Monday, May 2, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime! (Day 4)

Monday, May 2nd

Today we drove to the ruins of Jerash, about 24 miles north of Amman.  It is known for having the best Roman Ruins outside of Rome.  The photo below was of the countryside on our way to Jerash.

Built on the Biblical Kings Highway - the ancient trade route that ran from the gulf of Aqaba up to Damascus - Jerash has been populated from around the third millennium BC.  The nicknames of Jerash include "Pompeii of the East" and "The city of 1000 columns".

The expanding Roman Empire conquered Jerash and made it part of the Decapolis, a league of ten cities mentioned in the New Testament.  It was established as a trade city. For a few centuries, Jerash grew to become a prospering Roman city, with theatres, temples, a market place, baths and a forum. After the 3rd century AD, due to wars, invasions, earth quakes, and changing of trade routes, the city declined and was eventually even deserted, only to be repopulated in the 19th century.

For centuries, the city has been hidden under the ground and the sand has protected it very well. Excavations got under way in the 1920s and continue to this day. Although apparently large parts of the city have been uncovered, it is still estimated that around 90% of the city is still buried under the ground. 

We entered the city through the Arch of Hadrian which was built to honor the visit of emperor Hadrian to Jerash in 129/130 AD. 

 Once through the arch, The Hippodrome was on our left.  The next 3 pictures are of the Hippodrome.  They still do chariot races here - recreated as authentically as possible, down to the use of Latin commands.

You can see the seating of the Hippodrome here...

This was an example of "Herodian" stone.  This was typical of the time period and we saw examples of it throughout Jordan and Israel.  They have a picture-frame appearance around them.

Bougainvillea was growing everywhere - in Jordan and in Israel.  We see quite a bit of it in Phoenix and it's one of my favorites!

This was the South Gate of the city.

I loved this beautiful door!

This is The Forum or Oval Plaza.  The colonnade surrounding the Forum was probably erected some time during the second century A.D., and rests on a great wall 32 feet 6 inches in depth, all of which is buried.

Behind us and to the left you can see the remains of The Temple of Zeus.  One of the chief buildings of the city, this temple was approached from the Forum by a great flight of steps supported on vaults, many of which still remain. An inscription found in the Forum records that "Theon, son of Demetrius, gave 7100 drachmas of Tyrian silver for the building of Zeus Olympius" (A.D. 69-70).

On a will notice in many of the pictures on this trip that it looks like we're all walking around with headphones on.  We aren't listening to music.  We all were given receivers at the beginning of the trip to wear as we were walking around the sites.  Our guides would speak through a microphone that was transmitted to our receivers so we could easily hear what they were saying - even if we were 100 feet away.  It was a really great thing to have, but I wish we had remembered to take them off for pictures...

The three pictures below are of The South Theatre.  It is probably the best-preserved building of Jerash and is still the scene of occasional local performances. The theatre contains 32 tiers of seats, the lower rows of which are numbered in Greek, and could presumably be reserved. It could accommodate obout 4000 people. An inscription on the wall at the right of the stage tells that a Statue of Victory which once stood there was presented by a non-commissioned officer of the army of Titus in A.D. 70, and cost 3000 drachmas.

Climbing to the top row of seats of this theatre made me very nervous - especially when I turned around at the top to look down.  It was a very steep climb going way up, with no handrails to grab if I stumbled.  I went very slow climbing down.

The stage of the Theatre...

Mark with his brother, Del and his sister, Jen.

Looking down from the hill at The Forum with modern day Jerash in the background.

One of the beautifully columned streets...

This is a Christian church built here around the 5th century.  It has a beautiful mosaic tile floor...

a closer look...

When we passed this plant, John Lund quoted the scripture in Acts 9:5 "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."  They were definitely very poky looking.

We saw a whole bunch of these millipedes outside The Temple of Artemis.

The Temple of Artemis is behind us in this picture.  Artemis was the patron goddess of the city, and her temple is still one of the most impressive buildings left. The beautiful columns of the portico can be seen from almost any part of the ruins, though the walls of the shrine no longer stand to their full height. The temple was built on one of the highest points and dominated the whole city.

The next 3 pictures are of this temple.

This is "The Cardo Maximus" or "The Street of Columns".  It was the main street of the city, running from the Forum at the south to the North Gate, a distance of about 1/2 mile. It was originally flanked by 260 columns on either side, and all the principal public buildings of the city had their entrance from it. Here also were the best shops, and the cuts made by the weels of many passing chariots can still be seen in the great paving blocks.

This is the Nymphaeum.  This building served the purpose of public fountain and Temple of the Nymphs.  Water spouted out of holes in the lower niches into a tank in front, from which it poured through the mouths of carved lions' heads into a drain below. The upper story was plastered and painted and the lower covered with marble slabs. It was built about A.D. 190.

We saw these poppies growing wild all over Jordan and Israel.  John Lund said these were the "lilies of the field" spoken of in the Bible.  I had always pictured a white lily like the flower of that name, but it was actually these little poppies being spoken of.  They were so beautiful!  We also saw a ton of them when we got to The Garden of Gethsemane later in our trip.

After leaving Jerash, we headed to a beach resort on the shores of the Dead Sea for a swim!

At 1,350 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the surface of the world (California's Death Valley is the next lowest at 282 feet below sea level).  Called the Salt Sea in the Old Testament, this is the basin of the northern section of the Great Rift Valley that begins in Syria and eventually reaches Kenya and Tanzania in Central Africa.

The lake is 31 miles long, 11 miles wide and 1,380 feet deep.  With high atmospheric pressure and high temperatures all year round, the sea evaporates very fast.  Although it is constantly fed by fresh water from the Jordan River and the nearby springs, the evaporation is such that the Dead Sea has a salt content of over 30% - more than 10 times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea.

The salts are actually a mixture of many minerals so dense that they keep a person afloat.  Called the Dead Sea because it used to be thought that no life at all existed in its water, it is now known that there is a wealth of micro-organisms that find the Dead Sea's unique ecosystem an attractive home.  The mineral rich waters have also been attracting humans for generations, both for its therapeutic waters and mud baths, and just to wonder at the constantly changing colors of its majestic - and often eerie - landscape.

Across the lake are the Mountains of Moab, while to the west are the mountains of the Judean Desert.  Southward is Sodom - from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot and his wife who was turned to a pillar of salt. 

We had so much FUN in the Dead Sea.  It really is IMPOSSIBLE to sink in it.  In the picture below, we are sitting in about 10 feet of water.  My nephew, Zac (on the far left) is holding a big, heavy rock.  You cannot sink in this water.  When laying on your belly in the water, as I am below, you can't just pull your knees in to sit up.  You have to roll sideways onto your back and then sit up because of how buoyant you are.  Even if you wanted to swim down to the bottom to pick something up, you couldn't do it.  It's really pretty amazing!

I had heard about beauty products that used Dead Sea mud.  Now we had the opportunity to try it on location!  They brought out a big bucket of mud and we were told to smear it on and then let it dry, then go wash it off in the Dead Sea.  We could tell there was something different about it because we became very warm as soon as we put the mud on.  I didn't wait for it to dry before washing it off because...I was hot!  My skin did feel pretty nice after doing it.  I expected the mud to have some grittiness to it, but it felt like the nicest lotion.  It was completely smooth.
Here are some of the properties of Dead Sea mud:
  1. Improves blood circulation and natural skin generation.
  2. Fine mud grains, cleanse the skin and remove any dirt particles, impurities and toxins.
  3. Proven to provide effective relief for skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and wrinkles.
  4. Moisturizes your skin and helps natural skin hydration
  5. Gently peels away dead skin cells to reveal more youthful, healthier skin layer
"Dead Sea mud also helps treat and relieve some other ailments including arthritis, muscle stiffness and aches, rheumatism, joint inflammation and even itchy, dry skin.

The answer lies in the high concentration of salts and minerals present in the mud. You see, as the Dead Sea evaporates year after year (it's not connected to any other body of water), the salt and minerals which are already present in high amounts get absorbed into the mud at the bottom of the sea. This mud is then extracted and packaged, with all the impurities removed. The minerals which are present in the mud are all natural minerals which your skin needs every day. By using Dead Sea mud, or a mud mask, you are basically feeding your skin these essential minerals. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, bromine and calcium are all needed by your skin to help maintain the right moisture levels and hydration.

Another very powerful effect of using Dead Sea mud is the fact that as it dries, it pulls out any toxins that may be present in your skin cells from your everyday diet. This leaves the skin completely clean, refreshed and pure on top of infusing it with the minerals. At the same time it firms your skin and tightens it, giving you an exceptional anti aging benefit and leaving your skin looking younger. Because of this dual effect of exfoliating, cleansing and providing essential minerals, Dead Sea mud is able to help with so many various ailments or to simply keep your skin looking young and healthy for a long time!"
I don't know how much it actually helped our skin...but it sure was fun putting mud all over us!  If nothing else it made for some really great pictures!

This is the Jordan River.  There are other sites on the Jordan River that claim to be where Jesus was baptized, but historical sites are rated after archeologists and historians have had a chance to study them.  This site is an "A" site, meaning it is the most likely place where Jesus was baptized.

Most of the publicity for the site of the baptism of Jesus is about a spot on the  Jordan River where it runs through Israel, but LDS historians agree with the "A" rating at this site in Jordan.  "These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing." (John 1:28)

This spot in Jordan is not as beautiful as the one in Israel (the Israel site is rated "B" and we visited it first thing the next day).  This is because now a lot of the water of the Jordan is siphoned off for agriculture before reaching this spot.  This leaves it much smaller and muddier looking.

After leaving the Jordan River, we crossed the Jordanian border into Israel.  That was quite the experience for me.  There were men with machine guns guarding the line as we walked through.  We were told by our guide, Dr. John Lund, not to lose sight of our passports and to protect them.  When it was my turn, the man working there took my passport and pointed for me to go sit down and wait.  He kept my passport.  I got worried because he had given everyone else back theirs!  I waited a few minutes, then went over and asked him when I would get it back and why they kept it.  He told me I had been randomly selected for a security screening.  A few minutes later a lady that worked there came and asked me to follow her behind a curtain.  On the way she put on some plastic gloves - THAT made me nervous.  Was I going to be strip searched or cavity searched (Mark had been teasing me about that specific threat right before the lady came over to get me)?  She turned out to be very nice.  She could tell I was nervous and told me, "Don't worry.  I am nice!", as she smiled.  It turned out to be no big deal.  She patted me down then returned me to my group. 

After that we went to wait in another line.  We showed them our passports.  If a persons luggage had made it through then they were allowed to pass.  If not, they were rejected and asked to sit down and wait.  There were several in our party still waiting. I was last because of the security check.  When it was my turn they scanned my passport, rejected me, and told me to go sit down and wait with the others.  AGAIN, they kept my passport!  They hadn't kept anyone else's, just mine.  Four times they called me back to look at some luggage and asked if it was mine - it wasn't.  Finally, when she could see I was exasperated and our whole group was waiting for me, she went to track down my luggage, only to realize it had made it through and Mark had it on the other side.  She gave my passport back and we left to get on the bus.  It was obvious they had gone through my luggage.  It was a big joke with everyone the rest of the day - "Yeah Danette, you sure look dangerous!"

From there we proceeded to our hotel for the night - The Leonardo Hotel, located about 200 feet from the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the city of Tiberias.

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