Thursday, March 24, 2016

#beautifuljordan #springtimeinjordan

I think I can say that I've never experienced a more beautiful spring day in Jordan than I did last week--and I've enjoyed some very fine spring days in Jordan over the years. It was Dear Husband's birthday week and so on his day off we decided to drive around the countryside of northern Jordan, drop down into the Jordan Valley, near Pella, and then drive up to Amman  to end the day with dinner and a movie--our second movie in the last two months. Are we empty-nesters or what?! We used to see a movie about once every three years, and we weren't alone.

Preparation for the trip was easy: I made a chicken quinoa salad, a thermos of tea, and grabbed my phone (I've been taking all my pictures on an LG G4 these days).

As we drove along the Mafraq-Jerash road I spotted a lone black iris on my right, so Dear Husband stopped the car. I had never seen any black irises in this particular area, though I always scan the hill sides every spring as I drive his road. Additionally, it was nearly a month earlier than I usually see black irises. All around, unexpected.

I excitedly photographed that lone iris. A black iris sighting is always special. But then I looked around me and begin to see more: twos and threes, and clumps of black irises. We may have seen 30 or more, many more than I have ever seen in one location. You may have laughed at me if you had seen how exuberant I was about this flora find.

And this clump, later found blooming just a few meters from the road. How did I miss them?

With that great flora encouragement to begin our journey, we cut across the Jerash highway and headed up a country road in the direction of Ajloun, winding through charming villages and driving along roads which overlooked terraced valleys.

I love the varied texture and colors of the landscapes: red soil, tan soil, stone walls, green grass in the springtime, and always, olive trees.

We decided to enjoy our picnic lunch in the Forest of Healing, near Ajloun. Dear Husband found a lovely spot near these red-barked Arbutus trees, which are indigenous to the region.

God's teeny tiny rock garden. So lovely to find beauty in small, unexpected places.

Something in the Umbel family of plants

And more breathtakingly beautiful wadis (valleys) which were a feast for the eyes--another scene of grandeur around nearly every bend.

When I saw the yellow hillsides, I knew that we must be just in time to see Jordan's crown daisies burst into bloom.

Down the hill...

...and around the next bend. Are we really in Jordan? Why hasn't anyone opened up a bed and breakfast up here??

Echium catching some rays

And then we saw a old metal sign with the words "Jesus Cave" painted on it, pointing down this road. At this point we had made so many stops, we were getting behind schedule if we still wanted to make dinner and a movie. We agreed that seeing the Jesus Cave might just be better than a dinner out and so we turned down the road.

No tree looks deader in winter than a wild fig tree, its knarled and twisted branches drooping down toward the ground, and no tree looks more alive in the spring than a wild fig tree, with its new green leaves reaching up toward the sun.

Here we have arrived at the Jesus Cave, or a better translation, The Cave of the Messiah. The legend goes that Jesus took shelter in this cave. Maybe. The cave was used as a wine and olive oil press in the Byzantine era, and the oil press has been restored inside the cave.

The area for grape stomping 

The oil press, inside the cave

The kitchen area

Dear Husband signing the guestbook. What a wonderful detour!

The opportunity for a restaurant dinner had surely slipped away as we still need to descend into the Jordan Valley and then ascend to Amman. We did end up getting dinner as the movie theatre had surprisingly fresh offers of Greek salad (for me) and a chicken salad sandwich for Dear Husband.

The movie with which we ended our day of touring: "Theeb", the acclaimed Jordanian film, filmed in Wadi Rum, which earned an Oscar nomination, just one of it's many awards. Though it was released last year, we hadn't managed to see it then, so we were thankful for its re-release after its Oscar nomination. Active Son recommended it: "Very good. Kind of like Lawrence of Arabia, but better--and shorter." We agreed. and we discussed the subtleties of Bedouin culture as portrayed in the movie, most of the way home.

Such a wonderful Jordan day.


Holly Newman said...

I thought of you as I photographed black irises in the Galilee last week, so much beauty!

Angie Schupp said...

Melissa, these photos are so beautiful! I always loved Jordan's Spring. Thank you for sharing these photos and reflections!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, lovely trip! Maybe you should open up a B&B!!/ S Susan