Day 4: Amman, Salt, Amir Al Amir

Tuesday July 10, 2012

This was our day to see the Citadel in Amman, an area of Roman settlement.  This area of Amman was also a Decapolis in the Roman era.

Our time was spent at the theatre, in very good shape.  As with other theatres, you can stand at one place in front and whisper – while others higher up in the seats can hear you.  The acoustics result from the structure’s design and construction.

I spent a good bit of time in the Museum of Contemporary Arts.  Here I could see clothes and jewelry from various Bedouin tribes, along with pots and mosaics.  For the first time, I was seeing what people wore and had an image of what they might have looked like.

Salt was a bit of a disappointment – we just drove through the town.  The streets were rather narrow, too narrow for us to stop and park.  This was the administrative center for the region during Ottoman rule, but when Trans-Jordan was established, the city of Amman was selected as the new capital.

We left the city heading west, away from Amman’s bare, treeless plain.  A short ride later and we were in Wadi As-Seer, a huge contrast – this is a stream-fed valley with cypress trees, orchards and olive groves.

Our second actual stop was in this greener area, at what has been designated as a “castle” or even a palace in Iraq Al-Amir.  Some guidebooks refer to it as the Palace of the Slave. Here it’s possible to see pre-Roman architecture.  Never completed due to the death of its builder, it sits today as a kind of curiosity.  There are columns and walls – the structure is there, but somehow not quite what I expected.

No one knows exactly how old this place it, though many scholars believe that Hyrcanus built it sometime between 187-175 B.C.E.  Huge slabs of stone (some of the biggest in any ancient structure in the Middle East) form the walls.  Though they are large (the largest is 7 meters x 3 meters), the walls aren’t very thick (only 2 cm or so), which means this is pretty flimsy, really, and susceptible to earthquakes.  In fact, one in 362 C.E. flattened it.  The reconstruction is very good, though, and it’s worth a stop.

I’d hoped for a stop at the Handicraft Village, one of several supported by the Queen Noor Foundation, but it was closed.

Still, the day was another one filled with information, impressions, and questions yet to answer.

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