Wadi Rum

wadi ram

Turns out I stopped updating this for even longer than I thought. Oops. We started travelling on weekends more and I started spending my computer time avoiding homework instead of blogging. Alas.

wadi ram

We went to Wadi Rum about three weeks ago. It’s the largest valley in Jordan, and it’s often called the Valley of the Moon. You’ve probably seen it in movies.

wadi ram

It’s one of the most beautiful and by far the most remote place I’ve ever been.

sand dune climbing

We did a lot of climbing. Turns out climbing up sand dunes is really hot and really hard.

me wearing a kuffiyeh

After spending all that time out in the incredibly hot desert sun, I suddenly understood kuffiyehs completely.

Cooked underground

We stayed overnight at a Bedouin camp for tourists, where they made us food and played music. Apparently a traditional Bedouin method of cooking involves sticking all of the food in a hole in the ground and burying it.

Night sky at Wadi Ram

The night sky at Wadi Ram is gorgeous. You can see the milky way! There is nothing around, so no light pollution. They even turn off the power in the camp at night.

CAMELS

The next morning we left to go to Petra, but before we did, I rode a camel.

In other life news, the program is really really close to over. As in Thursday is the last day of classes and we all leave the country on Saturday. I’ve become somewhat disillusioned and demotivated as the program went on, but it was still definitely a worthwhile experience.

wadi ram

Our Jordanian dialect class, for example, was almost entirely worthless. This is a huge disappointment, because I was really looking to improve there.

Our MSA class is okay, but I feel like I’ve learned more from sheer hours spent in class than from the quality of the class, and we definitely didn’t do much work to improve our grammar or how we express our thoughts, especially in writing.

wadi ram

Media started okay, got really boring because our textbook was terrible, and then became much more fun when we talked the professor into abandoning the textbook. The new format became read an article, watch a video, and discuss it. Much better and much more interesting.

wadi ram

So that’s that. I leave Jordan Saturday for an undisclosed location and then I’m in Lebanon from the 16th to the 22nd. Wooooo!

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Aqaba

Aqaba

I sort of stopped updating this. Oops. Someday I might write a post about living with the Bedouins, maybe not. There are some silly pictures of me from that.

Jordanians at Sunset

But. This past weekend some of us went to Aqaba in southern Jordan. It’s Jordan’s only coastal city, and right at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea. It’s also touristy as hell.

Sunset

I attempted to go scuba diving for the first time ever, which was amazing while it lasted. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pop or repressurize my ears, so I could only make it down about 4 meters before it became unbearably painful.

Lounging at Sunset

We spent a lot of time relaxing on the beach, especially at sunset, which explains the pictures here. The mountains you see in the background everywhere are the Sinai in Egypt.

Me on the Beach at Aqaba

Look, it’s me on a beach looking happy!

On a completely unrelated note, we had our midterm exam and presentation last week, which went fine. That also means the program is half over, which is super weird.

My MSA classes have been pretty good and I feel like I’ve been making progress, but the dialect class has been disappointing. We have a wonderful professor, but the curriculum is slow, using a disorganized textbook in the Gaza dialect, and I’m learning very little new. I’m in the advanced dialect class, which means that most of us have studied some sort of dialect in the Arab world before. I’d like to think that we could be doing more than learning above, below, on, in, etc. by the fifth week. Argh.

Rocks on the Beach

Also, no trip would be complete without a picture of rocks.

This upcoming weekend I’m going with some people to the ruins at Petra and Wadi Ram. Expect more pictures of rocks.

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Graduation in Jordan

Jordanian Flag

I survived living with the Bedouins for a weekend, but more on that later.

Living within walking distance of The Jordanian University (or University of Jordan? Not really sure..) during graduations, I’ve noticed that Jordanians celebrate graduation differently than in the US.

As far as I can tell, there’s been a different graduation almost every night the past week. After each graduation, it seems that people celebrate by driving back and forth along the University Street while sitting on/out the windows, honking and blowing air horns and making traffic even worse. All night long.

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Jerash, Aljoun Castle, and Umm Qais

Columns and Stones at Jerash

Rocks! Ruins! Get excited.

As I mentioned, last Friday we went on a day trip to the ruins of Jerash, Aljoun Castle, and Umm Qais. Above, you can see some of the ruins at Jerash.

Gate at Jerash

Jerash is one of the larger cities of the ancient world, and was at various points occupied by both the the Greeks and Romans. Above is the South Gate.

Jerash

Here’s an overview of a small portion of the site. It’s both well preserved and restored, as much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in the eighth century. You can even pay to see chariot races in the hippodrome, although I did not.

Street in Jerash

A street running through the ancient city of Jerash.

Aljoun Castle

We next took the bus to Aljoun Castle — a massive Ayyubid fortress on Jabal Auf. The castle was built by the nephew of Saladin to protect the Jordan valley from Crusader attacks. Apparently the castle was still used by Ottoman forces until the 18th or 19th century.

Getting Pictures Taken at Aljoun Castle

I don’t typically like having my picture taken.

Looking out from Aljoun Castle

Just some Jordanians sitting on top of a castle.

Umm Qais

Umm Qais is another ancient Roman city full of Roman ruins.

Umm Qais

Like many other Roman ruins, there are lots of columns. A downside of organizing trips like this ourselves means that we have guide to actually tell us about things. :(

Umm Qais

According to Wikipedia, this is part of the ruins of a church.

Sunset at Umm Qais

We ate dinner at a restaurant at the top of the ruins at Umm Qais. From these hills you can see Syria, Israel, and the Golan Heights. The Sea of Galilee is on the left here, and at the top of the hills on the right is the Golan. It’s a really beautiful view. If had been brighter we might have even been able to see the mountains between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.

Tomorrow and Friday night I’ll be staying with a Bedouin family near Mafraq in Northern Jordan. That will be different, to say the least.

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Salt

Salt

Last week we visited Salt, one of the oldest cities in Jordan, and Jordan’s first capital.

Hills in Salt

Like everywhere else in Jordan, Salt is extremely hilly. We visited the Abu Jafar mansion, the ancestral home of one of Jordan’s most prominent families. It was nice, but apparently I didn’t take many pictures of it.

Salt

We wandered around Salt for a bit with some of the speaking partners. The group I was with ended up at a restaurant where I had muajanat for the first time. It’s a sort of pastry with various meats, vegetables, or cheeses. I liked it a lot.

That’s all I’ve got. Now that the program is in full swing, we get a lot of homework in our MSA class. For example, for today, I had to do four short presentations, read four short texts, one long one, and a few writing assignments. As a result, I’m really tired.

But! Last weekend we went on a terrific trip to Jerash, Aljoun Castle, and Umm Qais. I’ll blog about that soon. This weekend I have my homestay in Al-Mafraq, which should be interesting.

Also, everyone I speak Arabic with asks me if I studied in Syria or Lebanon, because apparently the dialect is distinct enough that mine can be instantly recognized as not Jordanian. Alas. I like the sounds of Lebanese better anyways. :)

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