Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 4: Amman Theater and Odeon, the Baptismal Site

The view from our room in the Bellevue Hotel Thursday morning
Our final day in Jordan started in the capital, Amman, where we went to the Roman-era Theater, visited a costume museum illustrating Palestinian and Jordanian costumes from the past few centuries, and then the neighboring Odeon, or Classical concert hall.  We then picked up lunch and drove on to Baptismal Site of Jesus in the Jordan River Valley.  There, far below sea level, it was incredibly HOT, 42ºC (107.6ºF) in the shade and as much as 50ºC (122ºF) out in the open.  We then drove to the border where we took leave of our friend Yousef, crossed the Jordan, said goodbye to our driver George, and were processed by Israeli immigration.  Then it was the bus ride back home to Jerusalem!

Theater and Odeon in Amman

The theater in Amman is a typical, large classical theater.  We mostly gave the students free time here.  After walking through the neighboring museum, we went to the Odeon, which in antiquity was a smaller, covered theater used for musical concerts and as a meeting place for the city council.  There we sang a medly of songs chronicling the Restoration: "O How Lovely Was the Morning," "An Angel From on High," "The Morning Breaks," and "High in the Mountain Top."

Both classes together in the Odeon
We closed by singing a rousing rendition of the Cougar Fight Song!

The Baptismal Site

Since early Byzantine times, this site has been identified as Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John the Baptist in the wilderness of Jordan preached repentance and baptized those who came to him.  We had a very moving devotional there on the banks of the river.  I read the account from Mark 1 and talked about Jesus' baptism and our own, after which we sang "The Baptism Song" from the children's songbook.  After reading and discussing the theology behind baptism from 2 Nephi 31, we sang "Come, Follow Me" and Jared Ludlow prayed for us.

Class pic at the Baptismal Site
Looking over at the Israeli side if the Jordan River (Qasr el-Yahud)

Looking over at the Baptismal Site in Jordan from the Israeli side (a picture taken earlier on a visit to Qasr el-Yahud)
A Jordanian soldier reminded us that this was also a border!

The Greek Orthodox church of St. John the Baptist

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 3: Amman Citadel, Jabbok River, and Jerash

Our third day in Jordan began in the capital, Amman.  Amman was the ancient Rabbah-Ammon, the capital of the Ammonites.  It was refounded as Philadelphia, a Hellenistic city in the Intertestamenteal Period, and it continued as a Greek city into the New Testament period, when it was a member of the Decapolis.  It was a Christian city under the Byzantines and was later conquered by the Arabs,when it became Amman, an important regional center in the Ummayad Period.  In the early twentieth century it became the capital of the new Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In Amman we started by exploring the Citadel, where remains from all the above periods can be found.  We then drove northward to Jerash, stopping at the Jabbok River, where Jacob wrestled with an angel in Genesis 32.  After lunch in Jerash, we spent the rest of the afternoon in its ancient ruins.  Returning to Amman, we visited the Royal Automobile Museum, which actually provided quite a good history of modern Jordan, and drove by the huge new King Hussein Mosque.

The Citadel of Amman

Elaine with the Temple of Hercules (the Hellenized form of the Ammonite god Milcom)

Class picture in front of the Ummayad mosque

Jabbok River

Here we held a devotional along the banks of the river where Jacob, returning to the Holy Land, wrestled with an angel and received promised blessings, including the new name of Israel.  We spoke of making and keeping covenants and the blessings that will come to us, sang, and prayed.


Jerash is kind of like a mini Ephesus, showing the pervasiveness and importance of Greco-Roman culture throughout so much of the Mediterranean.  Like Philadelphia, Jerash, known anciently as Gergasa, was a member of the Decapolis, the Greek league of cities on the border of Jewish areas in the New Testament period.

First, lunch at Jerash

Then a visit to the ancient site of Gergasa.  Here Elaine stands in front of the Hadrianic Gate.

Games in the Hippodrome . . . in the ancient stadium, two of our guys raced with girls on their backs.  And I was pressed into racing one of the guides . . .

Blake and Dwight race with women on their backs!


More Gergasa pics . . .

Jordanian pipers and drummer in the theater

Elaine in the Roman-era theater

Class pic in the theater
The oval forum from above
Class pic in the oval forum

Zeus temple above the forum
With the Petersons and students on the Cardo, or Main Street

Another view of the Cardo

Yes, a Byzantine church

Back to Amman

Two of the many cars in the Royal Automobile Museum

King Hussein Mosque

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 2: Petra and Shoubak Castle

We started early on the second day of our Jordan trip so that we could get to Petra right at 8:00 a.m. when the gates opened.  This was largely to beat the heat, which grew oppressive as the morning drew on.  Many people are familiar with the iconic image of "The Treasury," a famous rock-cut tomb which was used in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."  That, however, is only one of scores of fantastic tombs cut out of the cliff sides that surround the site.  Perhaps the largest, known as "The Monastery" lies at the top of a formidable hike which was made all the harder because of the heat.

We left Petra about 2:00 and stopped at Shoubak Castle (officially Montreal Castle), a Crusader fortress which was have stopped to view before but never been in.  We then continued on the long drive north to Amman, the capital of Jordan.


As a warm-up for our visit to Petra, first view this video of me and Elaine riding camels in front of the famous treasury!

No quick summation of the history of Petra here can suffice.  Instead see the Wikipedia article on Petra and my earlier blog posts on the pages for the the Fall 2011 trip and the Winter 2012 trip.  Yousef guided us down the approach to Petra, through the Siq (the famous "crescent canyon") that enters the main part of Petra, and at the Treasury, where we had group pictures and camel rides.

Map of Petra. Wikimedia Commons.
We then had almost five ours of free time to visit the site  Most of the remains that interested us were Nabatean, but there were some interesting Roman remains and a couple of Byzantine churches.  This was Elaine's main objective in coming on the Jordan trip, and I think that she enjoyed it.

One of the early tombs on the main approach to Petra

 The Siq, the entrance to Petra

At the mouth of the Siq

At the bottom of the Siq, just as we were approaching the Treasury

Khazneh al-Firaun or the Treasury (so-called, it was actually a royal tomb)

The Treasury with my sweetheart . . .

 . . . and then with all my kids!
 Time to ride camels!

Holding hands . . . this was, after all, supposed to be a romantic getaway

Other scenes in Petra
Layout of the Grand Temple
Grand Temple from above

And with Eric showing off

A small theater was built inside the temple itself . . .

Elaine liked this elephant-head capital. I have never seen one like it before, seemed like Indian influence

Ad-Deir or "The Monastery" . . . at the TOP of a long, hot hike!

The beginning of the hike, looking up

This is what lay at the top, a rock-cut tomb much bigger than the more famous Treasury but a lot harder to get to!
Yes, it is big!!!

This is what we came up, looking down, and it was the hike back that lay ahead of us!

 Final scenes

A cliff side full of royal tombs
Elaine and a Bedouin girl

Dirty feet: the result of a long day of hiking through Petra dust

Shoubak Castle

The Crusaders were in the Holy Land, which included much of Jordan for about a 100 years.  They then lingered on the coast of Palestine, especially in and around Acre (modern Acco) for another century.  Because these Latin Christians from Europe formed a very small minority compared to the local Arabs and indigenous Christians (mostly Orthodox) over whom they ruled, and because they were under constant pressure from surrounding Muslim states, they built a series of strong castles throughout the Holy Land.  Shoubak is a fine example of one of these.

Looking down at our bus below through an arrow slit

With Burbidge Bey at the top of Shoubak

Finally, a message for L'Angel

Sometimes on our classmates needs to leave the program early.  This semester L'Angel Seabrook went home shortly after we returned from Turkey.  Whenever we get on the bus, we always countoff to make sure that everyone is on.  This video clip was our message to our friend . . . "32" was her number: