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amphitheater in Jerash, <h1>Jordan</h1>

Jordan is a lyrical country where music filters within routine daily chores as often as it wafts across landscapes both lush and dry. Listen as you wander. 

Lyrical voices drift over archeological sites giving in-the-moment invitations to accompany musings about ancient cultures. Connect the eras with intention. 

The alphabet is graceful too, offering intriguing sight lines to accompany the sounds. Gaze at signs with or without translations to feel the flow of local writing.

 directional sign in Jerash, Jordan

Flowing Arabic letters in Jordanian handwriting and
professional printing appear calming, soothing and artistic.

 

Why travel to Jordan?  

History was born here, so say Old and New Testament scholars. Perhaps that’s reason enough to walk where Jacob and Esau struggled over their birthright or Moses looked toward the Promised Land. 

Reports about the Ammonites and Moabites might swirl in your head, but Jordan gives life to the places the Biblical stories represent. See the statue some say is Lot, mother of Moab and Ammon, near the Dead Sea.

panaramic view looking over Promised Land form Mt. Nebo

 Moses viewing the Promised Land can be channeled by visitors to Mount Nebo in Jordan

.

Sing “There Is A Balm in Gilead” more heartily after being in the plains of Gilead. Contemplate baptism with more depth after a dip in the now-shallow River Jordan. 

Signat top of Mt. Nebo in Jordan

Reading the names of modern-day places while standing where Moses once did is humbling.

Camels call Jordan home, and opportunities abound to make their acquaintance. Admiring doleful eyes and knobby knees in a western zoo pales by comparison with up-close experiences in Jordan. 

Hail a camel as if a cab in Manhattan and negotiate your price.  

In the ancient city of Petra, where the Nabataean people carved buildings in massive sandstone of rose, purple and yellow hues in the first century BC, camels now provide the transportation system for visitors not relishing a walk of five or more miles.

Author on camel in front of Treasury in Petra, Jordan

Balancing as the camel stands or sits is an affair for gasping.

 

Call up the fine documentary on public television’s Nova website, but also go yourself. Linger in the spice shop called Rosemary Petra to sniff the same aromas and sip some tea. 

Camels carried spices in huge caravans during Petra’s heyday; shapeshift to imagine this ancient city once accommodating a dozen caravans with 600 – 700 camels in each!  

 bags of spices in Jordan

Entering a spice shop in Petra connects travelers to the purpose of ancient camel caravans.

 

When you are really in Jordan, join a caravan to traverse the vast Wadi Rum for a richer desert experience. Reading “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” first to be steeped in the Lawrence of Arabia history deepens the time on that gentle, forward-lurching ride.

 
Goat_hair tents at VBedouin camp in Wadi Rum

Black goat hair tents mean home to nomadic Bedouins in Jordan, and overnight lodging for travelers.

Time is endless in this desert created by shifting Tectonic plates but visitors can control their camel time arranging rides of 10 or 15 minutes just for the encounter, 45 minutes for a specific journey connecting two overnight camps as I did or longer in consultation with Jordanian tourism professionals. 

Archeological sites beckon throughout Jordan’s Rift Valley, showcasing rediscovered cultures within ancient geology. Visit Rome for its ruins if you like, but take a picnic to Jerash to find a concentration of excavations inviting immersion in Greek, Roman and Byzantine communities. All day wouldn’t be enough. 

Layers of passing time are clear in Jerash.  Gazing toward an olive press is reasonably interesting, but clearly distinguishing different stone formations built on top of the previous civilization is monumental.

 
temple ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Experience holy places from ancient civilizations in the Jerash archeological site.

So is musing about the meaning of holy places in the midst of excavations. For me, being quiet in front of the Temple of Artemis, daughter of Zeus, provoked profound gratitude. Had I lived then, instead of visiting now, I would not have found access to this holy of the holiest spaces. 

Choose travel to Jerash in late July any year because the arts can piece together understanding as enormous as these Tectonic Rift Valley plates. Hope I can return then, with intention. 

Here’s why: A Festival for Culture and Arts happens within the archeological site for two weeks! What a venue.

ruins at Jerash in Jordan

Jordan invites engagement in archeology through arts festivals within historic sites.

 

Poetry, song, folkloric troupes, symphonies, ballet – in the Greek, Roman, Ottoman Empire theaters, colonnaded streets, plazas, columns and yet-to-be-excavated grassy hills where Bedouin sheep graze.  

Sounds like an avenue for understanding: my reason for travel. 

Connecting some dots of culture and history    

America’s quite excited about the centennial of the National Parks, but 2016 means a lot to Jordanians too. A well-prepared traveler might have already known this 100-year Middle East connection, but I figured it out in the seaside town of Aqaba. 

 The Great Arab Revolt began there and Jordanians are proud to explain how that signifies change a century ago from the oppressive Ottoman Empire to the much-revered Hashemite Kingdom.

Evidence of local love for King Abdullah II and Queen Rania abounds. Their formal, obligatory photos hang in many places but fanciful pictures do too, showing daily involvement.

street bookstore in Amman with owner in front. Picture of King and Queen shoping there above

Relationships with Kingdom leaders abound throughout Jordan.

Just ask the sidewalk bookseller in the capital city Amman.  His poster-sized photos document the King and Queen as readers, supporting indy bookstores and visiting his! Of course, stop in at Habiba just down the street, too, because that’s the 24-hour place to get the delectable pastry known as knafeh. 

knafeh in Amman, Jordan
Pastries rank high on favorite Jordanian culinary bucket lists. This is knafeh.

Check out involvement with the royal Hashemite family on Twitter because Queen Rania maintains active dialogues on many social media feeds. It’s the way I’m staying current with initiatives along the Jordan River and within Syrian refugee camps. 

What a contrast to attitudes elsewhere. In Jordan, people seek ways to help refugees in crisis, thousands of them, organizing to provide every Syrian refugee child with access to an education.   

Adjusting my western reactions to the look and the sounds took a few days, and that’s curious since I traveled so far on purpose, anticipating differences. Why do judgmental attitudes arise?

 
painting of women eating ice cream in Jordan
Respectful travelers  do not photograph Muslim women.
This painting suggests the curiosity visitors feel.

Fashion was a jolt, starting with the 12-hour flight on Royal Jordanian Airline. Most of the women were going home, dressed in a chador, covering their heads like a shawl, and many in an abaya with only face, hands and shoes showing. Comfortable, not burdened seemed to be their countenance. 

My seatmates in a row of three were Palestinian sisters.  Babies and toddlers were admired and assisted all night—no grumblings, just gracious family support from flight crew and passengers.   

Take advantage of the long flight instead of waiting for wheels down to begin the journey. 

Books on tape in the entertainment system include the Quran. Conversations across the aisle indicate the widespread Jordanian hospitality and reaffirm the sense of safety and security in the Kingdom. 

 Immersing in the sounds of language through the flight softened my ear to embrace the lyrical invitations to prayer five times a day, everywhere I traveled: wafting through my window in a downtown hotel or floating across archeological excavations from a mosque I could not see or merging with the bleating of the sheep in a Bedouin community.

sign at Jordan river

Simply absorbing the sense of place with wayfinding signs can be powerful in Jordan.

 

The repetitive beauty of the call to worship provided a balance I had not anticipated when planning my visit to the Jordan River site of the baptism of Jesus.  In this land where many say history was born, many histories connect. 

Petra in all its rock-carved magnificence also speaks to the ever-prevalent talk of peace in the Middle East. That’s because the Nabataean people credited with shaping this economic hub embraced diplomacy, not war.  

Notice multiple languages carved in the buildings, and architectural styles reflecting as many lands as the camel caravans passed through.  Petra was not an isolationist economic power.

 
plate of green almonds in Jordan

Almond eating at home is routine, but Jordan travelers find raw nuts to munch in roadside stands.

Light-hearted experiences abound all through Jordan too, tasting raw almonds from a street vendor and keeping track of how many ways you can eat eggplant.   

Strolling the commercial souk in every community means touching luscious, fresh produce because shops are close and pathways narrow. Hurrying would be silly because shopkeepers trigger a cadence one with another as they tout their wares. 

bags of grains in Souk in Jordan

Marketplaces are lively, colorful, musical in Jordan. Stroll slowly to soak the ambience in the souk.

Slathering your own body or a stranger’s with Dead Sea mud creates laughter, and then serenity since everyone floats languidly as the 21 mineral properties provide their healing touch. 

Sharing coffee with a Bedouin family, in their goat-hair tent, and then bread called shraak just out of the fire, opens up yet another deep connection to this land and its history.  

Spending the night with the Bedouin deepens the relationship even more. 

Those details need to wind their way into another story, another day.

 


 

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