October 05, 2010

28 and 29 August 2010

This entry is taken directly from my journal. Certain editing has been done for readability.


It's already to the point where Ange and I have no real idea of what day it is. Supposedly it's Monday and that means I've got two days of catch up to write.

Ok. So. Saturday morning, Tom (because I didn't catch his real name) took Ange, Helen and I on a tour of two ancient castles and through the old city of Amman.

The first castle was Qasr Al Kharaneh - an 8th century AD Ilmmayad Fort.
The labe inside the doorway says they don't know much about its origins. It is a huge rectangular block on a very flay landscape. It succeeds in making everything else look dwarfish. Inside it is really dark and some rooms only have light coming in from arrow burrows nothed in the walls. (The picture below though is of a doorway as the arrow notches don't show anything).

The layout of the castle, to me, makes no sense. Even if it was originally used as a garrison, I would have expected to see cooking spaces, sleeping quarters, stables etc. Having said that, I don't know enough about the history of the Middle East to really say.

A little further down the road, about twenty minutes away, is Quseir Amra. It is listed on UNESCO's World Cultural and Natural History Register as it is an outstanding depiction of murals and baths from the region in the 8th century AD. Yes. That's from the sign at the entrance.

We came back into the old city of Amman after this and Tom pulled up, put us out of the car mentioning something about a Roman period construction and waved us on. Not quite sure what to expect we walked through a doorway and came face to face with Roman pillars.

We paid our one Jordanian dinar at the booth, turned and walked through another door, straight into a Roman ampiththeatre.

This pic shows just under half of what is actually there. It realyl was an exciting moment because I had no idea what was coming. We wandered around playing tourist, taking photos with other tourists in them to give an idea of scale. The place is huge. Ange and Helen climbed to the top but the flights have messed up my ears so badly, I wasn't game enough to go. Falling down the stairs didn't seem to be a fun option.

The last spot on Tom's agenda was the citadel. While we were driving up to it Helen asked if he'd heard what temperature it was. He told us about 32 or 33 but I find that hard to believe.

The citadel itself is placed so high it gives a great panormic view of South Amman. The view is quite incredible.

By the time we got to walking around the citadel it was so hot all three of us were getting to the point of not caring. The monument in the middle of the citadel is said to have been built by Hercules.
When we came out of the citadel Tom took us back to the hotel. When we arrived two other girls doing our tour had arrived and were making good headway on a bottle of vodka. We basically hung around for the afternoon, had a nanna nap, did some washing and went downstairs for the pre trip meeting at 6pm.

At this point we met our tour leader Teegan (Aust) our driver Drew (Sth African) and the others. Bronwyn (Aust), Amber (NZ), Penny and Kate - cousins like Ange and I (Brisbane), Bruno (Aust) and Agnes (Austrian). So much for the multicultural group I thought we might have.

We went out for tea at about 9pm. Very late but with Ramadan still going there is no other choice. Got back to the hotel at 11:30pm after great food and plenty of shisha smoking.

As invariably happens in these situation the alarm the next morning went of way to early. But we got up, took the bags down and had breakfast. We were on the road by 8am. We headed straight for the border of Jordan and Syria. All seemed to be going well. We went through border control, brough alcohol at the duty free and kept going. Before we were 100% over the Syrian border we pulled over. Only one man does the visas for this country and because three trucks were crossing at roughly the same time he made us wait. We sat at the border for about 2 hours. I knew these things could be tedious and I accept that, but it really felt like he was f*#^ing with us.

My first impression of Syria and the one that lasted until about an hour ago, is not flattering. Syria looks ugly. Rubbish piles up along the road and on occassion is so thick shallow breathing is the only way to proceed. There is nothing to look at, the houses look like they've never been repaired after some kind of warfare and there's nothing to see as far as the eye can see.

We entered Damascus and stopped to a grocery run. Top of my list was coke followed by lots of water. The bill came to about 1027pounds which is about 15GPB. From here we drove another couple of hours into the desert before making camp for the night. We all, or most of us, had a few drinks and we talked about the way place names are said wrong by people who have never seen them before. We were having a great time. Half 9ish I noticed Bronwyn and Amber weren't around. I said to Helen about it and apparently they told Teegan they weren't drinking because they wanted to enjoy themselves the next day. As Ange says, 'whatevs'.

Anyway, it got close to 11 so we figured we should call it a day. We set up camping rugs, mats and sleeping bags etc and settled in. We lay looking at the stars and watched the moving objects flash across the sky. We figured the only thing it could be were flighter jets patrolling the Iraqi border. Where we were camped was about 170kms from the country.
Sleeping in the desert sounded exciting when I first booked the tour but its really not. We cleared the sleeping space as best we could of rocks etc but even the smallest stones feel huge when you're lying on it. Some point through the night the wind came up. It wasn't too strong at first but it picked up. I got hit in the head with the sleeping mat as well as quite a good sized rock and in the morning everyone was nice and gritty.

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