Today we awoke to find that four of our group had gotten sick. One girl had to be rushed to the hospital and put on an IV. We decided to continue our journey, and have the missing people catch up with us as soon as they had been treated. We loaded our stuff out of the hospital (which was a great place to stay) and proceeded down the road. We went North, which is not an ordinary route for tourists. Our driver got lost many times during the day and had to stop and ask locals for directions. The first site we visited was another bath house called Hamam Al Sarah. This site was nearly destroyed. The Jordanian government, realizing tourists do not come to see a pile of rocks, have started to rebuild the bath house and are about one third of the way done. The next site, the Jordanian government allowed Spain to fund, since it did not have enough money to restore it. The site was Al-Halabat Palace. This site was also being reconstructed. In the front, the Spanish had an exhibit on how they were using new materials to try and mimic the original stones. This palace had both limestone and indigenous volcanic rock, which was black. One big unrestored find was an entire Roman parquet floor, which was absolutely breathtaking.

The palace was already rebuilt. Many of the stones in the wall had Greek on them that were placed upside down. The site itself was huge, with many mounds of ancient buildings covering at least a square mile. Then our trip took an interesting turn. We stopped at a local clinic to have one of the group checked out (he was given a shot for tonsillitis?) in one of the small villages. Then our guide decided to take a short cut to Jerash, which turned our hour drive into a three hour grueling pothole filled mess. We arrived in Jerash and reunited with the rest of our group who were better, but still groggy. Some of the group went ahead to the hotel, while the rest of us explored Jerash. Jerash is one of the best preserved Roman strongholds in the Middle East. It boasts two theatres, a chariot track (hippodome), and a host of other sites. The center of Jerash had a four way road intersection. All four sections were lined with beautiful Corinthian columns. Since it was late afternoon, I had to fight with the sun when I took pictures. I did capture a couple of great shots using the shadows to my advantage. After Jerash, we took another hour journey on the bus to the Ajloun Reserve and loaded ourselves into our tents where we would be staying for the night. From this reserve, you can see both Lebanon and Israel. Our guide, Amjad, had arranged for us to travel to his uncles house and be his guest for supper. We traveled a half hour to Al Masar, a small farming community in the North close to Syria. Al Masar does not get any tourists so we were the talk of the town as everyone stared at us as we drove in. Amjad’s family was amazing. We watched the sunset over the mountains from his back stoop and were treated to an authentic Jordanian meal called Mensa (Chicken, rice, and almonds) and they even baked a cake for a girl who’s birthday was two day before. We had Jordanian tea and Jordanian coffee. The tea reminded me of Chinese tea, and the coffee was strong like Turkish coffee but had an excellent flavor. The ladies of the house dressed up some of the girls in authentic clothing. The separation of males and females was very apparent and I was not allowed to take any pictures of the females. In fact, I was not allowed to meet or talk with many of them. It was an experience I will never forget.  We talked with Amjad’s uncle about farming in Jordan. He told us he was born in 1944 and had been married for 44 years to his wife who he explained, “conquered him.” We ended the evening returning to our tents where I proceeded to fall asleep immediately.

Today, we awoke from our tents. The nature preserve was absolutely stunning. It was a shame we could not have had a few hours there to hike through the trails. Some of the other participants stayed up and watched the stars. It was an absolutely clear night last night. I recognized the big dipper and another participant pointed out Draco to me. I was too tired and went to bed.

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