Sunday, January 05, 2014

Smelling the Wind

I began my day with a long mental list of things I needed/wanted to get done now that the festivities of the holidays had passed. Back to regularly scheduled life! But it was Dear Husband's day off, the weather was beautiful, and Active Son and Artist Son are still home from, it was a day to "shem 'al hawa", or get out and smell the wind. Only light activity was desired with Artist Son still recovering from the extraction of all four of his wisdom teeth, and so we decided to head to Dibeen pine forest, one of our favorite places to explore, walk a bit, sit on a rock in the sun.

The first thing we noticed when we entered the forest were broken tree branches, and even some trunks, covering much of the forest floor--snow damage from the big storm which hit Jordan in mid-December. Hearing many beautiful bird songs, we sat still and quiet (not easy for our crew)...

in hopes of spotting the birds. Many were high in the pine trees, hidden from our sight, but one large bird swooped by me. I got my lens up quickly, but all I manged to capture was the bird's silhouette (upper left corner). A kestral, maybe? Or a buzzard? Those were Dear Husband's guesses.

The Arbutus trees were adorned with their red "strawberries"...

Strawberry Tree
Arbutus andrachne

...and the oranges and yellows of this scrub oak provided a beautiful contrast to all the green.

Artist Son spotted the first cyclamen flower, sheltered in the cleft of a rock, and so the new wildflower spotting season officially began.

I spotted another delicate specimen a few meters on.

Cyclamen persicum

Perhaps because I am so used to scanning the roadsides for flora, I noticed this bright green chameleon as we drove away from the forest. Dear Husband obliged me when I asked him to turn the car around and go back! quick! as I thought I had spotted a big green lizard.

Active Son informed us that chameleons move slowly, which explains why this one did little more than shift his position on the rock while Tayta and I took his portrait. It was the largest and brightest chameleon I've seen in Jordan--about 9 inches/22 centimeters, not including its tail.

From Dibeen we headed home by way of Jerash, stopping to pick up a bag of fresh mu'ajanaat to snack on. The sabaanakh (spinach filled pastry) was
the best and our favorite 'shem 'al hawa' snack.

Just before we arrived in Mafraq, Dear Husband decided to pull  into the village of Rihab to see if we could find the ruins of what could be the oldest Christian church. In the world.  We found it easily as we were kindly directed up the street and to the right by the first man Dear Husband saw walking along the road. What wasn't so easy was getting in to see the ruins. Apparently the guard takes Saturday's off and so the entrance gate was locked. 

That was a problem for Tayta and I, but not for the males in our group, as they were encouraged by the gathering shabaab (male youth) and a few other men, to climb over the fence. So they did, and the shabaab went with them acting as impromptu tour guides. Tatya and I remained properly and appropriately in the car. I took a few pictures through the window, and Tayta handed off her camera to Active Son so as to get a few pictures of the ruins.

Poor Tatya, shut out from the archaeological adventure. (She does posed pitiful very well .)

Artist Son missed some of the sights because he was otherwise engaged with the shabab, explaining his swollen checks (wisdom teeth) and interacting as the shabab tried to convince him to convert to Islam; speaking of religion, God, and salvation with near strangers is politically correct in much of the Middle East!

Per our camera tour by Active Son, this is the door which leads into the church/cave located under the newer but still ancient church.

Believed to be the apse of the ancient cave sanctuary

This mosaic was found in the later church of St. George (above the cave) and reads "the 70 beloved by God and the divine", which has led some to believe that 70 early disciples of Jesus worshiped in the earlier cave, however other archaeologists feel that further authentication of the site is required.

Two of the men who assisted our guys were from the Syrian border city of Daraa' and have settled for now in Rihab instead of Mafraq as the war-inflated rents were significantly lower there. They offered warm Arab hospitality, inviting us all to their home for tea, but Dear Husband told them perhaps another day, and indeed, we hope to return someday soon when the entrance gate is open and Tayta and I can enter the site.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

What a wonderful day! Birds, wildflowers, ancient church history, and meeting "neighbors".