NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 112

Even in its ruined state, the Roman Temple of Hercules, including the evocative, disembodied Hand of Hercules, commands the high ground in the city of Amman. 
Amman’s central hill, Jabal al-Qala’a or the Citadel, was among the earliest parts of the city to be settled, with archaeological evidence of habitation going back to the Neolithic period. A list of occupiers includes many of the usual suspects, as well as a few relatively small, regional powers – Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, biblical Ammonites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and the early Islamic Umayyad and Ayyubid dynasties. The Umayyad Palace is another prominent historical remnant on the Citadel.

 

Can you name that county? 
See below for answers.

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Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

At around 120 square miles, the Dana Biosphere Reserve is the largest nature reserve in Jordan. It’s located just off the King’s Highway (or the Dead Sea-Aqaba Highway, depending on where you enter) between the Dead Sea and Petra.

On the eastern edge, the 15th-century village of Dana commands the reserve’s high point at almost 5000 feet. The low point is more than 160 ft below sea level, at Wadi Araba.

Dana Village

Dana Village

The reserve is cut through with deep sheltered canyons and trails for all levels of hikers. The convergence of 4 biogeographical zones means a range of environments, from lush highlands and scrubby slopes to parched wadi beds, supporting a rich biodiversity, with some 800 plant and 450 animal species endemic to Europe, Asia and Africa.

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

In its management of the reserve, the NGO Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) strives to balance environmental conservation with the economic needs of the local Bedouin tribes. In 2005, the RSCN built the Feynan Ecolodge in Feynan Wadi, where copper mining had been the main industry for over 3 thousand years.
The remaining copper is deep and would require environmentally devastating blasting to reach. The lodge, and tourism in general, provides a sustainable economic alternative to copper mining.

Rummana campground, Dana Biosphere Reserve

Rummana campground, Dana Biosphere Reserve

The Rummana campground at the other end of the reserve near Dana Village offers tent camping with jaw-dropping views.

 

 

 

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 111

The cultural hub of one of our mystery country’s most famous cities is pictured above. Jemaa el Fna square is known for its manic atmosphere, especially after the sun sets. Locals and visitors come here to see traditional musicians, dancers and story tellers and enjoy fresh squeezed juice and a hot meal from the many food stalls.

Can you name that county? 
See below for answers.

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Faster, Higher, Stronger in Ancient Olympia

the ancient stadium at Olympia, Greece

the ancient stadium at Olympia, Greece

As we enter week two of our 2016 Olympic Games, here’s a piece about the original Olympic Games and their home, Olympia, Greece.

The ancient games began in 776 BCE and went on every four years until they were banned as a pagan festival by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius in 393 CE.

The Olympian Games was one of four Panhellenic festivals held every two or four years, scheduled to alternate so that at least one or another happened each year. Besides the Olympian Games, there were the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games and the Ithsmian Games. They were all primarily religious festivals, with the Olympic Games dedicated to Zeus. They were also designed to promote friendly interaction between sometimes combatant city states. The main political entity of Ancient Greece was the city-state and conflict over resources was constant. More than competition, the games brought everyday rivals together to celebrate those things they had in common, namely religion and the great honor of being Greek.

Only free Greek men were allowed to compete in the games. Women could not compete and could only watch the games if they were unmarried. One source I read explained that the ban on married women was due to the nakedness of the athletes and, while I think that’s only speculative, there is logic to it. Whatever the reason for the ban, it was on penalty of death. It’s true that the athletes competed in the nude, which seems dangerous to me, and not very aerodynamic. Nevertheless, Ancient Greeks celebrated the fit male form and regularly put it on display. They generally exercised in the nude and had naked drinking parties called symposia.

Originally the games only lasted one day but over the years grew to five days, part of that time taken up by religious rituals. The competitive events included running, jumping, discus throwing, javelin throwing, wrestling, boxing, horse racing and chariot racing. Winners received an olive branch and red ribbons after their event and an olive wreath crown at the closing ceremony. More prizes awaited from their home towns, where they were treated as local heroes.

The site of the ancient Olympian Games was the sanctuary of Olympia on the western Peloponnese peninsula. The setting is idyllic in a lush river valley, with rolling green hills all around. The temples of Zeus and Hera were the main religious attractions. They were accompanied by treasuries and administrative buildings. A colossal ivory and gold statue of Zeus stood in his temple and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The main structures for athletic events were a stadium and a hippodrome for the horse and chariot races. Today, the site consists of a lot of foundations and broken columns. The most complete remains are the partially reconstructed Temple of Hera and the Philippeion, built to honor a battle victory by Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great). It’s an exceptionally lovely place, do visit if you have the chance.

Olympia is about 4 hours from Athens but is best seen on a several-days tour of the Peloponnese.

Click to see tours that include Olympia on our web site.