As I was riding in the car today we pulled into a checkpoint and they asked to see my passport. Normally this would not appear strange, but this was the only checkpoint in Jordan or Israel where they actually asked for my passport. I handed my passport to the guard who had a version of an M-16 that was not loaded and he looked at my picture and flipped through it to find my visa. He then handed it back, said a good-bye in Arabic and off we went to Umm Qais. I realized that he probably checked my passport because at that point we were probably 5km from the border with Syria, heading closer. We don’t go to Syria and instead pulled into ancient Roman ruins (are there any Roman ruins that aren’t ancient?) that are intersected by trench lines, pill boxes, and guard towers.
Some Roman ruins at the foot of a manned guard tower.
The reason for the modern military installations is that Umm Qais is a very high point that sits of the border or Israel, Syria, and Jordan. There is a valley that is not very wide that separates it from the Golan Heights. It is one place in the country that there is a military presence on the border with Israel.
Roman ruins with imported columns (white ones) with a view of Syria in the background.
An interesting thing about Umm Qais is that the natural rock is black basalt so most of the ruins are made from black rocks. They appear especially black in this photo since it is raining.
An interesting thing about Syria is that it is possible to go there as a “tourist” with the rebels… (no visa required). Over the past week or so I have had multiple conversations about Syria and traveling there. One of them with someone who owned a guest house in Damascus it was offered to arrange for us to get into Syria and drive through it to Turkey. He did not recommend it though and I tend to follow the advice of someone who has left the country because of the violence. A couple days ago an English girl just finished going through the country. My table felt that it was a stupid and foolish thing to do and there is a point when you are no longer “visiting” a place because you can’t see the sights (because it is a war zone) and you are just traveling through.
I left the border of Syria and went to another castle. Today I chose to do a “tour” (basically a ride around in a car organized by the hotel I stayed at). Normally you split the cost with other people, but no one wanted to go where I wanted to go so I spent $92 on about 9 hours of being driven around. It may not seem like a lot, but when you are traveling it is a lot of money. The reasons I chose to do this is because I couldn’t see all of the sights via public transport in one day and it is my last day and I wanted to make sure I made it to the airport. This castle was never taken by the Crusaders.
Then I went to Jerash which is a really big area of Roman ruins that was largely restored. It seems like Jordan is in a rebuilding phase, rebuilding all the buildings that were here 2000 years ago. I feel like in 500 years when you read the signs it will say built in 100CE as a functional use and rebuilt in 2000CE because they had nothing better to do.
I am now back where I started the day and in an hour I am going to start hopefully only a 29 hour travel day back home. I have a feeling that since I am entering US customs in Denver they are going to think that it is odd that I am coming from Jordan and am going to have to follow the “red dots” for extra security which could make it longer than a 29 hour day.
I have had a great trip, but it will be nice to be able to use sarcasm again (since I rarely spoke with native English speakers).
Hi Todd. I just read all your postings – what a fantastic trip! I hope we can see all your photos over Christmas. Love, Aunt Alice