To say that you will see changes when returning to a country that you left 55 years previously, is putting it mildly. Fred had talked a lot about his time in Jordan so Denise was eager to see it.
The flight on Royal Jordanian was pleasant and immigration and customs were easily dealt with. We had procured visas in advance but probably this was unnecessary as airport visas are readily available. The shock began at the airport. Amman’s airport in the 1950’s was a single runway (where Hussein bin Talal used to race his sports car) and a Quonset hut, which served as a terminal. A portly sergeant handled the formalities. In those days Air Jordan’s primary aircraft was a couple of DC-3’s and the heaviest traffic was old Avro “York” airliners carrying pilgrims to Mecca. Today’s bustling modern airport was quite different.
We were met by a driver from the company from which we had contracted transportation services (http://jordan-car-and-driver.com) and were taken to our hotel in Amman. Amman seemed a mixture of older and more modern architecture (with some ancient thrown in) though the traffic did seem especially modern!
Some notes on Amman. Amman is an ancient site, perhaps most famous as Philadelphia, part of the Decapolis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decapolis The cities of the Decapolis play an important part in Jordan’s ancient history and are a focus of our visit.
The next day we were picked up by our driver and began our explorations at the Roman theatre, to take advantage of the morning light.
The theatre is wonderfully preserved and is still used for presentations. Fred remembers watching “Holiday on Ice” there – the concept of an ice show in a Roman theatre boggles the mind. We had the place to ourselves for a while before the first batch of tourists and school children arrived. April is apparently the month for school visits and we met bus loads of school children (primarily middle or high school level) at most sites we visited. They always wanted to practice their English and chat with Denise. She is now the star of the show on a great number of Jordanian cell-phones!
After the theatre, we headed up to the Citadel, which sits on Jebel al Quala’a, a fortified site since the Bronze and Iron Ages. Ironically, this is one of the few sites that Fred cannot remember visiting, but there must have been a school trip. It features great views of the city, the ruins of the Temple of Hercules dating from the Roman occupation (AD161-180), a Byzantine church, and an Umayyad palace and massive cisterns. Like most Middle Eastern sites, the ruins lie in layer after layer as the sites have been in constant use for thousands of years.
Our final stop in the busy morning was the Jordan Museum, which is housed in a fine modern building. A visit includes the history of Jordan up to the present day and includes a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The soundtrack of the film of Bedouin life was only an Arabic soundtrack but much could be deduced from the film. After a quick snack at the hotel, we returned to the theatre in the early evening visit another with a display of national costumes and mosaics from the Roman ruins at Jerash. Finally, we wandered the shops in the souk. Fred wanted to find a traditional incense burner but we discovered that we should have bought it in Jeddah. (Denise sought consolation at the silversmith’s.) We ended with a drive up Jebel Amman to see where Fred had lived but we could not find his house. As expected, the old directions of “the first paved road after the Third Circle” don’t work anymore – the Zahran District is wall-to-wall government buildings and the open wheat fields are long gone.