Back from Morocco in Damascus.
In Damascus (wiki), one road leads onto the mountain to the north, a majestic, barren, rocky one; the road has a great many bars looking down on the white city. On a hot summer evening 22 years ago, colleagues from the petrol business and I had beers and peanuts and cashews in one of them, I remember this, such a beautiful sweaty drinking evening, such a painful sweaty night on the toilet that followed for me; I had been suffering from diarrhea for days and since that evening I know never eat nuts when you suffer from diarrhea. I was 22 years old then.
But now is cold, still this afternoon the view is great, the sun lays its rays on the city. A few days in Damascus, not enough, not so much time, not now. I laid an eye on the Umayyad Mosque and the souk just before my Morocco trip. That's it.
On the 9th of Dec we leave a pretty rainy Damascus, our last stretch together to Amman, the supposedly last journey together. Christina and I go separate paths. The drive is interesting; It is good to be moving again. Qanawat (wiki) first stop, it rains. Roman ruins, columns and cisterns, a formerly wealthy place, a decapolis city. I will see many.
Onwards through the rain, we pass Swaydaa (wiki) or Sweida or As-Suwayda (spelt nearly like my own name Schweda), a Druze town of great friendliness and prosperity. Druze (wiki) is a difficult concept in social, religious or ethnical terms; they’re mostly Shia Muslims, esoteric, secretive in their religious practice. But also the 1 Million Druze people that live in the Levant are not all exactly the same. In Sweida none of the women wear head scarves, all western clothes.
It rains but we realize the Roman ruins around here too, so plenty, people live inside them, with them. The stones have served as homes for 2 millenia, impressive. In a dirty run down food stall we find the probably best Falafel so-far. Warm freshly baked Falafel in thin Lebanese bread, fresh salads, pickled cucumber and turnip, yogurt, tahini and soy vinegar sauce, assorted spices. Delicious. There would be things to see. I cannot be bothered, the rain...
Soon after there is Bosra (wiki), we park up at the Roman theater (citadel/coliseum). Night falls, an early quiet night, to the drums of the rain.
Morning is better, again the site is huge; many of the Roman and Nabatean houses are still in use and lived in. The place is very quiet, the grey weather adds to the sadness. What goes through my head when I think of a 2000 year continuous residency ship is that the people here in this fogotton corner of Syria might have actually lived better then, two millenia ago. So hungry after the 2 hour walk; a falafel treat imposes itself. Why must we find the worst falafel so-far in Bosra, in a dirty run down shop? Old thick bread, too much bread, no freshness, no beauty, so dry you can hardly swallow it.
Quick border, a cheap Jamson's from duty free and we enter Amman. Modern, civilized. This city which I have visited twice so-far has been changing at such a rapid pace. Is Friday, is cold, the Lebanese fast food cafe has free wifi, is unheated, doors wide open to invite early morning clientele, the Koran is sung on TV; is Friday, is beautiful.
But I leave Amman the same day, alone. First go west over these desert mountains, with green stripes of fertile valleys in between the biblical mounts. Just west of Amman only olives, in some areas, also figs and pomegranates go well on the stony earth. Veggies however appear everywhere on the sides of the roads, onions, radishes, salads; from the villages in the valleys and the little streams that irrigate.
Only once down in the depression of the Jordan River valley at 200m to 400m below sea level extensive cultivation takes place. Reservoir lakes tell of active water management. The further north I go the greener the surrounding gets; Also a lot of rain happens to fall at this time of the year. I am right in the season.
So down west from Amman over the desert, still so sunny, plunge down into the depression, a bit north the Jordan valley back up mountain east to 1100m above sea level, some delicious honey is offered at the side of the road; mountain honey for my emerging cold, caught on plane back from Morocco. Take a plane ride and catch a cold, always.
Jerash/Jarash (wiki) is my destination, it is Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine (mosaics on churches’ floors), and Umayyad. But the jewel is the ancient Roman city, is what I am after. I am lucky to have the site virtually for myself until noon and the imagination can strive. Also the weather sends a few rays down on me and the ruins, projecting the columns’ shadows onto the millennia old pavement. These stoned streets still bear the marks of the Roman horse carts that once rolled through it. Jerash is another city of the prosperous decapolis, 10 cities out here that were autonomous but had to trade with Rome. The site is indeed very complete, still so much awaits excavation.
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