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JERASH, JORDAN

Roman ruins in Jordan? Yup!

sunny 26 °C

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On the last day of my 6 day tour of Jordan, we headed north, to the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash. Above is a photo of me under Hadrian's Arch.
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Our guide, Suhaib, educating us on the history of Jerash.
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The hippodrome - where chariot races used to take place in ancient times, and in summer months, still do for entertainment! I would've loved to have watched one, but I was there in November.
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Exterior of the hippodrome.
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This ancient city dates back to 333 BC.
The Oval Plaza, or forum.
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Jerash has 2 amphitheaters. One big, one small. At the bigger one we were given an acoustics demonstration by 2 Jordanian men.
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No matter where we sat in the amphitheater the acoustics were exactly the same. After their demo we each got the chance to stand in the middle of the 'stage' and speak. By standing exactly in the middle it sounds like you are speaking on a microphone, but one step left or right and it sounds completely different.
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The small concave space located between the 2 men (below) also acted as microphones. If you speak into them it amplifies your voice. No shouting required! Truly amazing! Nowadays we require so many electronics to put on a concert, but back then they didn't need anything fancy. Every summer Jerash Festival is held here - a music festival featuring local artists. Both amphitheaters are used. The way that they are built, you cannot hear 2 bands playing at the same time, nor can the nearby neighborhoods hear anything! All the noise stays within the open-air amphitheaters!!
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This is the main street, the colonnaded Cardo Maximus.
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The Gateway to the Temple of Artemis.
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I feel bad, but I cannot remember what this is (below). I looked on a map of Jerash, and if I'm correct, then this is the Agora.
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Unfortunately the majority of ancient Jerash now lays underneath the modern city of the same name. In the photo below you can see some ruins alongside the modern city.
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This is the smaller South Theatre.
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Jerash was actually more interesting than I was expecting it to be. I enjoyed the acoustic demo, the fact that all the ruins are fairly close together so theres not too much walking in the heat, that there where almost no other tourists (cuz people are too scared to come to Jordan cuz they think its 'dangerous'), and that chariot races take place here in summer! How fun would that be to watch!

Posted by ChantelleS 16:46 Archived in Jordan Tagged history ruins roman asia jordan ancient jerash Comments (0)

MADABA & THE DEAD SEA, JORDAN

Shobak Castle, Madaba, and the Dead Sea.

sunny 20 °C

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Today we drove from Wadi Musa to the Dead Sea. Its about a 3hr drive, so we made a few stops along the way to break it up. Our first stop was the Crusader fortress of Shobak Castle. We didn't go in, as we were in a hurry to make it to the Dead Sea for sunset. But we were able to stop at 2 different viewpoints of it.
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It was built in 1115 AD. It withstood numerous attacks from the armies of Saladin before succumbing in 1189.
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Our 18 seater bus that we toured Jordan in.
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Jordanian flag on the castle.
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Scenery along the way to Madaba.
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Traffic jam! Goats everywhere!
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We arrived in Madaba in time for lunch. After lunch we were given a tour. Madaba is another example of Jordan's religious tolerance. Church bells ring along with the call to prayer from nearby mosques. Muslims make up 2/3 of Madaba, and Christians 1/3. The main attraction here is St George's Church with its mosaic map.
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The mosaic tile map on the floor of the church was unearthed in 1884, but was laid in AD 560. It is a clear map of the Holy Land, including all biblical sites from Lebanon to Egypt, and down to the Mediterranean, including references to the Nile River, Dead Sea and Jerusalem.
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After Madaba we finally arrived at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea visit was not included in my 6 day tour, it was one of those optional add-ons. Well of course everyone wanted to go! How could you come all the way to Jordan and not float in the Dead Sea?! It was an over-priced add-on at $87CAD!!! This included transportation there & back, lockers, and use of a resort's pool. We didn't realize we were being brought to a resort ... that's why it cost so much. But it was very nice being able to use the showers & lockers here.
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Salt on the beach.
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The Dead Sea is located on the border, half in Jordan, half in Israel. It has an incredibly high salt content at 30% ... that's 7 times saltier than the ocean! That is why everyone floats! (and I mean everyone - it doesn't matter your weight, you WILL float).
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It is impossible to sink ... some people in my group actually tried to sink and sit on the bottom ... they couldn't even get their head under, lol! It is the strangest feeling, almost like someone is holding you up. It is actually hard to get your feet back down on the ground!
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After my float, I showered off all itchy salt at the resort. Be sure to NOT shave the day before, and do not get it in your eyes, or you will be in agony for a few minutes! IT BURNS! Then I walked around the pretty resort taking photos and waiting for the sun to set over the Dead Sea.
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The level of the Dead Sea has been falling by about 500cm per year for the last 20yrs, mainly because there is no longer an inflow from the Jordan River, and evaporation is so high. The Dead Sea has fallen from 392m below sea level to 420m (the lowest point on earth). 30% of it has vanished, and experts are predicting it will be completely dried up in 50yrs! So go see it now!!

Posted by ChantelleS 16:24 Archived in Jordan Tagged sea religion holy dead asia jordan float salt madaba Comments (0)

PETRA, JORDAN

The ancient Red Rose city of Petra!

sunny 35 °C

All who travel to Jordan end up in Petra. And it is for good reason ... its incredible! To be fully honest, I didn't even realize Petra was a real place until 3yrs ago. I had been planning a trip to Egypt and had googled 'day trips near Sinai', and Petra came up (you can take a ferry across the Red Sea to Jordan from Egypt, and then a bus to Petra). I had never heard of Petra, so I clicked on the link. What I saw made my jaw drop! This is where Indiana Jones was filmed! I recognized it immediately!! But all these years I had thought it was fake; a movie set. But it dawned on me then that this was a real place ... and now I just HAD to go! Unfortunately that trip to Egypt was canceled, as that was the same year of the Revolution. Fast forward 3yrs later, and now I'm there!!

If you read my previous post on Jordan, you will know that I was on a week-long tour. Entrance to Petra was included in this tour. Petra is hidden in the sandstone mountains. From the viewpoint over the town of Wadi Musa (below) you would never guess what lay hidden ...
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After you pass the entrance gates, follow the path. If you have a guide, he/she will point out various tombs and carvings along the way, as well as troughs that were part of the irrigation system that brought water into the city.
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A natural shape in the sandstone that looks like an elephant.
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You will eventually come to, and walk through, the Siq, which is a long, narrow gorge that links the outside world to the hidden city of Petra. It is 1.2km long.
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At its narrowest it is 2m, at its widest 6m, and the walls tower up to 200m overhead!
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The Siq seems to go on forever, and at every bend my heart started to beat a little faster in hopes the Treasury would be around the corner! And finally, BAM, there it was in all its glory!!
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Just look at it!!!
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So many intricate details all carved by hand!!
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Those little 'holes' along the side are ancient scaffolding for the Nabataeans who carved Petra into the sandstone 1000s of years ago.
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This is the Treasury guard ... he doesn't seem to be taking his job too seriously, lol!
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Camels were everywhere awaiting riders.
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Cheeeeese!
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The morning was spent with the tour group getting a history lesson, and then we were given the afternoon free to explore on our own.

The entire group chose to make the long hike up to the monastery and back which took them the whole day ... except me. No thanks. In photos the Treasury & Monastery look the same. I wanted to see other things, like the Royal Tombs, and climb up to some viewpoints.

Tombs carved into the sandstone. These are not the Royal Tombs, these are the tombs of middle class people.
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Look at the incredible natural patterns in the rock!! Suhaib (our guide) told us that the pink is iron, yellow is sulphur, and blue is copper. But the colors mix together creating new colors, my favorite being purple.
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Check out the purple sand!
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The amphitheater was cut into the rock, and could hold 3000 spectators.
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And now for the Royal Tombs ...
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Guards
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Hadrian's Arch - where I had a little picnic
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One thing I really wanted to do was figure out how to get to a lookout point over the Treasury. I had seen on a blog a photo of a girl sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Treasury down below, and I wanted the same photo of myself. I asked my guide if he knew where the trail was. He pointed off to the south, but then said it takes 3hrs each way ... which I wouldn't have enough time for. But I could've sworn the blog I read had said it was only a 30min hike. So as I wandered through the ancient city I asked a few Bedouins if they knew of a shortcut. Their had to be one! This guy came to my rescue! He knew exactly where I was talking about, and that there was a shortcut north of the Royal Tombs (the opposite direction my guide had pointed me)! Woohoo!
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He was one of the Bedouins who live within Petra. He said he and his donkey, Shakira, were headed that way and I could follow him. So off we went.
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Stairs, stairs and more stairs!
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Some lookout points over the ancient city as I climbed higher.
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View over the amphitheater.
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Many Bedouins live within Petra, and work selling cold drinks and souvenirs to tourists. They live in caves and small huts, and herd goats & camels. We passed some of their homes along the way.
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It took about 30-40min to reach the viewpoint, and it was worth the climb!
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My Johnny-Depp-from-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-look-alike Bedouin friend had a hut built atop the cliff overlooking the Treasury. He offered me mint tea and to sit in the shade and listen to stories of life in Petra.
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After about 20min hanging with 'Johnny' I sadly had to leave. I had to meet the rest of the group and catch the bus to our hotel in Wadi Musa. On the walk back down towards the Siq I stopped and checked a few of the souvenirs stands the Bedouins had set up.
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Sand art
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Included in the admission to Petra is a 'free' ride on a horse & carriage either from the entrance, down the Siq, and to the Treasury, or in the reverse direction. I advise you to save it for the end of the day when you are exhausted and don't want to walk 1.2km down the Siq again. I say 'free' cuz theres a $5USD mandatory tip required.
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The Bedouins will ask if you want an air conditioned Ferrari ride ... and then escort you to one of these, lol! I loved listening to the galloping hooves of on-coming 'Ferraris' echoing throughout the Siq :)
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It was a long day, but WOW was it a good one! If you are traveling on your own without a group/tour, I recommend 2 days here. There were so many hikes/trails to go on, and caves/tombs to explore. And also there was no way I would've had time to hike to the Monastery if I had wanted too. You can also visit Petra at night when the Siq and area around the Treasury are lit by candles. I wanted to return at night for this but my feet did not agree, I was completely exhausted! If ever I find myself in Jordan again I will definitely visit Petra by night!

Have I convinced you to visit the Middle East yet? I sure hope I have ;)

Posted by ChantelleS 10:37 Archived in Jordan Tagged desert ruins city red rose asia ancient petra jordam Comments (0)

EPHESUS & KUSADASI, TURKEY

The Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, and the Mediterranean beachfront city of Kusadasi.

sunny 21 °C

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From Pamukkale my original plan was to go to Fethiye, but Fethiye's forecast was rain for the next 5 days :( So I headed to Kusadasi instead. Minibuses headed there take 3hrs, and cost 35L ($17CAD). It Dropped me off across the street from my hotel, Hotel Sozer, which was located right across the street from the Mediterranean! It wasn't super fancy, but had free breakfast & free wifi, and a rooftop terrace with a pool overlooking the sea, and there was a beach 2min walk away. Only $35CAD ... not bad at all for all that! Above is a photo of the boardwalk that extends for a long ways in both directions. Its lined with restaurants, bars, and shopping.
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Kusadasi is Turkey's biggest/busiest cruise ship port. One day there were 4 ships in port!
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Watching the ships come & go
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A stray dog came and befriended me at the beach. He laid beside me the whole time. He even fell asleep with his head on my sarong that I was using as a beach blanket :)
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If you head east along the boardwalk you will eventually come to the causeway out to Pigeon Island and its fortress.
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Of course it was closed for restoration when I was there, but its free to walk around the outside.
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There were a lot of locals fishing from the causeway.
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From Kusadasi, the ruins of Ephesus are only 19km away. Dolmuses (mini van taxis) are $4CAD each way. They drop you off on the highway, and then its a 3km walk to the lower gate entrance. Admission is 30L ($15CAD).
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The main thing everyone comes to see is the library (featured above), and I am one of those people, lol!! And it did not disappoint! The details were incredible!!
This is the main 'path' leading up to the Library of Celsus.
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View of the library from the other side.
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The 3 level amphitheatre which can hold 25,000 people. Each range of seating is pitched more steeply than the one below, thereby improving the view & acoustics for the spectators in the upper seats.
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If you keep wandering you will happen upon these ancient toilets! Taking a poo was a public event back then! I was told that entertainers would come in and put on a show while you poop with your friends!! Can you imagine, lol!!
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Water used to run underneath to wash away all the 'deposits'.
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Itty bitty mosaic tiles
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Kitty sunning herself on the mosaic tiles that were roped off for humans. Sneaky kitty.
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Do these cats even realize they live in an ancient city?!
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Sarcophagi
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Well, thats it for the Kusadasi/Ephesus area. I headed back to Istanbul after a few days here. I flew from Izmir (nearest city with an airport, 1hr from Kusdasi) to Istanbul for only $55CAD, which was only $10CAD more than the 10hr night bus option.

Next up ... Jordan!!!

Posted by ChantelleS 11:48 Archived in Turkey Tagged ruins turkey roman asia ephesus kusadasi Comments (0)

PAMUKKALE & HIERAPOLIS, TURKEY

White terraced pools of hot blue water & the Roman ruins of Hierapolis

sunny 23 °C

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I took a 10hr night bus to Pamukkale from Goreme for $28CAD. During the last hour the bus stopped, woke everyone up, and switched from the bus to several vans. Not sure why as no one spoke English. But the vans dropped everyone off at a hotel in Pamukkale where we were all allowed to store our backpacks for free. Breakfast was also being served here for 10L ($5CAD). From this hotel its a short walk to the entrance of the travertine terraces.
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Admission is 25L ($12.50CAD). You must remove your shoes and climb the terraces barefoot. (This is to protect the terraces and keep them clean - you are allowed to climb in socks). If you try to sneak in with your shoes on a security guard will furiously blow his whistle at you. If you don't want to climb the terraces, there is another entrance up the hill that enters through the Hierapolis ruins with lookout points over the terraces. But I chose to climb.
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Pamukkale's terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs.
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It looks like snow & ice, but actually is a hotspring. However, the water at the bottom is cold, but the higher you climb the warmer the water gets. At the top the water is hot!
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A lot of the terraces were empty - no water. None of the guards spoke English, so I'm not 100% sure why. But from what I gather, certain pools are full at different times of the year. So no matter what time of year you go, some will be full, and some will be empty.
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View over the town and the pond at the bottom of the hill.
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Tourists soaking their feet in the hot water.
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Your admission ticket also includes entry to the Roman ruins of Hierapolis located at the top of the travertine terraces. There is also a swimming pool with fallen Roman columns, but this costs an extra 20L ($10CAD). Just swim in the terraces ... its the same hot water and its already included with the admission.
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How is this arch even staying up?!
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The main draw here is the amphitheatre, which holds up to 12,000 spectators. Follow the path up the hill to get to it.
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This is the amphitheatre from the outside ... not nearly as impressive as the inside.
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The Northern Roman Gate
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I found this massive snail (slug?) amongst the ruins. Does he even realized where he lives?!
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The grounds were pretty too!
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At the bottom of the travertine terraces is a pond full of various hungry ducks, and its lined with restaurants.
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Posted by ChantelleS 12:05 Archived in Turkey Tagged ruins europe asia pamukkale amphitheatre hierapolis Comments (0)

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