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December 30th, 2010 | Asia

Sights of Amman…

With a few days to spare before my flight out to Dubai, I spent some time strolling around the downtown area of Amman, close to where my hotel was located… Each day I looked up at the citadel walls, surrounding the hill in the centre of town…

The large sign outside the citadel foretold of a well preserved site...

An overall plan of the hill on which the citadel complex stands...

While in Wadi Rum, Rory had told me that he had found a way to get up and into the complex without troubling oneself about entrance fees and such like inconveniences…

He had described an endless flight of stairs that the locals used. which led all the way to the outer walls and through a gap in them… He assured me that nobody asks to see your tickets once you are on site…

What Rory didn’t know was that there are a myriad of stairways leading up from downtown to the walls of the citadel, and with Murphy’s luck swirling gaily around me, I managed to find the one that led directly to the front gate, where the gatekeeper welcomed me with open arms while reaching for his ticket book…!!

The city fathers of Aleppo in Syria, guardians of the great Citadel there, should be sent down here to Amman, to see how a national treasure should be looked after…!!

The modern entrance and tourist information centre confirmed it...

The grounds are quite clean and there are dustbins scattered throughout the site… A paved walkway runs amongst the many different ruins and loops around to the far edge of the hill, and back to the visitors centre…

After paying the exorbitant entrance fee of 1.00 Dinar (R9.80…) I walked over to the edge of the fortification walls and looked down the very steep slope into downtown Amman…

I happened to be standing directly above the Roman Theatre, which was surrounded by the down at heel buildings of the central district… The Theatre was built to hold about 6000 people, and was completed in around 150 A.D. … It is still used for concerts and other cultural events on a regular basis…

The Roman Theatre, surrounded by downtown Amman...

I walked over to the group of limestone columns that dominate the hilltop, and can be see from most places in Amman. The Temple of Hercules was built almost 1850 years ago, and dedicated to the co-Emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, who ruled the Roman Empire together at the time…

The ruins of the Temple of Hercules dominates the entire site...

An artist's impression of what the temple looked like in 166 A.D. ... Impressive, Huh...??

A Hercules C-160 circled the site while I sat among the ruins of the Temple of the same name...!!

I sat down in the shade of one of the columns, my back leaning against its cool, smooth surface…

I watched a small gang of young locals come up over the walls of the citadel, and marked the spot carefully…

It had been a long walk up here, and I knew that my hotel lay just below the wall they had clambered over…

Short cut back to HQ for me…!! Yes, Sirree…!!

While I sat there, a military transport plane circled the hilltop, swooping dangerously close to the ruins, the roar of its four engines almost deafening…

It then sank below eye level, and thundered down the valley, only a few hundred metres above the streets of downtown Amman…

I wondered what sort of exercise he was indulging in, besides scaring the crap out of the tourists visiting the Citadel…!!

I snapped off a few pics as it zoomed overhead… Remembering the many trips I had undertaken in identical planes… Remembered the corkscrew dives they had to undertake to land at Ondangwa and other bases I flew into… Long time ago… bitter/sweet memories of camaraderie and death…

A security guard who was patrolling nearby came hurrying over to me, shaking his finger and shouting “No Photo, no photo…!!”

“Steady on, old boy,” I replied, “It’s a C-160, not a bloody stealth bomber…!!”

He stopped next to me, looking at my camera and then out to the disappearing plane…

“Don’t even think about it my friend…!!” I said getting up as he eyed my camera again…

“Rather go and plug up that hole in the wall where your brethren are getting in for free from…!!”

I strolled away, leaving him looking after me in confusion…

The New Park Hotel as seen from the outer walls of the Citadel... The red square marks GB HQ, Amman...!!

Looking south towards the new high-rise buildings beginning to dot the skyline of Amman...

Once the Arabs had kicked the Romans out of the Middle East, they set about building their own places of worship and palaces on the same spot as those of the people they had conquered… The citadel of Amman today contains the ruins of a large Mosque, as well as the Umayyad Palace, which has been systematically restored since the 1990’s…

The Umayyad Palace... It housed the ruler of the Amman province and was used as an audience room to receive visiting dignatories...

Scotland in Jordan... These two characters stood outside the palace, playing for tips...

I was at the far end of the complex, wandering through the ruins of the rooms built behind the palace when I heard the unmistakable wailing of bagpipes…!! At first I thought there might be a parade taking place down in the streets below, but finally narrowed the sound down to the entrance of the palace itself…

I walked over a section of the ruins until I could see down the once colonnaded walk which led the palace… Out in front of its massive doors, stood two guys in their traditional mufti, one banging on a small drum, and the other strangling a cat… er… I mean playing the bagpipes…!!

A more incongruous scene you could not hope to find, and try as I might, I could not get them to explain why two Jordanians were pretending to be Scots up here on the citadel… There was nothing to explain the connection at all…!! Most of the tourists took a quick pic, and then hurried inside the palace to escape the din…!!

I wished my friend Stuart Mandy from Swaziland was there to show them how to play the pipes…!! He had entertained us on many occasions back in Pigg’s Peak, and listening to him was a pleasure, but the guy here was making nothing more than an awful racket…!!

In all the time I was there, not a penny was put into their tip-box… If they depended on their recitals for a living, then these two clowns were going to be losing weight quickly…!!

Inside the palace, I marveled at the restoration work that had been completed thus far… A hug wooden framed dome had been placed over the central throne room, and many of the missing pillars had been re-made from limestone to replace all those destroyed in the earthquake of 749 A.D. …

The Palace has been extensively renovated since the 1990's, including it's huge dome...

From directly below the wooden dome... Reminded me of a massive spider's web...!!

Atop this hill, an entire Islamic City was eventually built… It included a souk, a mosque, the palace, a massive water cistern that collected rainwater from every roof in the immediate area, gardens, and of course, the many dwellings that housed it’s inhabitants…

The Water Cistern... It is 18 metres in diameter and about 8 metres deep and could hold over 135 000 litres of water when full...

Near the exit, a cave has been uncovered which dates back to the Bronze Age, about 2250 B.C. … This hill has been occupied by man for over 4000 years…

I walked out of the main gate, and then doubled back along the walls until I was fairly close to my hotel… I then made my way over the rubble of demolished homes and shops, until I found a narrow flight of stairs which took me directly down in the souk or market area of downtown Amman…

I noticed that many of the shops either sold garments, shoes, or gold jewelry… The latter was openly displayed behind normal glass windows… I stopped to chat to one of the owners of a jewelry store and asked if he packed everything away at night…

“No…” he replied, ” We just hang a curtain over everything…!!”

Can you picture that back in downtown Jo’burg….?? Four hundred and eleven robberies would be reported on day two…!!

Walking through the souk... Gold on display, lots of it...!! Wouldn't last a day back in S.A., or many other countries for that matter...!!

Lunch was a chicken pancake and chips...and the blood of a tomato...!!

I found a second-hand book seller on a dusty street corner, his books laid out on crates… Hidden behind a few English novels, were a few books whose covers would be frowned upon by the locals…

One was Madonna’s unauthorised biography, showing her in one of those risque costumes which “let it all hang out”… I picked it up and leafed through the photos in three section of the book,  then put it down again on top of the pile in front of me…

The bookseller hurried over and quickly placed the book at the bottom of the pile again, but not before giving Madge a long and seemingly loving look…

“Not good people see…!!” he muttered…

I stopped at a little place to have a bite to eat, and then wandered back to the New Park Hotel… I was waiting to hear exactly when the Big Fella would be flying to Dubai so that I could book my own ticket to the Gulf…

I checked the visa websites and confirmed that any persons who had visited “Israel” (inverted commas…) were not allowed to enter either Qatar, Bahrain or Oman…

Good thing I never went there, huh…!!

An email arrived confirming that the Big Fella would be touching down at Dubai International on the 31st of December… I wanted to ensure that the bike left Jordan before I booked my own flight, and sat working out my best options…

I would not see my bike until Sunday the 2nd of January at the earliest, and decided to fly out on the same day as the crate, and then spend New Year’s Day exploring Dubai and planning my rides to Qatar and Bahrain… I hoped that getting from the Emirates to Qatar via the desert highway that ran through Saudi Arabia for a short distance, would not be a problem…

Time would tell…!!

My last few hours were spent sending yet another package of maps and other documents that I had collected since Cyprus, home via DHL, and then on a whim, I bought a spare camera, which was on sale at a “Duty Free” shop on King Hussein Street… My Canon D10 had been “acting the goat” recently, and I was afraid it would die on me at an inopportune moment, as cameras generally do…

The small and compact Samsung ES25 had all the attributes of my Canon, and at about R600, complete with 2GB memory card, a case, and a battery charger, I figured it was a good enough deal to act as my back-up…

I arranged for a taxi to collect me at 7.30am the next morning, and then settled to read some of the literature that the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates had given me…

Deep…very deep…!!

©GBWT 2010

3 comments to Sights of Amman…

  • Kim

    Hey GB, end of 2010 is in sight and catching up on your past week, I suppose nostalgia has set in…. I think about the past year and in comparison to your year mine seems so dull. You have been an inspiration not only to me but many, many others – THANK YOU!!!!
    May 2011 be the best year ever and always remember you are in my thought and prays – not to mention a lot of my conversations!!!
    Here’s to you and 2011!!!
    Love you madly!!!!!!
    BIG kisses
    K

  • Charmz

    We wish you and Big Fella a happy, healthy, and safe 2011. May the roads ahead be trouble-free. We look forward to sharing your new adventures with you.
    We love and miss you very much; knowing that you are fulfilling your dream makes us very happy!
    Enjoy 2011, Love Dad, Mom, Charmz and Anthea

  • Mark Behr

    Great day in a memorable place. Once again you have given us insight into some awesome experiences. Thank You !

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