Tuesday 8th July 2014
Today I walked the streets and climbed up and down the hills of Amman. There are seven hills (seems to be the required number for a city, as Rome too is built on seven hills) which converge on King Faisal Street.
KIng Faisal Street, one of the main streets in downtown Amman
Just off King Faisal Street is the Gold Market, with shops crowded with golden jewelry, rings, bangles, earrings and much more.
Shop in the Gold Market
The King Hussain Mosque, also known as the al-Hussaini Mosque in downtown Amman
Feature inside the courtyard of the King Hussain Mosque in downtown Amman
The Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman, capable of holding 6,000 people on the terraces, serviced by 108 steps!! (but who’s counting?!)
From the stage of the Roman Amphitheatre, looking out on the seating carved high up into the hillside
Incidentally, the round stone terraces make for great acoustics. If you stand in the middle and make a sound, it “echoes” around in that space.
The top row in the Roman Amphitheatre was also known as “The Gods” for the very obvious reason that it is high up a steep climb, but it provides a spectacular view of the stage far below , across the valley and up the far side to the Citadel
A performer standing on the stage of the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman
After the Roman Amphitheatre, around midday I had a cheese sandwich for lunch in a restaurant. Hardly worth reporting? But it is! The sign on the closed door of the restaurant said “Yes, we are open during Ramadan”. And they served beer, wine and spirits too! Clearly Jordan has a much more relaxed attitude to Muslim religious observance. However, the doors do remain closed so as not to offend Muslims who are fasting. Of course, non-Muslims are not obliged to observe the Ramadan fast. Yesterday afternoon as I was walking around I had been invited into a “tourist” restaurant that was serving non-Muslims! And Muslims who are travelling, sick or pregnant are exempt from fasting too, though they are required to make up the days later in the year.
View from the Citadel, looking down on the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman and the houses climbing up the hill behind it.
From the Citadel above the city, looking east along the valley past the Roman Amphitheatre to the suburbs sprawling up the hillsides
The entrance pillars to the Temple of Hercules on the summit of the Citadel above Amman. It was built around AD160-166.
The entrance pillars to the Temple of Hercules on the summit of the Citadel above Amman
Like Samson of old, a modern day Hercules stands between the pillars of the Temple of Hercules and flexes his muscles! He is dwarfed by the pillars, made to look puny!
The modern day Hercules in the previous photo looked puny, all the more so when compared with the original statue of Hercules which stood in the Temple there. Only part of the knuckle and part of the elbow remain, but it is calculated that the statue stood 13 metres tall.
The Gatewayu to the Ummayad Palace on the summit of the Citadel. It is said that this was once a Byzantine Cathedral, and it certainly has the nave and apse forming a cross as was typical of churches of that era
View over Amman from the Muslim Medina (city) atop the Citadel, with the massive Jordanian flag flying above the city[/caption>
The Raghadan Flagpole is a 126.8-metre (416 ft) tall flagpole located in Amman, Jordan. It was built from steel and erected on the grounds of Raghadan Palace at the royal compound of Al-Maquar. The leader of Jordan, King Abdullah II, officially hoisted the country’s flag on 10th June 2003. It was the tallest free-standing flagpole in the world at the time, and is clearly visible across the capital as well as from as far away as 20 kilometres (12 mi). It is illuminated, making it visible at night, and was also developed to withstand earthquakes and bad weather.
It flies a 60-by-30-metre (200 by 100 ft) flag. Although it is a distinctive landmark, the excessive noise created during high winds has resulted in the flag being lowered during periods of bad weather.
This free-standing flagpole surpassed the previous record-holder, which was located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and had held the record since 2001. The Raghadan Flagpole is 3.8 metres (12 ft) taller than the one located in the United Arab Emirates. In 2004, the flagpole lost its status as world’s tallest following the construction of the Aqaba Flagpole. The latter stands at 130 metres (430 ft) tall, and is also located in Jordan. As of 2011, Raghadan is the fifth-tallest free-standing flagpole in the world. The tallest flagpole is the 165-metre (541 ft) Dushanbe Flagpole in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, constructed in 2011. All three flagpoles were constructed in the Dubai port of Jebel Ali by the United States-based company Trident Support in sections 12 metres (39 ft) long from 50 millimetres (2.0 in) thick steel plates.
[caption id="attachment_2186" align="alignleft" width="625"] Zooming in on the Raghadan Flagpole towering over Amman
The remains of a Byzantine Church from the 6th century. The outline of the nave and semi-round sanctuary are clearly visible.
An astonishing coincidence happened when I was about to leave the Citadel. I was concentrating on taking photos of the Temple of Hercules. I noticed a pilgrim group coming along but paid no attention, until one of them came up to greet me. It was Fr Aidan, one of the participants in the Biblical Programme at Ecco Homo, with whom I had spent the last month in Jerusalem. He was on a two-day tour of Jordan. He had planned to do it earlier but was prevented by a sudden onset of sickness. Having heard good reports from my Columban colleague, Jim, he re-booked to do tour. He had e-mailed me that he was doing the tour, but I had no idea when. So you can imagine my astonishment that by coincidence I was in that precise spot on the Citadel when his tour group came for a hurried 30 minute visit. His tour group continued on to stay overnight in a Bedouin camp and visit Petra in the morning. I have planned to go by bus from Amman to Petra early tomorrow morning, so we may even meet there too!!
The Al-Abdullah Mosque. I removed my sandals and walked in barefoot as per custom. The prayer hall is cavernous. It is the largest mosque in the Middle East that it unsupported by columns. It can hold 3,000 Muslims for prayers. It was air-conditioned, so was refreshingly cool after the heat outside. The carpet pile was very thick and was very, very soft to walk on. The softness had a further benefit. A number of men were stretched out on the soft pile and fast asleep. A security person approached me and informed me that the visiting hours were over so I was not able to stay and take photos.
Outside, I took this photo of the crescent moon decorative feature at the top of one of the minaret towers. The photo may seem rather plain, but it is very cleverly composed (if I say so myself!). I found just the right place to take the photo so that the Ramadan moon which was high in the sky in the late afternoon appears in the middle of the crescent moon decorative feature.
Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!