8:44 pm


Whew.  I was really (as in REALLY) tired when we got back to the hotel this evening.  We had left at 7:30 am and returned at 6 pm.  And…it was a long day. Tons of driving.  Some surprises along the way – and well worth the exhausting.  Not that I thought so at 6 pm, but now is better.


We got up early and had a delicious breakfast (we can’t stay too long at this place or we won’t fit in those economy airline seats!).  We met Ruby in the lobby and got off right on time (what else with this group).  The sun had tinted the hills of the Judean desert a dusty pink all morning – and it wasn’t any different when we left.  Beautiful morning as our last day of touring.


We drove up the Jordan Valley today – on the Jordanian side, of course.  It was most interesting to see everything on the Israeli side from the east bank of the Jordan River.  And the various Jordanian villages as we made our way up north were fascinating as well.  I loved the drive.  And it got most interesting as we neared Bet Shean (on the Israeli side).


We took a right turn at about that time and headed uphill.  We didn’t stop, but we did drive near the current excavations of Pella.  I guess that is the city to which the Christians fled after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  I had no idea.  There were not too many ruins to actually see, but you could tell with some time and money, the dig could be extraordinary.  And the views?  Wow, nice view back down across the Jordan Valley.


View across the Jordan Valley from Gadera -- Sea of Galilee and Tiberius
View across the Jordan Valley from Gadera -- Sea of Galilee and Tiberius
We wound our way back down into the valley and then continued our jaunt north.  Then up again.  Only this time it was up for a very long way – and we never came back down.  And then we enjoyed the first surprise of the day – we could see the Sea of Galilee and Tiberius and Mt. Tabor and the Golan Heights.  Oh man….I was in heaven.  I thought I had bid farewell to those places, but we got a bird’s eye view from Jordan.


We soon arrived at Gadara.  It was a large site and we got off to take a tour – and enjoy the view.  There was a lovely theater and an octagonal Byzantine (or later) church.  It was interesting.  But then we went over to the lookout point.  I enjoyed that most (but I am prejudiced!).  It was completely clear – but not bad.  Just to have one last glimpse at the Sea of Galilee was amazing.  We could see that road we had snaked down when coming off from the Golan Heights.  It was beautiful – and a perspective I had never seen before.  What a treat!


Back onto the bus and on our way to Jerash.  It was a probably 90 minutes before we made it to Jerash, driving through the Jordanian high country.  It was beautiful.  We stopped at an olive oil “factory.”  It was just a little early in the season, but they were thrilled with our visit.  We saw all the equipment they use to clean and then smash the olives to make olive oil.  It was cleaner than anything we have seen in Jordan – and they even started up some of the machines so we could see them in action.


I guess they pick olives after the first rain – and there hasn’t’ been any rain yet.  But…the olives are falling already.  So the folks are in a bit of a dilemma.  Ruby says that means that olive oil will be expensive this year.


Baked bread
Baked bread
That was a quick (but interesting) stop.  We didn’t get to Jerash until almost 1:30.  So it was time for lunch before we visit the site.  Lunch was in the Artemis restaurant.  It was up on a hill overlooking the city.  And, the buffet was delicious.  The best part was that they bake their own flat bread.  Oh man, it was great.


After lunch we had a very short drive to the entrance of the tel at Jerash.  I must say that overwhelming is probably the best reaction to the site.  From everyone.  I had been there before and knew exactly what it was like.  And it is simply put, amazing.  It is Bet Shean on steroids.  It must be easily triple the size of that other Decapolis city.  This was actually our third Decapolis city to see today (Pella, Gadara, Jerash – and we had seen Bet Shean in Israel last week).


Jerash
Jerash
But you don’t see anything on the scale of Jerash – even in Rome.  It is called the “city of a thousand pillars.”  There are so many standing columns, that I wondered if it didn’t have even more than a thousand.  What a city!  Large public areas surrounded by colonnaded porches.  Three theaters (we only saw one).  Temples galore – we saw one to Artemis and one to Zeus (well, only Jon ran up to that one…and to the theater).  But the place is sprawling.  Quite impressive and a must-see stop for anyone in Jordan. 


But I was getting worn out.  Whew!


Back to the bus for a very interesting drive through downtown Amman, which was quite interesting on its own.  We drove by a small “village’ of Palestinian refugees that has almost 100,000 living in it – tightly cramped, plan cement two-story houses.  That was sad.  But Ammon itself is quite lovely.  Ruby got off the bus close to her home – and we came back out to our “home” on the Dead Sea.  We got back after the sun had set (a disappointment). 


Selfies are more fun
Selfies are more fun
Dinner was at 7.  It was amazing again. The Kafta (ground lamb) was delicious – as was the beef stroganoff (and the mashed potatoes).  Dessert was good too – the chocolate pudding seemed to win “best dessert” tonight.


Now we are all in our rooms.  Bags are out at 11.  We meet in the lobby at 11:30.  Our flight out of Jordan leaves around 3 am.  Why do airlines do that?  Our first leg is Lufthansa (United codeshare) – then United from Frankfurt to Newark and Newark to LAX.  I think we are all glad to be headed home.


But this has been an amazing two weeks together.  We have really enjoyed seeing just about every part of the land of Israel.  It’s been a wonderful overview. And…as a bonus, we’ve gotten along really well.  Great group.  Great tour.  Now…just beam me home.  If only.


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