Monday, 17 January 2011

2011: International year of forests? Sadly not in Jordan?

The United Nation has declared 2011 the International year of forests.

North of Amman is Ajloun Forest, home to more than 100 plant species, animals and birds. A deforestation program has just started in a part of the forest in order to built a military academy. I wonder how much clear land there is in Jordan? What is the need to actually destroy the forest so that we can get some more clear land? Well apparently there is 1% of forested land in Jordan.

In one of the most water deprived countries of the world, I think it is nothing less than a scandal.

A petition is currently being circulated on the net, to be presented tomorrow to parliament - you can show your support and sign it here. This is also a link to much more information about this case.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Visit to Umm Ar-Rasas

I have been quiet this last month but it doesn't mean that I haven't been doing stuff. Still so much to see in Jordan. I started off the new year with a visit to Umm Ar-Rasas (also known as Um Er-Rasas, Kastrom Mefa'a). The site is located 30 kilometres south-east of Madaba and it makes it a perfect afternoon trip from Amman. We had lunch at Haret Jdoudna in Madaba and then continued to Umm Ar-Rasas. I wrote about that restaurant a year ago, after our first visit to Madaba, and their website was under construction... well it still is! But the food is still great, their hummus is yummy, my favourite is their lamb sausages in a tomato sauce, delicious.

Umm Ar-Rasas has been a world heritage site since 2004 - it started as a Roman garnisson, became a town in the 5th century. Most of the site has not (yet?) been excavated - the highlight is definitely one of the 16 discovered churches: Saint Stephens Church (AD 785) with its very well preserved mosaics.

St Stephens Church
It is easy to see that it was a big church, with several chapels. As I said the mosaics are very well preserved: the ones on the right underneath show the cities of the region (Palestine, Jordan or Egypt) written in Greek script.

In the top right corner, you can see an Icon, the only one there I believe

This section shows: Kastrom Mefa'a, Philadelphia (Amman) and Madaba.

Underneath a couple of pictures from the Church of the Lions - called so because of the mosaics found. It is not possible to see the mosaics as they are covered by plastic and sand for protection. I can only guess that this is a temporary solution until a more suitable one is found.

Like all sites in Jordan, there wasn't much information available, so do some research before you go if you want to enjoy it fully. There is a visitor centre but apart from the tourist police, everything was closed. We didn't pay an entrance fee, but had the pleasure of a escort by one of the police officers, who didn't speak much English, we still gave him a tip at the end of the tour. If you have a stroller it is possible to walk around with it on the major track. 

Some more pictures...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

One year in Amman!

Waow!, as Bibs would say. One year already, time has just disappeared. A year ago, we were packing the last pieces of luggage and preparing our flight to an unknown country.

I took a little bit of time to get used to this new and a bit strange city, learning to drive around - can't say without getting lost because it still happens - finding an apartment and settling in. But then one day I woke up, only to realise that I actually thought about Amman as "home" - as much as London, Geneva or Paris before.

After a year what are the things that I like about being in Amman? no doubt I like being here...

1. number 1 has to go to the British club - not because I am a member or go their often - but because it is through the British Club that I have met my friends and Bibs' hers.

2. the weather - ok not the best this evening, looks like it's going to rain (but we need it desperately) or maybe there is a sandstorm on the way - but let's be honest, I don't have much to complain about on the weather side - love the sun.

3. the kindness of the Jordanian people - ok some are a bit piss-takers - excuse my French, but others are really helpful and nice.

4. the things you only do/have as an expat: massage at home, for example, or having a (more or less full time) housekeeper, or our apartment building's harris.

5. the historical / biblical sites to visit in Jordan - there is always, something, somewhere to visit (not only Petra or Jerash).

6. ice cream at Gerard's (am writing a post about those ice creams!).

7. hearing small birdies as I wake up in the morning, not something you would have in a large city in Europe.

8. walking around in Sweifieh - I just love that area - all the small shops, my favorite sharwama, Juicebangbang, the only bubble-tea tea-house in Amman and of course Istiklal (stationary and toy shop).

9. local fruit and veg, that costs absolutely nothing (as opposed to imported papaya for example @ JD10 the kilo!!).

10. last, but certainly not the least important, I can stay at home with my gorgeous Bibs and watch her grow every day.

Not everything is perfect when you live in Amman:
- Absolute rip off when you go to Mothercare or ELC and buy something imported
- The fact that you can never be sure you can get something in the supermarket: it is not because there has been a produce for weeks that it will be there today... like Tropicana fresh juice or my usual yogurt...
- probably what disturbs me the most: this is a man's world and sometimes you can feel looled down at as a woman.
- ha nearly forgot, traffic on Thursday afternoon - horrid.

But hey, no world is perfect - and Amman is a nice city to live in. Happy we are here for another year - so many things to still to discover.

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