Day 15: Bosra

Bosra Travel Blog

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the fortress from the outside
 

And so came the day that we would leave the land of the beginning of modern history and travelled south to the Promised Land. Although, that was the general idea. However, we would soon learn that travelling to (and as we would later found out also in) Jordan is not particularly easy. Today was the first day of a series of misfortunes.


It all started well enough. The idea was to travel to Amman today, the capital of Jordan. However, we wanted to stop for a visit in Bosra, which is near the border. Bosra is the site of a very well-preserved Roman theatre, and I guess we hadn't seen enough ruins yet, so we really wanted to visit this place.


Both our travel guides warned us that doing this journey by public transportation could be problematic.

Inside the fortress
Travelling to Bosra by public bus, and then from Bosra to the border would not be a problem. But to get from the border to Amman (or any other city) would be difficult. Better to charter a cab like we had done on our journey to Beirut, and negotiate a fair with a stop in Bosra.

So we walked to the taxi station to discuss options. It was not before long that we had found a driver who was happy enough to undertake the journey for a reasonable price.
However, we had to register with our passport, and that was a bit of a problem - our passports were still in the hotel safe. We had completely forgotten to take them as we were just getting some information, with the idea to take the taxi to the hotel to pick up our stuff. We tried to explain all this in our best Arabic (which sounds quite like English, but with a lot more hand gestures). After a lot of gestures and shouting with at least ten different drivers the guy agreed, however, we had to walk out of the compound and he would pick us up on the corner.

Roman theatre in Bosra


Once outside the taxi driver came to pick us up, but he was sitting in the passenger seat of a regular cab, instead of driving one of those old yellow American cars. Just as we wanted to get into the cab with them, we were approached by a guy in a black leather coat, who we quickly recognised as police in civilian clothes. I've seen those before, they are all wearing the same black leather coats, so they might as well be in uniform.

Our driver was dragged out of the car, a second policeman entered the car on the passenger's side and told the driver of the regular taxi to drive back to the taxi station - with us sitting in the back seats.


Back at the taxi station we had to come with them into a small police station, where we were interrogated for about five minutes and once it was clear what had happened, we were free to go again.

the theatre
The policeman accompanied us back to the taxi stand, where at least 20 drivers were shouting and screaming at us, and the guy at the ticket office ignored us completely. Then all of a sudden we had to go back to the police station again, where we had to tell the same story once again, and we were free to leave again.


By this time one and a half hour had passed, and we still had no transport. Once again we tried to discuss it with the taxi drivers, but none of them dared to offer us the same price as the one guy had earlier. And then there was the matter of the passports, the reason why the other guy had been arrested had probably something to do with the fact that he wanted to take our ride without registering.


So we figured we had best go to the hotel to get our passports and perhaps our luggage.

Performance of the almighty Relayer
However, once back in the hotel we evaluated our options; Time was running out, a taxi would cost us a shitload of money, chartering a taxi in Bosra would be too risky and accommodation in Bosra seemed non-existant. So we just didn't want to risk it and decided to stay in Damascus instead and take a normal bus to Bosra and back.


A short walk and lunch later we were sitting in the bus to Bosra. Fortunately nothing else went wrong. Once in Bosra we bought a ticket for the bus back, and we would have 3 hours to spend in this city. Less than 90 minutes later we were sitting on a little terrace, drinking a cup of tea and feeling utterly bored (and getting sunburnt, as we would later realise). You definitely don't need a full day for Bosra!


It has to be said, the Roman theatre was really, really cool.

some remains of the old city
I admit it, it was another jawdropping sight. The theatre, built somewhere in the second century, is quite unique because it is a completely free-standing structure (like the Colosseum in Rome) rather than built against a hill or something.
In Roman times Bosra was the capital of the Arab province, but since the collapse of the Roman empire the city fell into decline and was pretty much forgotten.
In the 12th century the theatre was transferred into an Arab fortress, because this spot was very good to defend. Strangely enough the Muslims did not change the interior of the theatre at all. You'd expect them to turn it into a whole fortress, complete with palace and mosque, but not at all. It was a defence fortress only, with a Roman theatre in the middle.


But since Bosra was not located along any important trade route (and still isn't as we had found out) it was soon forgotten again and for 8 centuries the place gathered dust and sand, which resulted in the exceptional preservation of the place.

Houses in Bosra, made from remains of Roman city

Mid last century the city was rediscovered by archaeologists searching for that old lost Roman province capital.


The present day city is built almost entirely out of stones coming from the houses and temples of the old Roman city. Some of the ruins have been restored and some of those houses have been disowned to try and bring them back in their original state. But as money is a bit of a problem, most haven't been restored, so when walking through Bosra town it is difficult to imagine what this place could have looked like in Roman times, as it is difficult to distinguish the ruins from the newer houses that were built with the stones from the ruins.


So to cut a long story short, we were quickly done with Bosra. All in all this had been a very disappointing day. Just a waste of time, really, because now we back in Damascus *again* (not to mention the fact that we were only 16 kilometres from the Jordanian border, but had to travel back 120 kilometres to Damascus.


We didn't do much else that day. Dinner was a simple shawarma. The only funny thing about today was that because we had taken a regular bus (a whopping 70 euro cents each way) and both lunch and dinner had been very simple, this had been the cheapest day of our entire trip, spending less than 10 euros per person.


pms70 says:
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when you were doing your Arabic negotiations... :-P
Posted on: Feb 04, 2009
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the fortress from the outside
the fortress from the outside
Inside the fortress
Inside the fortress
Roman theatre in Bosra
Roman theatre in Bosra
the theatre
the theatre
Performance of the almighty Relayer
Performance of the almighty Relayer
some remains of the old city
some remains of the old city
Houses in Bosra, made from remains…
Houses in Bosra, made from remain…
Bosra
photo by: polvandenwirre