A network of small castles extend eastward along ancient trade routes from Amman, the capital city of our mystery country. They are important examples of early Islamic architecture, built in 7th and 8th centuries by Umayyad caliphs. Although they are collectively referred to as castles, they include forts, towers, baths and caravanserai. Built in the early Islamic period, when figurative art was common, some of the castles shelter lovely frescos of dancing-girls, hunting parties, assembled rulers and cavorting animals. Later, depictions of humans and animals was discouraged in Islamic art. Qasr Kharana, about 40 miles east of Amman.
In the north of our mystery country, the Greco-Roman Decapolis city of Pella was built on a site that had already been inhabited for thousands of years. (Hellenistic Greeks named the city after the Macedonian birthplace of Alexander the Great.) Archaeologists have discovered a substantial fortification wall from the early Bronze Age and a Canaanite temple, as well as remains from Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods; and there’s still a great deal to be excavated. Pella does not attract as many visitors as the better known and more flashy Decapolis city of Jerash, but most who do visit are impressed by its subtle, evocative quality and beautiful setting.
the Dead Sea forms part of the border between Israel and Jordan
The Dead Sea is almost 1400 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth. There is no outlet for the water, which flows into the Dead Sea, technically a lake, from the Sea of Galilee (also technically a lake) via the Jordan River. Water leaves the Dead Sea only by evaporation, leaving minerals behind in high concentration. Because of the extremely low elevation, the barometric pressure is higher than anywhere else on earth, there’s a greater concentration of oxygen in the air, greater filtration of ultraviolet sun rays, and the air is practically free of pollen and other allergens.
The Dead Sea has been known for its healing properties for thousands of years, and even today, the unique climactic and mineral properties are used in therapies for conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis and cystic fibrosis. Continue reading →
The Street of Facades is a main thoroughfare in the most famous tourist destination of our mystery country. Rock-cut tombs of some of the rich and powerful of this ancient Nabatean city line the section of the street pictured, with more modest tombs further down the way. In this sprawling site, beyond the Street of Facades, are temples, theaters and more tombs, some even more grandiose than those pictured.