The Dead Sea, Amman and Jerash

Jerash Travel Blog

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The day after Petra we left for the Dead Sea. The shore of the Dead Sea is the lowest dry land in the world, at 396m below sea-level. It is quite interesting, because when plates are pulled apart they split to form three rifts which become deep trenches, then eventually seas/oceans. The centre of tearing of the African place, focused on Ethiopia, has split to form the Great African Rift Valley/Lake Victoria, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden. The Dead Sea lies in the continuation of the Red Sea rift (about 14km wide and 72km long). The desert lake has dried since then from the desert heat, so it is now so salty it is 33% solids (20x bromine of sea water, 15x magnesium, 10x iodine), and 'dead', since no fish can survive.

The Dead Sea was great, so much fun. We all went for a swim at the local beach, and bobbed around on the surface of the water. It was actually tough to stand up, since our legs floated up so well. I tried to work out how much lead I would need to scuba there, I am guessing about 60kg. The water was so salty it tasted vile and burnt our lips and eyes, but it was so much fun floating around that it was worth it. The salt was precipitating out on rocks and safety ropes in the water, which became sharp enough to cut my legs when I brushed past them, and I had really picked the wrong day to shave :) After floating, we covered each ourselves in Dead Sea mud (I got called naughty for slapping mud on Andy when he was trying to clean off), which was nice messy, gooey fun.

After the Dead Sea we drove to Amman, during the drive Michelle cut my hair with a Swiss Army knife, it turned out well even with the bumpy road. Amman has been continually occupied since 3500 BCE, called Rabbath Ammon ‘Great City of the Ammonites’, then Philadelphia after it was taken by Herod for Rome in 30 BCE. It fell to Persian Sassanians in 614 CE, and reduced in size and importance, only regrowing as the capital of Jordan. Getting into Amman we walked into town and back, then (being toured out), we ordered in pizza and drank Jaegar bombs (well, Michelle and I did). Osmosis Jones was playing (with Arabic subtitles), we had about ten Jaegar bombs each (and a few vodkas) during the movie, so we were drunk and giggling, and everyone else was looking at us laughing at the cartoon, and at Drix leaving the city via the bladder. I was drunk and happy, full of good memories, and I mucked around. I had a really fun night, and a good sleep afterwards.


The following day we drove to Jerash. Jerash became a major city under Alexander the Great (333 BCE), and was conquered by Pompey for Rome in 64 BCE, (when it was renamed Gerasa). Gerasa became a city of the Decapolis (a league of major commercial cities), reaching its peak in 3rd century CE with a population of 15 000 Romans. The ruins have now been restored are were magnificent to wander through, newly restored.

We entered the city through Hadrian’s Arch, built in 129 CE for the visit of Emperor Hadrian. The enterence leads to the main market place, a huge round paved area surrounded by columns (all still standing). Small stalls for butchers and merchants were arranged around the market place, and from it lead the Cardo maximus, the main street (with an underground sewage system). The city contained a Nymphaeum (public fountain), Hippodrome (seating 15 000 for chariot races), a Temple to Zeus (built 162 CE) and a Temple of Artemis (the Goddess of the hunt was the patron goddess of Jerash). The columns are the Temple of Artemis are famous as one is a moving column - it sways gently in the wind (I couldn't see the sway, but when I stuck my finger in a crack I could feel it being squashed). There was also a magnificent theatre, with the acoustics designed to allow everyone inside to clearly hear the person in the middle (with amplifiers surrounding the theatre, and all the design calculated to move the sound from the centre to the audience). They demonstrated the acoustics for us with an Arab marching band playing 'Yankie Doodle' on bagpipes, which was quite odd.

I enjoyed being in a city which invested so much in its public buildings, with beautiful carvings designed to last thousands of years :)

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photo by: tj1777