Before leaving Israel, we visited an archaeological site many visitors miss - a Roman town with some of the best preserved ruins in the region.
Excavations have found no less than eighteen successive ancient towns at this location, although the Roman and Byzantine remains are the best preserved.
Model of Beit She'an during the Roman era. The Theater (in the center) has been partially restored.
In the foreground are shops and workshops, with The Cardo (main street) on the right. In the background is the Tell, the man-made hill which contains the ruins of all the towns built before the Romans arrived.
The reconstructed Cardo, or main street, paved with basalt slabs.
The bathhouse, with typical Roman underfloor heating
The Roman toilets (on the right) seemed to fascinate most visitors. Apparently privacy wasn't such a big deal in those days.
The reconstructed Roman theater from the 2nd century
The remains of a Roman Temple which fell in an earthquake in 749 CE
Jordan (May 5 - May 9)
We finally crossed the Jordanian border from Israel, - not without some problems with our bus, which wasn't allowed to cross, but we made it. Now we met up with the team which would stay with us throughout our time in Jordan.
Our security guard, driver, Jordanian Tour Guide (Zuhair) and Israeli Tour Guide (Jonathan)
(I apologize to our Security Guard and Driver whose names I do not recall. In Jordan all groups over 10 people are required to have a Security Guard with them at all times and although we never felt threatened in any way, it made passing through security points much easier).
Our first stop on arriving in Jordan was Jerash widely held to be the best preserved Roman provincial city in the Middle-East - if not the world. Founded by the soldiers of Alexander the Great during the 4th century BC this prominent Greco-Roman city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 CE.
(The sign says "Jarash" not "Jerash" but Jerash seems to be common spelling)
Entrance to The Hippodrome
The Cardo (Main StreeS
The Cardo with the Temple of Zeus in the background
Temple of Zeus built in 162 CE over the remains of an earlier Roman temple
Our first stop was The Citadel, which dominates the city of Amman.
Amman from The Citadel
Amman's Roman Theater is a 6,000-seat, 2nd-century Roman theate
A famous landmark in the Jordanian capital, it dates back to the Roman period when the city was known as Philadelphia.
Just below the Temple of Hercules
The Umayyad Palace built in the first half of the 8th century
The Palace is now largely ruined. What remains is the restored domed entrance chamber, known as "the kiosk"
From the Citadel, we went to the King Abdullah Mosque, which was built in 1989 by King Hussein as a memorial to his grandfather. It can hold up to 7,000 worshipers with 3,000 more in the courtyard.
Before going inside, the women had to cover themselves. The men just wore long pants
Kris ready for her tour of the mosque
Once inside, our guide, Zuhair, gave us an introduction to the history and philosophy of Islam, together with some local history concerning Jordan and the Royal Family.
The ladies in the group couldn't resist the opportunity to take a group photograph in their Muslim approved attire
The female members of our group, correctly attired in their abeyyas
After leaving Amman, we drove to Mount Nebo, which according to tradition is where Moses saw the promised land and is where he is buried. On a clear day it is possible to see Jerusalem.
A Byzantine church and monastery from the 4th century CE were discovered at the summit in 1933. A modern chapel protects the remains and allows for worship space.
Exterior of the modern chapel
Interior of the chapel. Ancient mosaics are displayed on the walls and floors
A hunting scene with detail from the larger mosaic
A serpentine cross sculpture (the Brazen Serpent Monument) was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni.
It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness
Sculpture to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul in the year 2000
Of course, lunch was an important stop every day. Here some of the group tackle their salads
Lunch is served. All this sightseeing makes you hungry !
Next stop was St. George's Church in Madaba. The church is famous because it contains a mosaic map of Palestine from the mid 6th century.
The Madaba Map
Sadly the map has not been well maintained until recently and parts of it are missing. However, it is important because it is the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem.
The mosaic clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Zion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the New Church of the Theotokos, the Tower of David and the Cardo Maximus.
The final stop was to view a Crusader Castle, Kerak Castle. We only had time to see it from a distance, but it was quite impressive nonetheless.
Kerak Castle. Construction started in the 1140's