The past few weeks have been filled with castles and ruins. We went to Ajlun a couple of weeks ago (which I realized that I never actually posted pictures of…), last week my program took us to Jerash and Umm Qais, and today a group of friends and I went to Umm Al Jimal, which were, well, ruins.
The great thing (which is also really sad) about ruins/ancient sites in Jordan is that they’re like giant playgrounds. Go to Greece/Rome/Pompeii/wherever, and there are signs everywhere saying “DO NOT TOUCH” or “DO NOT CLIMB ON,” etc. Go to any place in Jordan, and…nothing. There is usually a guardrail around the mosaics, so people don’t walk on them…but there also might not be anything protecting them.
Peephole/slot to fire arrows through. (We think.)
Ajlun Castle + GRASS!
Love. Grass. So. Much.
Bet you didn’t expect to see all of that greenery in the Middle East, did you? It’s amazing what the rainy/winter season does in the north of Jordan.
Jerash was good (again), though I definitely prefer going with a few friends, so we can go wherever we want and take our time. Umm Qais was also gorgeous, and I think it was even better than Jerash.
And then we went to Umm al-Jimal, (which was a Nabatean/Byzantine city and is apparently a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in northeast Jordan, about 17km from the town of Mafraq.
The nice thing about not having a car is that you never have to worry about parking. The bad thing about having a car is that you have to figure out how to get from point A to wherever your final destination is, which can be interesting.
So the morning started out just spiffy when we discovered that no buses were actually leaving from the bus station next to the Roman Ampitheater (in downtown Amman) because it’s Friday (Muslim holy day–so everything’s closed…at least in the morning…) Fortunately there was a police station right next to the station and a helpful officer told us to take a servisa (shared taxi) to the next closest bus station. We could either take this servisa from Amman directly to Mafraq (20 dinar) or take a bus to Zarqa, then catch another bus to Mafraq (45 qirsh/cents and 1 dinar, respectively). Being the cheap college kids that we are, we opted for the buses.
The bus rides went fine, until we got to Mafraq. When everyone else (and I mean everyone) on the bus got off, we thought it was the last stop, so we did too. However, it was nowhere near Umm al-Jimal, and fortunately we caught another bus to Umm al-Jimal…kind of. This bus happened to be filled with Syrian refugees (who were all dropped off at the refugee camp, which was absolutely amazing to see. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures, though…) It then took us and the remaining Jordanian to a street, where the driver told us that Umm al-Jimal was “that way.” Fair enough. We got off and started hiking. Where is this place?
There was nothing out there except for a handful of houses, bedouin tents, and herds of sheep.
Just a pleasant stroll through the desert…
About 20 minutes into our walk, we fortunately got a ride the rest of the way (God bless them), and went up to the tourist office…which, along with the bathrooms, was locked. Because it’s Friday. The entrance to the actual site was open, however, and we had fun exploring the ancient city.
We managed to see most of the ruins, and eventually started wondering about how we were going to get back, since there was no taxi or bus service nearby–the nearest transportation service was in Mafraq. 17 km away. So we started walking and hoped that someone would come along and give us a ride (which they did, al-hamdulillah!). We got back to Mafraq and managed to get a taxi, which took us directly back to Amman.
I felt like kissing the ground when we got home. It was good to be back.