Monday, 14 January 2013

jordan day 2: ancient greco-roman provincial city of gerasa

the last item on our itinerary for the day was the ancient ruins of gerasa in jerash. actually it was already 2pm when we arrived there and was supposed to have our lunch first, but as the skies were really dark and gloomy, our driver thought maybe it was better for us to finish touring here first before going for our lunch as he feared we'd have to miss this site if it rained.

however it did rained, even before we went in but we still waited around for the rain to subside, since were there already.

 started our tour from here, the outer south gate, which is about 5 minutes walk from the ancient town centre of gerasa.

started to pour again... not good! 

the colonnade (sequence of columns) at the oval forum, a trademark in many roman cities. the oval forum functioned as a marketplace as well as gathering place of great social significance, and often the scene of diverse activities, including political discussions and debates, rendezvous, meetings etc.

 cardo maximus, or main street, that normally runs through the city and lined with shops and vendors.

corinthian columns... all the roman columns were made up of sections and were never one whole long piece of  stone.

if you stuck a key between the sections in a column, the key will move up and down, especially when there's a wind blowing. this explains how some of the structures were able to withstand the wind, rain, the flow of time and even earthquakes. 

at the north theatre... the guy in red behind there is our guide for gerasa.

it's a big complex and lotsa walking involved! (i know gina will be commenting about how tiring my trips are! :P) here, we're walking up to the temple of artemis, where the columns are.

the ruins of temple of artemis.

ruins of a church.

original mosaics on the floor of the church.

walking towards the south theatre.

bagpipers entertaining the visitors at the theatre.

view of the oval forum from the top.

some original stones on display.

this was how the original temple of artemis looked like.

back at the south gate

by this time, we were famished! we were practically begging our driver to bring us for our lunch, at nearly 5pm! more like dinner, huh? so he brought us to this arabic restaurant some minutes' drive away.

oven baked arabic bread. 

typical arabic bread. 

 hummus, a kind of dip for the arabic bread, made from chickpeas.

tabouleh, also eaten with arabic bread, made from parsley, couscous etc. 

fatoush, a kind of arabic salad. very yummy! 

arabic pickles... very salty, but appetizing. 

the main, a combo of grilled meat. of course this wasn't mine. i asked for only chicken meat... :P this meal came up to JD10 (≈ RM43) per person.

when we got back to amman, our driver asked if we want to have some desserts. since it was quite early, we said ok. so he brought us to this famous sweets shop, habibah sweets

the lower floor is the shop part, where they sell arabic sweets, baklavas etc by the kg.

the upper level is the restaurant part, with waiters in vests and all. 

this was what our driver recommended we order, hot and cold kunafa. it's cheesy and very sweet! to be honest, too sweet for us, so we were having some trouble finishing it. i forgot how much we paid for this... probably JD2 (≈ RM8.50)

after stuffing ourselves with kunafa, we went to this souvenir shop next door. it's a shop targeting tourists and we're sure the prices were marked up like crazy. so we didn't buy anything, other than a cake of dead sea mud soap.

even tho' jordan is a muslim country with about 90% of their population are muslims, but given their jewish and christianity origins, we often see these paraphernalia sold in shop run by local muslims. this is definitely something we'll never see back home!

it was a long and tiring day, so we retired quite early that night.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

jordan day 2: pella and ajloun castle

first of all, happy new year!!! hehe... i'm STILL posting about my jordan trip from 2 months back, so sorry! will try my very very best to get it out of the way, as there's another short trip coming up soon *yippee* :D


after gadara, our next destination was pella, also located in umm qais.

as gadara was situated on higher grounds, we had to travel down long and winding roads by the cliff...

on lower ground, the air was slightly warmer, but it's much greener compared to the barren hills...

sort of like the entrance to the pella site.

pella has been continuously occupied since the neolithic times and is a favourite for archaeologists as it is exceptionally rich in antiquities, some of which are exceedingly old. besides the excavated ruins from the greco-roman period, including odeon (theatre), pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium bc, the remains of bronze and iron age walled cities, byzantine churches and houses, an early islamic residential quarter and a small medieval mosque. this was also where the battle of fahl, part of the arab-byzantine war, took place.

our driver brought us to this coffee place/restaurant on top of the hill.

at the back part of the restaurant, they have this open terrace...

...that overlooks the entire ancient pella site. there are a few ancient ruins dotted all over in the distance, but can't really see anything from our position, just some columns and tumbled-down buildings...

on our way again... as it was the eid al adha (a.k.a. hari raya korban back home), there were many goats, sheep and camels for sale everywhere, even at road intersections... 

next on our itinerary was the ajlun castle, located up on a hill. this coffee/tea seller claims himself to be a bedouin (the official kind). his coffee/tea pot is very unique, with burning charcoal sticking up on top to keep the contents warm (it was a rather cold day).

ajlun castle (qal'at ar-rabad) was built by one of saladin's generals in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of ajlun, and to deter the franks from invading ajlun. ajlun castle dominated the three main routs leading to the jordan valley and protected the trade and commercial routes between jordan and syria. it became an link in the defensive chain against the crusaders, who, unsuccessfully spent decades trying to capture the castle and nearby village.

going into the castle... 

 some parts in ruins...

it's quite huge, with many sections and chambers and wings... 

at the end of our 1/2 hour tour, there's a small museum in one of the chambers near the entrance displaying some wares and stuff found in this fortress. these are the coins used in the ancient times... so small! imagine the ancient people dropping one of these in the dark rooms and chambers (coz no electric lighting then!). no wonder there are so many on display here... must've been found in the dark corners throughout the castle! :D

on our way again, we passed by many olive oil factories as the soil in the northern region are really fertile. so on a whim, i asked our driver if we're able to pay a visit to one of these factories as i was really curious as to how they extract the oil from fruit. so our driver made a u-turn to this factory that we've just passed and spoke to the proprietor.

bags of olives were left out in the open, but placed on wooden platforms to prevent the damp from the ground.

unfortunately, the factory was not in operation that day due to the public holiday. so the owner just brought us on a short tour and explained the process step-by-step.

at the end of the tour, we were even given a taste of the pure olive oil. very flavourful and yummy! my driver said even though he lives in amman, he gets his olive oil by the barrels from this northern region (irbid) as they're much cheaper and pure here...

to be continued...