Day 19 - Ajloun and Jerash
It's our last full day in Jordan. As per our Jordanian custom, we're paying a taxi driver money so that we can look at piles of rocks in varying states rock-dom. After a short 1.5 hour drive from Amman, we're winding our way up a steep hill to get to a castle built by the Ummayans to protect themselves from the Crusaders, Ajloun Castle. The site is surrounded by terraces of olive trees. The landscape in the far horizon is covered in a haze. We're looking straight at Syria which is only an hour away by car. Peering from the top of the ruined castle, you can see for miles. Perfect to keep an eye on marauding Crusaders intent on storming your pretty sweet castle. There's some catapult rocks lying around inside and like an idiot I try to lift one. Mission aborted.
A quick trip back down the road and we're in Jerash, visiting the ruins of the Roman City of Gerasa. Hadrian kicked it for a couple of years here. The arch that you can see from the road was built to welcome him. We make signs for people coming in at the airport, the Romans deployed their slaves and built massive arches. Same same but different.
At the site, it is hot as Hades/Pluto. Instead of exiting through the gift shop, you enter through the gift shops. Like Philistines, the first order of the day is to buy an ice cream shaped like a watermelon slice and a Snickers. Once we reach the arch, we find the nearest patch of shade and sit. Our site visit goes largely like that - walk a couple of metres, sit in shade, drink water, repeat. As well as ruin hunters, we're becoming expert shade hunters too.
At the Temple of Zeus, I find steep stairs cut into the bricks and it leads you up and up until you emerge, almost eye-level with the top of the columns. I oohh and aahh at the view, get mild vertigo and beat it out of there. One guy goes up after me and takes it one step further, jumping a couple of rocks and emerging at the very top of the temple structure itself. Showoff.
The ruins of Gerasa are pretty well-preserved. You don't have to use too much of your imagination to imagine the city. The main roads and the marketplace are still there, with their original flagstones, lined with columns. The varying degrees of ruin just give it a dash of mystery and romance.
Once back in Amman, the day ends with sandwiches, tabbouleh, a lot of water, and - what else - kanafeh. I eat so much kanafeh, I fall instantly asleep at 8 pm and don't wake up till the next day.