Sunday, January 25, 2015

Um Qais Revisited

Some places call me back again and again, places whose beauty is ancient, familiar and at the same time always renewing itself. Um Qais, the ancient decapolis city of Gadara is one of those places. Our family has explored the site as a tourist would, such as during our first visit in 1992, but we've returned again and again, with no other purpose than to be in the place together as a family, soaking up it's beauty, letting it nourish our imaginations.

As we traveled to spend the day in the ruins of Um Qais last Sunday, I reminisced about previous visits: Oldest Daughter was two years old when we first visited Um Qais, and I carried Active Son in a bright red baby carrier. A snapshot from the day shows shows Oldest Daughter sitting on a carved basalt rock as if a princess on her throne. This was the beginning of our children growing up with ancient ruins and and rock piles as their playgrounds. 

The Cardo

Shortly after Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, the militarized area just beyond the ruins was opened to the public--though one must still leave one's identification card at the military checkpoint when entering this area. We visited the "Saha"(open area) on a hilltop where there are lookout towers, like this one, and a helicopter pad.


A local friend told us that the late King Hussein and the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yizhak Rabin would rendezvous in this place. 

From the hilltop one can look west to Lake Tiberius/Sea of Galilee (it was hazy so the sea is not clear in this picture)

and north to Syria, immediately beyond  the banks of the Yarmouk river.

Today one can also hear the mortar shells exploding just beyond the border.

Banks of the Yarmouk river, Jordan/Syrian border

Dirt roads winding down into the Jordan Valley toward the Sea of Galilee bring to life the story of Jesus casting the demons out of the Gadarene (man from Gadara) into a herd of swine, which Luke tells us, rushed down the steep bank and cast themselves into the sea.

This Saha is also the place were I first discovered the riotous variety of Jordanian flora: as a closed military zone, the flora was left undisturbed. When visiting in 1994 we waded through a field of wildflowers up to our waists. I'd never seen anything like it, even in the Alps of Swizerland. The same area is now grazed and/or cultivated.

Back at the ruins, we basked in the sun which had not long ago melted snow. I love living in a country where it can be winter and spring all at the same time. My eyes feasted on the bright green of newly sprouted foliage...

,,,and the soft grey green of olive trees and fig trees yet winter bare.

Artist Son, who is in the midst of an  illustration project, made reference sketches .

Dear Husband could be found where there were signs of excavation.

He found a little Roman glass along the way.

I went searching for the first signs of a new wildflower season. It has begun! I spotted my first anemone...

...and my first asphodel of the season.

Beauty in the olive groves

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