Category Archives: Jordan

People of Israel and Jordan

All of the people we met where welcoming and congenial (except for the Russian hotel staff at the Dead Sea.) English is spoken wildly and taught in the schools, so communicating was fairly easy.  We also enjoyed people-watching because of the cultural diversity of dress.  Here are some people that were not mentioned in earlier posts.

I chatted with this young women in Amman while we were sitting on steps eating street food.

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I observed these women from Saudi Arabia in a restaurant.  They were all on their cell phones.

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This fellow was selling incense in the Old Town market in Jerusalem.

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Here is his frankincense and myrrh.

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This fellow was a chatty juice vendor.  He prepared fresh pomegranate juice for the group.

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This fellow was mending a carpet in one of the markets.

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This is Abraham, our Bedouin guide, on the Jeep tour of the desert.

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This is Betsey who chatted with a charming donkey driver at Petra.  We agreed that he looked like Johnny Depp.

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This is the mule driver that we hired for our retreat from Petra.

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This is David Miro, a coppersmith and an Iraqi Jew. David was one of many who fled to Israel from Baghdad after the 1941 pogrom called the Farhud. Almost 800 Jews were killed. The Grand Mufti and Hitler were linked to the Farhud. After the Farhud, life became unbearable for the Baghdad Jews. By 1950 they were allowed to leave. Many of them went to Israel and continued their business of copper work. (Photo by Rick Dallin)

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David works in copper and silver plated copper.

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This was our guide in Bethlehem.   Hasraf told us that his father was Orthodox and his mother was a Roman Catholic.  To avoid conflict, he said was an Arab Christian.

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This fellow, a Hasidic Jew, entertained us in a plaza in Jerusalem.

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This is Sandra.  She shared with us the story of her family during the Holocaust.  She was a child in Poland and separated from her family – her father was taken to a camp and her mother disappeared when Sandra was three.  She was hidden by a non-Jewish Polish nanny, then taken to a refugee camp, then to a school in France in preparation for being sent to Israel.  After the war, she was reunited with her father, but became estranged from him.  She immigrated to the States where she had three daughters.  The whole family now lives in Israel.

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This is Luna. She was our guide at the kibbutz and showed us around the complex. She  described her experience living there and how, over the years, the rules and guidelines have evolved and have become more liberal.

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This is Doris who hosted us for lunch in Tel Aviv. She shared with us her life in Israel as a Christian Arab Israeli whose family immigrated to Israel from Lebanon.  She is a vivacious, former Lebanese beauty pageant winner who demonstrated to us that she is her own person!

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This couple, Connie and Joseph, told us about their life style as Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Joseph explained his beliefs to us and answered questions about his study of Jewish texts and how they are raising their children.  They were a delightful couple.

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This Muslim family entertained us in their home in Amman, Jordan.  Omar is in 11th grade and planning to study engineering when he graduates from high school.  His sister, Sarah, (standing next to him) is attending law school and wants to specialize in civil rights.  Jasmine, the little girl, was very sweet and somewhat shy.  Teg, the mother, is married to a tour guide.  The woman to the left helped serve the meal.  They all spoke English very well, including Jasmine, and were a really fun family!

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This is Firas, a Palestinian Muslim, who talked to us about the Israel – Palestinian situation and how each area, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, have different histories and unique politics and how complicated the issues are. There are no easy solutions, but he is optimistic that little steps forward can eventual resolve the conflicts.

This is Revital, our outstanding guide in Israel.  She made the trip fun, interesting, and educational!  She had the challenge of trying to teach us the complicated history of Israel going back 3,000 years up to the current present.  And she was up to it!

And here is the group of 16 well-traveled members of our tour group who came from all over the US.  We were traveling during the mid-term elections, and not one peep was uttered about US politics.  We put congeniality before political opinions – well done!  We had lots of laughs along the way and made great memories together.

To sum up, it was a fabulous trip, rich in cultural experiences.  Unique to this trip for me was learning how the complicated history of the Mid-East impacts current times. It was a tour packed with activities and lots of walking and climbing steps, and although I gained weight, my legs are stronger than they have been in a long time!

Here is a map of my incredible three-week journeys in Jordan and Israel.

Now I’m thinking about where I want to go next.

 

 

 

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Markets of Israel and Jordan

Driving through the towns and cities, I noticed the storefront signage.  I found the characters and fonts visually interesting as patterns.  I have no idea what these signs say, some are in Arabic and others in Hebrew.

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We visited markets in both countries.  Some markets were modern with food, cosmetics, hardware, clothing, and places to eat – just like our malls.  And they had modern malls as well. Other markets were traditional markets that carried mostly food items.  In some markets we discovered tourist souvenirs.

We visited this modern market in Jerusalem where our guide took us on a tasting tour.

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Here we are being giving samples of various spice/herb mixtures by an enthusiastic salesman.

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This is a traditional shop in Jordan with narrow aisles.

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This is where I discovered at lot of tiny eggplants.

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We tried jack fruit. Smelly, but a mild, sweet flavor.

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We saw lots of candy shops with bins of brightly colored gummy treats.  They all looked like they would taste the same.

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And lots of spice and herb shops with huge bags filled to the brim.  I don’t know how they can sell that much product!  Betsey and I admired the pyramid of herbs in this fellow’s shop. If I lived there I would probably buy from him just because of his display skills.

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More for sale.

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Many flavors of halva.

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Other merchandize included yarmulkes in many styles.  You can get one with the insignia of your favorite sports team, Disney character, or political saying.  Notice in upper right, there is a “Trump, Make America Great” yarmulke!

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There were candles and ceramics galore as well as jewelry.

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And scarves, including lots of keffiyeh in a variety of colors.

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Next, some of the people we met along the way.

 

 

Food

My clothes fit tighter! It was really tough trying to resist tasting everything. A typical meal began with multiple dishes of salads served family style accompanied with pita or other bread.  Then the main course of fish, lamb, or chicken, beef less frequently, served with either potatoes or rice.  And large servings! Then a dessert.  On a number of occasions, we ate at buffets with generous varieties of salads, main dishes, and desserts.  All of our breakfasts were buffets.  And all delicious!  And hummus at every meal including breakfast! The food was a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean.

Here is an array of first course dishes. Enough food to make a meal just of the first course.

Some main courses.

Roasted chicken and pilaf.

We had hummus in many variations.  Because pomegranates were in season, they were used liberally in many preparations.

Our first meal in Jordan was at a famous falafel restaurant, famous because it was a favorite of the King of Jordan.  The pita was freshly baked and we built our own sandwiches.

This is part of a breakfast buffet. Salads of herbed veggies, slaws, rice, marinated veggies, hummus, and baba ganoush, etc. plus breads, eggs, fish, cereal, fruit, juices, and yogurt. In Israel, the meals were usually Kosher, so there was no meat at breakfast.

This is the meat roasting for shawerma, an Israeli version of a gyro.

Desserts included a variety of Middle Eastern sweets, dripping in honey.

This was a semolina pudding with whipped cream, honey, and pistachios.

Besides pita, we had a thin, crisp flatbread, western style breads, croissants, and huge bagels.

Betsey learned how to manipulate a banana so she can entertain her grand kids!

In this photo, she is still wearing her $4.50 watch.  It gave out on day 5.

Next, some of the markets we visited.

 

 

 

Awesome PETRA

These are the places we visited in Jordan,

Petra far exceeded my expectations! We set out at 7:30 am and spent the day exploring the extensive archaeological site of a city that thrived from the 1st century BC until the 4th century AD. It is now a World Heritage Site. The city was built by the Nabataeans and prospered because it was on a trade route between the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians and catered to the caravans carrying the popular incenses, frankincense and myrrh, and spices.

Romans incorporated the city into their Empire and the city continued to thrive until an earthquake in the 4th century destroyed a large part of it. As changes in trade occurred, the city was eventually abandoned by the 7th century. Known only during following centuries by the local Bedouins, the site was discovered by a Swiss explorer, Johannes Burchardt, in 1812. Since then it has attracted archaeologists and visitors from all over the world.

The entrance to the site took us down a trail between cliffs. Along the way we saw evidence of shrines carved in the stone as well as tomb chambers.

The trail took us to the main avenue of the site where we encountered the “Treasury.” Probably constructed in the 1st century BC by the Nabataeans , it is carved out of the red sandstone cliff. Large chambers inside were used for the burials of a family. This is just one of many similar structures nearby, but none have a façade that is as well preserved. The architectural features and images show an influence from many other cultures (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman) combined in an inventive manner. Based on this structure, one can only imagine how absolutely splendid the rest of the city must have been. Notice the tiny people standing by the steps to give a sense of scale. The facade is 98 feet high.

There were lots of camels and donkeys to take visitors to the sites.  The main avenue is about 3 miles long from the entrance and then there are several paths leading off of the avenue.

 

Along the avenues and paths are “pooper scoopers” to keep the walking paths clean.

On the approach to the metropolitan area, we encountered many rock cut tomb sites.

As we walked along the main avenue, we saw a wall with four “Royal Tombs” as well as small carved out caves and burial chambers. There were also several temples and churches along the way.

To prevent flash floods when it rained, the city had a system of dams and drainage ditches. A reservoir for water collection provided water to the residents and a fountain located in the heart of the city.

This is a Roman theatre cut from rock rather than constructed. It seats 3000.

The red rock patterns were especially beautiful in this chamber (used today as a men’s restroom.)

We then visited the area of the Great Temple that has been an archaeological project carried out by Brown University. Within the temple district there were two levels and a small theatre area, perhaps used for town council meetings.

Unique capitals were adorned with the heads of elephants – their trunks have broken off.

We walked in but rode out!

Israel is next.

Mount Nebo

Betsey noticed all the cigarette butts on the sidewalks in Amman.

And I noticed teabags stuck to a wall!

Heading south from Amman, we traveled the King’s Highway, a trade route dating back 5000 years. Along the way we saw scenes like this.

Some buildings are made with local stone and others are made with concrete blocks coated with plaster.  Often the first floor is completed and occupied while the second floor is being finished.  Posts for a third level are left until the family expands and more room is needed.  Very practical practice. I later learned that in Israel, unfinished construction is not taxed.

Our first stop was at Mount Nebo where Moses gazed across the Dead Sea to the Holy Land.  He never made it there and it is believed he is buried some place close by Mount Nebo.  The Dead Sea is the blue patch on the left.

A Byzantine church dating from the 4th century on the site has wonderful mosaics.

We viewed another mosaic at St. George’s, a Greek Orthodox church in nearby Madaba. The 6th century mosaic depicts the earliest surviving map of the Holy Land.  Here it is on a sign. The dark oval in the center is the Dead Sea.

We also visited a place where they make modern mosaics.

On our way to Petra, we stopped for this scenic view.

Petra is in next post.

Jerash, Jordan

We drove to Jerash, north of Amman, to visit the site of an ancient Greco-Roman city dating from 70 AD. It was partially destroyed in the 8th century by earthquakes and in the 12th century Crusaders briefly occupied the city. In recent times a modern city of 50,000 residents surrounds the ancient site.

First we saw the well preserved Hadrian’s Gate.

The main avenue running through the city was lined with columns.

This is the main temple dedicated to Artemis.

The theatre was filled with groups of teenagers who were attending an event honoring sports teams.  By cheering for their teams they demonstrated that the acoustics of the structure are excellent!

In the hippodrome, we watched a demonstration of Roman military tactics including a battle between “barbarians.”

After the sad demise of this unlucky fellow, we  watched a chariot race.

While in Jerash, our tour director, Samir, took us to his home.

From his rooftop patio, Samir proudly pointed out his olive trees, and beyond them, a Palestinian refugee camp.  The UN is leasing the properties for 100 years, so the camp contains permanent buildings.

Our next stop was to visit a 12th century Saracen castle that was highly fortified including a moat with a draw bridge.

On our way back to Amman, we stopped at an olive oil processing facility to watch the fall crop of olives being washed, sorted, and squeezed.  These are bags of olives that were just harvested.

And we had bread with us for tasting the freshly squeezed olive oil!

After we returned to Amman we learned of the tragic loss of a group of teenagers in a flash flood by the Dead Sea. Flash floods are not uncommon in the region.

 

 

 

Amman, Jordan

Betsey and I are in Amman, the Capitol of Jordan with a population of about 4,000,000. The earliest period of occupation was during Neolithic times, followed by the Greeks, then Romans, but the city was abandoned during the medieval period.  The current city was built from ancient ruins during the late 19th century and has since become a thriving economic center. The city is beige, built of limestone with lots of new construction taking place.

Many of the new buildings incorporate blue glass in interesting ways.

We visited the Citadel located in the middle of the city.  It started out as a Greek settlement and then was expanded on by the Romans. Later the Byzantines occupied it and then the Christian Crusaders.

We visited the Temple of Hercules and the Roman Amphitheater which seats 5000 and is used today for various events.

We also visited the monumental gateway to the 8th century Umayyard Palace.

In the archaeological museum I discovered these clay figures that date to about 8000 BC.  I find them delightful!

We also explored the market area in the heart of Amman where Betsey bought a “Rolex” for $4.50.  She then had to return to the vender to get it repaired!

We saw very ornately decorated dresses in shops before visiting the produce and food market.

For lunch we visited Hashem Restaurant, a very popular Jordanian fast food restaurant. It is well known because the King visits the establishment.

The restaurant does a thriving business serving pita bread with several types of hummus.  We also had  crusty falafel – all wonderfully delicious.

Then we went to a place that serves sweets and had kunafeh, baked cheese with a crunchy topping of sugar and nuts. Not much to look at, but really yummy!

Lots more to come….