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Meet Me in the Middle (East)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pictures from The Citadel

The Roman ruins sit at the top of one of the major jebels (meaning mountain in Arabic, although they are more like hills). Amman was originally comprised of seven jebels but has expanded rapidly in the last few years well beyond those initial neighborhoods. For example, where I live is not in any of the jebels, although it is relatively near the University of Jordan for anyone who is looking at a map of Amman.

The ruins date back to the Roman and Byzantine eras and the building remains at the northern and eastern ends of the site may even be from the Bronze Age (for you history buffs).

Behind the archeological museum there are extensive remains of buildings and a huge water storage pit, all built of stone and with sweeping views of the other neighborhoods of Amman (including the flag, which is apparently on the world's tallest flagpole and is one of the largest flags in existence. It is darn big I will give it that!)

The museum itself was interesting (and coming from me that means a lot because I don't do museums well). Although it is new and lacking in descriptions, it has some amazing items, including some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the oldest statues of human figures ever discovered. Unfortunately the information is minimal, espeically in English, usually reading "statue of a man's head" and the date. Luckily for me, Justin is well-versed enough to provide historical context for the scrolls and their importance, and Josh's professor was the man who discovered the oldest human statues. Josh traveled in Jordan with him earlier this year and gave us the abbreviated version of what he knew. Sorry, no pictures from inside the museum, but I did see some sarcophagi made of clay, amazing pottery, and babies buried in clay pots. It was as strange to see as it sounds.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bombs and Birthdays

Just a few thoughts on the last few days...

The bombings last week that ripped through three of the major hotels in downtown Amman were a shock to locals and foreigners alike and the city is still reeling from the attack.

The hotels here are not just hotels but also house some of the most popular restaurants, bars, clubs and reception halls in the city. Locals, tourists, resident foreigners and students all frequent these areas and everything from press conferences and international forums to happy hours and salsa lessons are held there.

I was at the Radisson SAS a few days before the bombings with two friends I met here, Dave from the UK and Tina from Denmark. Seeing the footage of the lobby torn apart is very surreal, especially since I was just there but I have had to watch the events unfold on television just the same as everyone in the U.S. because once the bombs went off I was told not to leave my apartment.

While this is an understandable security measure, being stranded alone in my apartment was difficult and frustrating because the only access I had to the news was through the BBC since unfortunately my Arabic isn't quite fluent enough to follow the local news. I got more accurate updates from my boss and some other local friends. After thankfully getting through to my parents and a rapid flurry of text messages to check on everyone I know here in Amman, I sat down on my couch, toggled between channels and eventually forced myself to climb into bed.

Thursday morning the city was silent. More quiet than it has been at any time since I arrived. No cars, no children, no music from roaming gas trucks. After hours of what began to feel like being locked into my apartment, I ventured out with Abed, just for a walk down to the store and back. People were starting to move about and almost every car was adorned with Jordanian flags and even more pictures of the royal family. In the evening I went to my friend John's apartment, after being promised a ride there and home. It was nice to have a few people around after so much time alone just watching the news. No one was sure how to react or how the community would respond overall, but mostly the reaction has been in the form of anger at such gratuitous violence and avid support for Jordan and its leaders.

Friday morning, my birthday, and I headed to brunch with Rob, Justin, Josh and Natalie. After brunch we headed up to The Citadel, which we determined safe since it was already a pile of rubble. The weather here has been gorgeous and Friday was no exception. There were huge protests and demonstrations downtown and in several other cities throughout the country...or so I've heard...but you probably know more about them than I do because I haven't seen any of it. All I've seen is on television, and the millions of Jordanian flags and pictures of the king that now hang from every shop, car and house.

While we were at brunch I read that they were looking for O+ and O- blood donors and after a call to a friend to make sure it was safe for me to go to the hospital, I went down to donate. I hate needles and I hate blood but that seemed like a pathetic excuse to not give when I have the most useful blood type. The hospital was an interesting place and they were all very glad (and slightly surprised/amused) that I was there to give. Abed went with me and translated, although as usual everyone spoke exceptional English and several of them thanked me repeatedly.

After that I headed home to grab a coat and then out to dinner with about a dozen people for my birthday. We had a great time and it felt momentarily like normal life again. After dinner we headed back to Rob's apartment since we all agreed it was not a good idea to be going out in the city. Natalie had baked me a cake and we stayed up incredibly late (Rob also has an incredible view of the city from his roof!)

I have driven by the bombed hotels on several occasions, on my way to class and heading to the hospital. There are huge cement security barriers in place, an increased presence of armed military personnel all around the city, and metal detectors have been put in place at most major buildings (including my local grocery store).

Today is the first day people are back to work. And so am I. Like everyone, I am still feeling out the difference between paranoia and healthy precaution, and the realistic impact of being an American and how that impacts my role in the shared experience of it all...I have a lot more I could say...and maybe I will later...but for now...that's it.

Thank you so much to everyone who wrote and called to make sure I was OK, your support gives me the strength to believe in the goodness of people and know that I am not alone no matter where I am or what happens. That is as true as it is cheesy and I mean it. :-)

At last here are a few pictures from my first trip to Wadi Rum.

This is our base camp, the mountains you see in the background are the ones we hiked to and partially up during the night (and slept in the valley there).

This is Justin talking with one of our drivers when we first arrived. I love this picture but why doesn't he have any footprints?? I do not know the answer...

And this is the view from the top of another mountain we hiked when we first arrived. The plateau on the top provided an amazing 360 degree view of the area, which was stunning and watching the transformation as the sun moved was quite the visual experience.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Happy Eid al Fitr!

Testing to see if I can get any pictures to upload yet because I have some phenomenal ones!

Round two at Wadi Rum...

I am in love with this place!