyrs Church ruins, which are currently being excavated and restored by religious and international organizations, are also very impressive. But since there is an undergoing restoration, the pictures cab only be taken over its edge and iron bridges.
But what really interesting is the mosaics of the place that have been preserved to a great extent. Fairly detailed figures with colorful stones are depicted, events are animated. Naturally, you can not step on these mosaics. It is possible to take pictures by walking in the protected areas on the edges and on small glass paths-bridges, though.
After descending from the Nebo Mountain there is another city remains en route…
This is an urban remnant that is mostly under the ground, but we can walk through the remains. The city, the part of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, is said to be a settlement identified in the Bible.
This was the part of the Jordanian trip that I was most curious about. Before I left, I had watched the related documentaries and saw the pictures. But after I passed through this entrance gate, I literally entered the “time tunnel” and wandered around for hours during the day.
Petra was inhabited by the Nabataeans in 400 BC-106 AD and served as the capital of the state. The city has fallen after the earthquakes and economic turmoils around 400 AD and forgotten thoroughly over time until it was rediscovered by the Swiss traveler Johann Burckhardt in 1812. Included in the list of World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1985 while it was selected as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 1985.