Saturday, February 18, 2012

Trip to Jordan

Last December I traveled to Amman, Jordan for another volunteer medical mission with Operation Smile to repair cleft lips and cleft palates in children.  My first trip to the Middle East, I was a bit apprehensive, but found the Jordanian people most hospitable and friendly.  It seems Jordan is somewhat a sea of tranquility surrounded by areas which might be "iffy" for a traveler (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel).    The local Amman Operation Smile people were very organized for this great endeavor and we handled days of patient screening over 500 people with relative ease.  The surgical days were long, but the hospital operating room was air conditioned and modern.  We even operated on some Palestinian children refugees.  I think we operated on about 140 kids.

    At the hotel for the 50 operation smile volunteers (mostly Jordanian)  there were many guys that made me think I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of a rifle with them.  It turned out these many guys were Libyan rebel fighters who were in Jordan for medical care from injuries suffered during their revolution against Gadhafi which ended 20 Oct 2011, just six weeks before I saw them.  The guys were constantly viewing war scenes on their laptops in the lobby.  I got up the nerve to try to talk to them, and the smiles flashed and despite limited English we spent an hour each evening talking.  I never know what or who I'm going to discover on my trips.  They asked me to tell people to come to beautiful Libya for a vacation, but wait a few months so it could be fixed up.
Donna with the Libyans
After the operations I stayed several extra days to see the country.  The most amazing place to see is Petra, several hours to the south of Amman.  I hiked all over the ancient land of gigantic "buildings" carved out of the limestone walls of the surrounding mountains.  This is where Harrison Ford found the "holy grail" in the movie "Indiana Jones - The Last Crusade"  Not Pharoah's treasury, it was probably a 3rd century BC  royal Nebatian tomb.
Donna and friends at the "Treasury" in Petra, Jordan
One day I stayed in Amman and visited a big Mosque, a Roman ruins on a hill and a big amphitheater.  I braved the experience of getting a taxi -- with one taxi I had to grab the "Tourist Police" to complain about the high fare he wanted to charge me. 
a small portion of the Roman ruins at Jerash
I went to the far north to the Syrian border to see the Roman ruins of Umm Qais, and the valleys through the olive orchards to Crusader defense castles of Saladin, the Kurdish warrior of the 1100's.  Most surprising was the Roman city of Jerash, which has so many ruins I think it outshines those of Rome.   Interesting to be so close to Israel, Syria and even could see a snow capped mountain of Lebanon in the distance. 
   At Umm Qais - Israel on the left, Syria (Golan Heights) on the right and Lebanon beyond the Sea of Galilee

 One day I went with friends to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptised, then south to get out into the Dead Sea and float in the sun.  We had a good time, and the water was clean looking, but very, very salty. 

On other days I contracted with a driver and visited the "Desert Castles" of eastern Jordan.  Travelers' inns possibly dating from the 8th century.  I visited the dry oasis of Azraq, site of  the fort or castle where T.E. Lawrence of "Lawrence of Arabia" stayed during the Arab Revolution at the time of WWI.

And finally one of my most interesting acquaintances was Hakim, a Bedouin, who offers tea to travelers at his Bedouin tent next to one of the Desert Castles at Qusayr 'Amra.  I almost went off with him on a camel to see the ancient olive trees at the dry river bed!
Hakim and Donna

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