Tue, 17 Jun 2008 13:06:54 +0000

Syria to Jordan Index Amman to Petra

Amman seems to be a pretty cool place to hang out, but it's not packed with exciting tourist attractions. It does, however, have a cluster of ruins from various periods on a hill, the citadel. So that's what I did with my morning. I wasn't exactly clear where it was, but "uphill" is an easy direction to follow. It turns out to be only a short walk from the hotel. I seem to have scored a particularly well-positioned hotel this time.

The first thing you see in the citadel is the ruins of the temple of Heracles. Perhaps it's unfortunate that I was just in Palmyra, so it seems kinda small. But the position on top of the hill, with the white buildings cloaking the opposite hillside, makes it a beautiful spot.

I then went and had a look at their museum. It's really just a couple of rooms crammed with glass cases and statues. Their chief drawcard though is some fragments of the dead sea scrolls. I'm glad I saw those, even though there really are just a few snippets and a couple of bronze scrollcases.

Next there was the Umayyid mosque. I've finally figured out that "Umayyid" is one era in the history of Islam, like "Plantaganet" or "Tudor". "Umayyid" seems to be an early one too, 8th century or so. The mosque is small but grand, all thick stone arches. It seems to have been a ruin until the 90s, when the Spanish (of all people) restored it and put a new roof on.

Out the back is the ruins of the lower citadel, apparently living quarters for whoever was big in Amman at the time. It's quite a large complex and quite thoroughly ruined, but there weren't many other tourists so it was a nice place to walk around, and even sit down in the shade of one of the larger walls. I watched the lizards, which are all over Amman, thriving in the sunshine.

I walked back down the hill on the opposite side from the way I came up, which turned out to be quite a lot longer than I had thought. The hillsides in Amman often have lots of stairways as a shortcut for pedestrians, but not on that side of the hill. But I did get to see the Roman aphitheatre on the way. I decided not to go in, since it really is just a stone amphitheatre, and I don't need to see it up close. It seems that they put on plays there, which would be a good evening out.

I need to buy an international power adapter at some point, so I thought I would check out one of Amman's big shopping malls and have some lunch at the same time. I took a taxi to "Mecca Mall", which seems like a slightly blasphemous name to adopt in a Muslim country. It turns out it's about six kilometres from the city centre, which is further than I really wanted to be. I had a pretty mediocre lunch in Starbucks, but that did include my first proper cafe latte for a while. There were a couple of electronics shops, but no sign of an international travel adapter. So a bit of a wasted journey really. It probably represents a good view of "modern" Arabia though, in contrast to still rather under-developed Syria and "swamped by Asians" Dubai.

The taxi driver on the way back was keen to talk about Australia in his broken English, a little too intensely for my taste. You like taxi drivers to be pretty melllow. Apparently his father is a hunter, who dreams of going to Australia and hunting thousands of rabbits. I'm not sure that really represents a solution to the problem, but he's welcome to try as far as I'm concerned.

I did some reading in my hotel room before heading out to the Books@Cafe place again to do some more internetting. In particular, I really need to stock up on maps before I get into Africa. I got a chicken roll and chips while I was there. Not very good. In fact, the food in the Middle East has been pretty disappointing all round. I might have to try harder. I did get a couple of beers. They turned out to be five and a half dinars each. But I guess in a Muslim country, the surprise is that you can get beer at all.

Syria to Jordan Index Amman to Petra