Recently I realized that my time in Jordan is expiring soon and I had better see more of the country. Last week I spent a couple of days exploring the northern tip of the country. My first day I went to Ajlun to see the Ar-Rabad Castle on Mount ‘Auf. The drive there is beautiful, especially now because it’s spring here. As is the case in Boise, all of the camel colored, dusty hills sprout patches of green sprinkled with bright, colorful flowers. On top of the mountain is an amazing castle built by Salah el Din’s generals and newphews between 1184-88. It is in amazing condition, though it was destroyed by Mongol invaders in 1260 and later rebuilt by the Mamluks. It was used during the Crusades because it is located in a strategic site. You can see the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley from there, and perhaps even further in the days of the Crusades when there wasn’t as much smog.
Not far from Ajlun is Jerash, which is a famous tourist destination in Jordan because of the Roman ruins located there. The ruins there are quite extensive and well preserved. There are two theaters, remains of temples, baths, and colonnaded streets. The modern city of Jerash and its homes surround this ancient city.
But my favorite day trip was to Um Qais, which is at the northern most tip of Jordan. There are Roman ruins here too, but what makes these ruins especially interesting are the Ottoman village ruins located on the same site. But what’s most amazing about this village is the fact that you can see 1948 Palestine and Lake Tiberias/Galilee and the Golan Heights of occupied Syria from there. The photograph here is a view from the top of Um Qais. Afterwards I drove down into the valley below, a village called Al Himma, where I got a closer view of the valley beside the Golan Heights. The security in this area is tight with lots of military outposts and checkpoints. There are also remnants of the 1967 war in this area too.
I can’t help but think when driving around these mountain villages and viewing the region from this perspective how much open, empty space there is. It amazes me, especially, when I think about how much blood has been shed fighting over this region. Seeing this part of 1948 Palestine with so much empty room I can’t imagine why Israelis can’t abandon their West Bank settlements and move into spaces like those in the photograph.