Day 045 Jordan : Northern Jordan

Blue skies and sunshine greeted as we started our day trip up into the north of Jordan.  We had briefly visited it on our entry into the country a couple of days back and although we driven through some beautiful countryside (it's almost like Tuscany a_1AC_SG101951 ), we had only popped into Irbid - the city of many, many internet cafes!

Our first stop was the Ajloun Castle or Qala'at ar-Rabad built for Saladin a_1AC_SG101960 by his nephew.  It was a strategic post for carrier pigeons and a beacon used in the wars against the Crusaders and although has been restored, is still well-worth a visit.  From the north side of the castle you can see as far as Israel and Syria but walk around a little to see Lebanon and, obviously, Jordan as well. 

Then it was onto Mar Elias and in my opinion the most beautiful site we had visited so far.  There are 2 churches here - the smallest and earliest churcha_2ME_SG101968 and the main church on the site above it.  If you go, you will have the site to yourself (a good thing!) as few people visit it.  Restorations have been kept to a bear minimum and the original mosaic floors are almost in tact a_2ME_SG101972with the colours and patterns still clearly visible a_2ME_SG101973

The next visit was a surprise for us as, unbeknownst to us, an invitation had been arranged for us to have a private visit to a diplomat's home in Al Himma, locally know as the Duke's Paradisea_4DP_SG101992 .  Al Himma, which is a stone's throw away from the Golan Heights (only seperated by the Yarmouk River), and is accessed by 5 military checkpoints, used to have a public hot spring that people could visit which has been around since Roman times!  This has been closed now in preparation for a 5 star hotel being built (uuum progress??) but we were lucky enough to be able to have a bathe in a private hot spring fed by the same source that is closed off now.  Entering the Duke's Paradise is amazing as Roman artifacts are used for general decoration - a_4DP_SG101991 even the umbrella stand is a Roman grinding wheel!  The main pool a_4DP_SG101993 also from Roman times is filled by the Yarmouk River and the hot spring, whilst the private pool where we bathed is filled only by the hot spring.  The water is a warm 33degC and is jam-packed with beneficial minerals and saltsa_4DP_SG102002.  It was a wrench to get out but eventually we dragged ourselves away, refreshed and relaxed, to carry on with our tour.  On leaving we passed by the accommodation which is available to visiting diplomats and dignitaries a_4DP_SG101997  a_4DP_SG101998 - not for us mere mortals unfortunately!

Our last stop was Umm Qias and a magnificent example of Roman ruins built using basalt rock (black volcanic rock).  It was also the spot where we were able to see the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias a_5UQ_SG102023

The amphitheatrea_5UQ_SG102008 is surprisingly in tact with the VIP seats with names carved into the rock still clearly visible a_5UQ_SG102011 a_5UQ_SG102010 - we're talking over 2000 years old. WOW! And this time, as there were no other visitors, we spent some time playing around with the acoustics spots in the theatre (no singing though!)  As we walked through the site the use of basalt rock was no clearer than in the church where they had used both marble and basalta_5UQ_SG102017 .  And no matter how many ancient sites we visit, we are still taken aback by the engineering and the amazing precision that went into the buildings a_5UQ_SG102013 - no computerised aided design here!  a_5UQ_SG102035   Our last wander down the main street in Umm Qais, passed the shops a_5UQ_SG102052 and we were away, back to the Olive Branch Hotel, back to reality and happily exhausted after a long day out.

#1 John Cox on 6.03.2009 at 9:13 AM

Hi you two.

Just been have a look what you both are up to,see Marshy boy is still selling dodgy rims.Sorry to here about the Syria bit but seems like you are getting over it now.enjoy Jordan Petra,Wadi Rum ect(dont take the pony ride into Petra its a rip off).

The boarder crossing info is great keep it up.See you later in the year for that beer.

Take care but have fun John and Denise

****

Hi John, having a fabulous time in Jordan but MY GOD its hot!!  52deg C yesterday and catching up today.... We are staying in a dive resort for a couple of days/weeks as we are diving (would you believe it!!).  Syria is behind us and scratched up as an experience hopefully not to be repeated.  We went into Petra and its fab - we didn't do the donkey ride.  Wadi Rum started out fun yesterday but a wind storm blew up so we had to leave.  We may go back in whilst we are still here in Aqaba.  Cheers & catch up with you soon again, Trevor & Jan. 

#2 gill on 6.03.2009 at 2:19 PM

Hi Trev and Jan

Just been catching up on your blog. What an experience in Syria!!! Glad to hear you got through it okay. Your photos are absolutely amazing - history history and more history. Been very busy entertaining in this gorgeous weather so this weekend is a chill out. Not much news from this end of the world other than the normal "skullduggery" with the government. Look after yourselves and I will mail again soon.

Lots of love

Gill

****

Hi Gill, thanks for keeping in touch - it's good to hear from home.  We are having such hot weather at the moment - 52degC in Jordan phew!!!  It's too hot to even sit in the sun.  We are going to have a dive this afternoon though :o).  Take care, lots of love Jan