What a nice present to spend your birthday in Jordan!
We began as our bus headed north--sadly with no air conditioning, no windows, no fans, and almost no Diana, who does not do well in heat. After a delightful case of heat stroke, I finally cooled off as we arrived in beautiful Umm Qais in northern Jordan. (It was about 30 degrees cooler outside the bus than inside.) This is also called Gadara, a Greco-Roman city not far from the Sea of Galilee. You can read about Gadara in Matthew 8; it's where Jesus cast the demons out of a man and into a herd of swine that proceeded to jump off a cliff. (Maybe their a/c wasn't working either.)
The view from Umm Qais, which is one of the ten cities of the Decapolis, is spectacular--Israel to the west and Syria to the far north. You can easily see Israel--the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights (along with a crocodile farm far below), and even a hazy Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration.
What a fantastic gift to be able to see Israel on my birthday. Thanks, God!
(This internet connection is so slow that I don't dare try to upload photos--will send some when I can get a stronger signal.)
Back on the bus, without the promised fixed a/c, and we headed south again to Jerash. I am not normally a person who likes ruins; my motto is, "You've seen one ruin, you've seen them all." But I may change my mind. If Umm Qais was spectacular for the view, Jerash was spectacular for the size and how well preserved everything is.
This was a fully functioning city with churches, Roman temples, shops, streets, and more. There's a hippodrome with a reenactment of gladiators and horse races, and an absolutely amazing and well preserved amphitheater; one member of our group, Dean, who has had opera training and experience, sang for us without any amplification except the natural sound in the amphitheater. For some strange reason, gladiators behind him then played bagpipes. Go figure.
We left Jerash as the sun was setting--magnificent.
BTW, Dean (who is also our resident techie team member) has a blog with a lot more details than I do about the sights and sounds we're seeing and hearing, along with a satellite map and YouTube links--www.blogjordan.com
To cap off a super day, our group of 20 went to dinner at a cool restaurant in Amman called Wild Jordan Cafe--complete with birthday cake for yours truly. We couldn't quite figure out the cake situation, however; the waiters brought a beautiful carrot cake and an enormous knife for me to cut it, then proceeded to serve each person a piece of...chocolate cake (yummy but mysterious). As we left, they handed me a box with the carrot cake in it. Guess what we'll be eating tomorrow as we head south to Mount Nebo and then on to Aqaba? (The a/c is now fixed, so the cake won't melt, and neither will I.)
Before we leave Amman, however, we have a special meeting tomorrow morn with a prince from the Jordanian royal family. He is the brother of the late King Hussein, the former crown prince, and uncle to the current king.
Perhaps he's coming to wish me happy birthday?