The Quiet House

Jordan is often described as a quiet house in a very noisy neighborhood. Its neighbors are Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south, and Israel to the west. Sound like a tough neighborhood?!?!

Jerash 044 We had a relaxing and generally interesting time in Amman, Jordan, highlighted by our visit to nearby Jerash. We ended up spending five days in Amman; if our only goal was to see the most important local sites, we could have condensed our stay into a couple of days. But it was a great time for us as a family to enjoy the capital of Jordan on a relaxed basis.

Jerash is the location of one of the oldest surviving ruins of a Greco-Roman city. The location was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age (3200 to 1200 B.C.), but was at its peak in the first Century A.D. The Persian invasion in 614 A.D., though, put an end to Jerash’s better days.

Jerash 098 We walked around the ruins, and could see what an entire village used to look like. It has two performing amphitheaters (still in use to this day!), the Greco-Roman version of a shopping mall, and various areas for living space and worship. Jordan is slowly restoring the the ruins, and it’s the location of a summer music festival each year. They also have somewhat tacky daily performances in the Jerash’s old coliseum, featuring Roman soldiers, gladiators, and chariots.

Jerash 117 Our walk through the ruins had an unexpected highlight when we spotted a Red Whip Snake among the ruins at the Temple of Artemis. The poor snake tried to hide under a big concrete block, but we were able to flush it out. A local vendor came to our rescue and caught the snake, and we were able to visit a bit with this harmless reptile. Take a look at our video of this snake upon release, and you’ll see why we’re glad to have caught up with him.

Jerash 162 We also explored some of Amman, including the desert castles of Qusair Amra. It was about an hour and a quarter from downtown Amman, but only marginally interesting. Our experience that day was colored by the unjustified arrest of Elizabeth, Sterling, and Gibson (left behind bars in their stark jail cell!), who were put behind bars for unruly behaviour. Fortunately, I was able to post bail and get them back on the touring road! On a different day, we went to Mount Nebo, where Moses died, and to the spot on the Jordan River, where historians think St. John baptized Jesus.

Jerash 141 We spent a half day with a local K-12 school in Amman, the Mashrek International School. This private school is just eight years old, and was started by a Jordanian family. We met many of the students and teachers, and the school was just humming with energy. Classes are taught in both English and Arabic, so all students are bilingual. We were quite impressed with how much progress this family could make in less than a decade with their school. Tuition, for those who track these things, ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 per year, depending on the grade.

We also got together one night for dinner with friends once-removed. Good friends of ours in Boston, Hendon and Kate Pingeon, introduced us to Hendon’s brother, Robert, who lives in Jordan with his wife, Emily Lodge. They were fascinating to meet, and we had a great time at their house. Bob is a consultant doing lots of work in Iraq, primarily Kurdistan. And Emily is an author, with a lifetime of experience in political circles. Her grandfather ran for Vice President of the U.S. in 1960! And her father ran for Senate in Massachusetts. They were very kind to host us for an evening, and really made our visit to Amman special. And it was my first home-cooked meal since Christmas Day!

While in Amman, I read Queen Noor’s book, A Leap of Faith, which was a great book to take in during our stay in Jordan. The queen is a woman, born in the U.S. but of Arabic descent, who met King Hussein when she was 26, and shortly thereafter became his bride and, in the process, the queen of Jordan. She is quite articulate in describing the history of conflict in the Middle East from Jordan’s perspective, and the role the U.S. has played. And she does a great job of discussing modern life here. She makes a case that much of what we see and hear in the U.S. is colored heavily by the U.S. press, and doesn’t accurately reflect the issues and history here. A Leap of Faith was a great book for this part of our trip.

Feel free to check out our Amman and Jerash photos.

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