Tuesday, 12 November 2013

wanderlust wednesday: jordan

Today is a real Wanderlust Wednesday - I'm traveling!  Back to dear ol' Blighty for my brother-in-law's happy nuptials.  More on Britain's many charms next week, but this week I'm showing off the ancient wonders of her her former colony, Jordan.

For a Middle Eastern country right in the thick of things (it has a large land border with both Syria and the Palestinian Territories), you don't hear much about Jordan in the news.  Because you don't need to.  The country is quietly getting on and prospering, even surrounded by some of the region's most troubled areas.  It is perfectly safe for anyone to visit and explore, and boasts a host of stunning reasons for doing so, from Petra's enchanting red cliffs to the hospitality of the Bedouin.

Let's take a look.

While Amman the capital is an excellent hub and really central, a lot of it looks like this:

There is a small Roman theatre and the ruins of the city's citadel built right into down town Amman, but that's an easy day's exploration.  

My recommendation?  Head into the north country, to the ancient Greco-Roman city of Jerash.  Nestled amidst surprisingly lush hills, the original structure of the city is still intact, allowing your imagination to kick into high gear.  You can envision sandaled Greeks and Romans in being whisked along the main road on their litters, while women strolled convivially home from their daily trip to the baths.  Two original theatres, two bathhouses, several temples, the central hippodrome, the main colonnaded street, most of the city walls and the unique city forum (shown below) all remain!  Pretty impressive for a city that has been inhabited since 3200 BC. 

If your're already in the neighbourhood, Ajloun Castle is worth the visit.  This 12th century castle boasts a decent museum and some truly lovely and hospitable staff, but mostly it's the views.  The glorious views of endless sky and rolling hills and distant seas... inspiring. 

Time for some southern comfort in the form of a Nabatean civilisation established as early as 312 BC, the beyond beautiful, UN world heritage site, Petra.  T.E. Lawrence, Indiana Jones, many a famous figure has had adventures amongst these awe-inspiring carved facades.  British poet John William Burgon encapsulates the wonder far better than I:
It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,

eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!

What resonated with me?  Hushed canyons.  Mischievous, frolicking children.  Chilled caverns.  Swirling colors.
Immense awe.

Finally, an overnight campout at the behest of some wonderful Bedouin hosts, set amidst the rosy dunes and buttes of Wadi Rum.  There is music, hiking, waterfalls, stunts, dune surfing, wall paintings, cookouts and general merry-making.  Add on a blazing sunset over the reddest of sands and mattresses spread under the thickest blanket of stars, and you've made magic.  

Photos by me (and one awesome Bedouin child who borrowed and excelled at my camera.)

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