Out with the Old and in with the New

The castle of Ajloun

Hello PSCI students!

Much history has taken place in these past two weeks here in Amman and else where in the Middle East.  I got to experience quite a bit of archaeological history in Ajloun and Jerash as well as witness history taking place as Ghadafi’s regime fell and Syrians and Jordanians took to the streets to celebrate.

Walking through passageways in the castle
Some of my classmates at Ajloun








Relaxing on ancient castle walls in Ajloun

Alright, on Friday morning we headed out to a 12th century castle located in North Amman called Ajloun.The Castle is located on the site of an old monastery. It controlled trade routes between Damascus and Egypt. It is also the furthest point the Crusaders made it to. What remains of the castle is fairly small but was beautifully structured. When we reached the roof of the castle the view was breathtaking; from the roof we could see the borders of Syria, Israel, and Iraq. It was only a quick,  30 minute tour an incredible experience to take in the history, amazing sites and beautiful scenery surrounding the castle.

That's Syria in the distance behind us!
Jerash.... isn't it beautiful!?

Following Ajloun we headed out to Jerash.  Jerash is a large ancient city also located in North Amman and borders Syria. It was filled with temples and other remains from the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa. We walked down long aisles lined with pillars, sat on sculptures that were designed for slaughtering animals and even saw the coffin of a former colonel of the city. The best part was heading back and viewing an auditorium that holds about 5,000 people. We climbed all the way to the top up very narrow and small walk ways. At the center of the auditorium on the ground floor there were “whisper spots” built into the walls. Holes about a foot wide and six inches deep were carved into

Pilars at Jerash

the walls and if you whispered or spoke into one of these, anyone standing by another hole would be able to hear you. We ended the trip with a little souvenir shopping; I bought quite a few items and got a 5 JD (about USN $7!) discount because I was an Arab-American, so I was content with my purchases. It was a long day and we managed to tour then entire place in two and half hours but I would definitely recommend taking a full day to discover and explore the archaeological site.

The entrance to Jerash
An ancient ampitheatre in Jerash
Some of my classmates walking up the stairs into the ancient city
Having a little fun in the ruins

The first week was filled with learning and viewing past history but the following week I got to witness history happen… Ghadafi was captured and killed on Thursday and as soon as news was received here in Amman I saw people take to the streets. The people gathered in a very organized manner and many of them were waving both Syrian and Jordanian flags. I could not make out what they were saying since unfortunately I was driving past them but I could make out the name Ghadafi followed by “down with Assad,” or something along those lines.  I wasn’t lucky enough to have a camera on me at the time thus I was unable to take awesome photos. Footage of Ghadafi’s death was completely uncensored and everything was aired on Arab television. I wonder if these graphic videos were aired or reported on in US media?

Not only did Libya receive liberating news but Jordan experienced it’s own small revolution due to peaceful protests that take place in downtown Amman. The government was dissolved last week due to lack of reform actually taking place. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet members were forced to resign, many due to a new constitutional amendment which states that people with dual-citizenship cannot hold office. Many of the Cabinet members had dual citizenship and were therefore removed from office. 7 new Ministers were brought in to replace them. What do you all know about politics in Jordan? Has any of this made it to U.S. news? And, how does this compare to the U.S.? Can a person with dual-citizenship hold a government job?

Till next time…

Salam :)

29 thoughts

  1. Hello Salam,
    Fascinating stuff going on over there! We have had a good bit of coverage on Gadhafi’s death and most news outlets are talking about finding out if he was killed in combat or assassinated, though it seems like more of an assassination now. There has been a clip circulating that shows him alive but injured, and it is very choppy and hard to see what’s going on. I have seen nothing in the news about Jordan yet, but I also have not been able to follow international news as much as I’d like to so I may not be the best authority on that. Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to your question regarding dual-citizenship. Amazing how much change came from peaceful protests there! How inspiring! Is there any talk over there about the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread globally? Do Jordanians know about it and if so what do they think of it?
    Thank you for the intriguing posts!
    Joelle Mestemacher

  2. Hello Salam!
    It is so interesting to read about your time in Jordan. It is awesome that you have been able to witness such amazing history like the archaeological sites and castle remains, and that you are able to be in the heart of the present day news, especially because what is happening in the Middle East is so prevalent in the US right now. I know that people here definitely see Gadhafi’s death as a relief but it must be so cool for you to witness the people’s reactions directly in Jordan. I can see why you are wanting to compare how the news about the issue is portrayed in Jordan vs. how it is portrayed here. I can’t give you answers about that because unfortunately I haven’t followed the news too much, however, I found it interesting that they showed graphic images on the news in Jordan because that type of thing is usually censored in the US. Continue enjoying your trip!

  3. Hi Salam,

    It looks like you are seeing some spectacular sites. I’ve had an opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe and see some ancient castles and churches, it is breath taking to be surrounded by so much history..Keep enjoying yourself!

    The news of Gadhafi’s death was big news here! There was footage of him hurt as another post stated but I don’t know if it was completely uncensored. If it wasn’t on the news, I am sure it wouldn’t be difficult to with a little web surfing to find the footage. It was an extremely big story and event but I feel that it has already passed popularity wise, with the Wal-Street protests continuing and catching on across the nation, and the earthquake in Turkey, media attention has switched to these events.

    Interesting questions about the dual-citizenship.. Now I am curious too because I am also a dual-citizen. I haven’t heard anything about the political situation in Jordan..Maybe soon?

    Take care,
    Michelle Svoboda

  4. Hi Salam!

    That was quite good timing that you got to be in the middle east as that tyrant Ghadafi was “captured by rebels” i.e. hit by predator drone missile. We as citizens of the American empire are so happy that the puppet is gone and his oil now in control of the West (oh and Libyans have freedom and all that) Isn’t it amazing that it took nearly a decade, countless American lives, millions of dead and strayed Iraqi refugees, a scarred American political image and weakened national defense to finally get Saddam Hussein, and yet took merely months, and no American lives to get Ghadafi! The American empire is getting so darn good at toppling dictators we put in place and furthering our imperialist agenda!! Things are going well here in the American empire, we have a populist uprising sprouting all over the country, they are calling it the American Autumn (in reference to the Arab spring). Its actually quite fascinating to see American marines in the faces of NYPD screaming at them that it does make them tough to beat people unarmed.

    It doesn’t look like Jordan will fall into chaos and revolt like it’s neighbors but if it does I encourage you to take to the streets and see what its all about. Watch out for men on camels charging through the crowd with golf clubs though, I heard they showed up at the Egypt protests and really got the party started. Anyways, I don’t know how close you are to Mt. Rum, but you should go see it. And your comments on the crusaders and trading routes were interesting, post more of that.

    Kyle Sorensen <—-give him 5 points Professor!

  5. The ancient city looks incredible… and the breathtaking views of Syria, Israel and Iraq – wow.. talk about being at the crossroads of history and present day current events. It must be an amazing feeling and it really seems like you are getting out to really see it all for yourself. I found ‘The Jordan Times’ online and it looks like a good source of regional information. To be there with all that is going on in the Middle East you will get a real sense of the issues. Enjoy it all. Thanks for giving us a look into this interesting country.
    Pam Ives

  6. Hi Salam,
    The removal from office of the cabinet members has not made it to the major news outlets here. I think it is very interesting that they actually amended the constitution to prohibit anyone of dual-citizenship to hold office. I don’t think we have any laws similar to those here which I think is probably a good thing because the United States is such a diverse country. I can definitely understand not being able to run for the presidency in the U.S., but simply holding a position in government should be allowed because of all the checks and balances we have anyways. I don’t know very much about Jordan, is it diverse?
    Mireya Tinoco

  7. Hey Salam,
    It seems that your learning alot of history through all of these tours. The news media has defintely covered the fall of Ghadafi and on some news channels they did show pretty graphic images of people dragging his body through the streets. The fall of such a dictator is long over due. I can’t even imagine the enjoyment that these people have, knowing that they don’t have to live in fear any longer and a democracy is soon to come.

  8. Hello,
    The pictures that you posted of all the places that you explored looked amazing. That is so interesting how much you can see when you were at the top with the amazing view. That is awesome that you get to go see such old places and learn so much history about where you are visiting. I do not know much politics about where you are at it must have been so interesting to see all those people walking around cheering. You definitely do not get to see that everyday. Thanks for all the interesting information about your travels.

  9. Hello Salam,

    What a perfect time in history for you to be in Jordan!

    Jerash and Ajloun are indeed breath-taking. Thank you for the pictures!

    Ghadafi’s death has been celebrated in the United States. Like many who have posted, we were seeing images of Ghadafi injured and taken by rebels.
    Now that a few weeks have gone by, I was wondering how people are adjusting? Are there any noticeable changes you have come across? What are they trying to do know?

  10. Hi Salam,

    You are so fortunate to be witnessing history first-hand! This is an opportunity of a life-time for you. I love all the pictures you include in your blog. Are you at all homesick yet? Is there anything you most miss about America? Where are your ancestors originally from out of curiosity? I do not think a person with dual citizenship can hold a government of jobs unless that person has lived there for “x” amount of years consecutively. I look forward to your next blog.


  11. Hi Salam!
    The archeology is so beautiful, despite it being so ancient. They just don’t make things like they used to ;) Isn’t it amazing that these artifacts and buildings have withstood the test of time? I just wanted to ask and make sure: Is everything safe out there for your right now with all of the poltiical issues regarding Gaddafi? I hope so!

  12. Hi Salam!
    It’s great to see how much you’re experiencing over there! It must have been so awesome to have actually witnessed the fall of Ghadafi’s regime. I saw a few clips of Ghadafi injured but I’m not sure if they were uncensored or not. It’s too bad you didn’t have your camera on you—I think everyone would have loved to see pictures! But it’s definitely no surprise that Americans celebrated the fall of his regime as well. On another note, I love seeing the pictures you’ve posted. The buildings and structures are so beautiful. I actually don’t know much about politics in Jordan—since the PM and his cabinet members were forced to resign, what exactly is going to happen now?
    Judy Chan

  13. Hi salam,
    The pictures are amazing, the views of Palestine, Syria and Iraq are pretty. It’s cool to be able to get discounts for being an Arab American haha special treatment ;)
    The media here has enough coverage of what happened with Qadhafi but nothing about Jordan, at least I have seen nothing yet. I think the dual citizenship and government positions is maybe similar to the fact that to become an American president you must be born in America..it’s more of a loyalty issue and I think it’s for the best!
    Have a great time, and I would love to see pictures of future protests if you witness any in Amman! :)
    Farah Rassas

  14. Hello Salam,

    Wow…the pictures you put up are incredible! It’s nice to see that you’re viewing all the ancient artifacts and all the archaelogical for once. At a first look, Jerash looked very empty but it is something I would see from a movie or film, I loved it. I’m very curious to see the auditorium that holds 5,000+ people that’s crazy! I am jealous that you are learning all this ancient history up close as opposed to in class, way better. And to answer your question about the politics in Jordan..I was not aware of this until you brought it up. How intense is it there with all that media going on? Safe travels and see you on your next blog!

    Derek Mateo

  15. Hi Salam,

    That’s awesome that you had such a great a view from the top of the castle. It sounds like your having a great time. That’s interesting I haven’t heard of the changes in Jordan. However, I glad they were done peacefully. That’s awesome that you got to see people taking to the streets after hearing about Ghadafi’s death. Have you gotten a chance to talk to people in-depth about Ghadafi’s death and what changes will come about because of it?

    Daniel Nagel

  16. Hi Salam!
    well apparently just the death of Ghadafi was aired in the news and it was really controversial since some people in my family didnt know who Ghadafi was, but hey they do now. It is fascinating that you got to experience something like that where you scared?

  17. Hi Salam,
    It sounds like you are having a blast up there visiting all the ruins and learning more about the history there! I can say that your fun up there has made it so that I am more interested in visiting the ruins one day to learn more about the history there. I think it is very interesting how the public there reacted to Ghadafi’s death. I’m curious to know that now it has been a couple weeks at least, how it is up there now.

    Aimee Fischer

  18. when was Jerash the large city that you spoke about abandoned or was there a war or battle that had left it the way it was? and the auditoriam was filled with 5,000 people! thats incredible! are the the people Jerash?

  19. Hi Salam!

    How interesting it must have been to witness reactions of those in Jordan to Ghanafi’s death! It is also crazy how much reform Jordan seems to be undertaking. How do the people in Jordan organize themselves? Is there one central leader or spokesperson. Do they mobilize people by calling, texting, tweeting, or facebooking? Or is it really natural and organic? Thanks for the interesting blog Salam!

    Suzanne Schmidt

  20. Hi Salam
    Very insitful post on Libya and political issues! Wow what an event to witness, this shows how much bringing down these regimes and corrupt leaders mean not only to people with in rose countries but also surrounding countries! I wonder does anyone know the real story of how ghanafi died because in the US it is pretty uncler. There is video of him being carried off in car and he is still alive , then later he is reported dead! Are the people questioning his death at all??

    Another note I’m in a middle east class and we are discussing the relvloution in syria! How you experience any information about that? I was wondering most about the secretarial
    Divide between alawites and the Sunni?how that might negatively be effecting the revlotion

  21. Hey Salam. Yes, the news of Ghadafi dying was all over TV and internet, but you got the opportunity to witness it in person. Were you shocked, or surprised in any way when you heard the news? Was this a big deal for many of the citizens you encountered? and did you notice any change in the country or surrounding middle eastern cities at all? It seems like studying abroad was a great decision you made. The trip is so successful.

  22. The death of Ghadafi was all over the news over here. They showed us the cell phone video with horrible quality of the captured Ghadafi laying on the hood of a car while all the people were telling him what a horrible man he was. He was cut up and bleeding and next thing we knew he was shot in the head by someone in the crowd. But it is exciting that you got to see the Middle East change and revolt right before your very eyes, not many people get to witness that like you did. Im sure you were a bit confused at first about why there were Syrian and Jordanian flags everywhere. Once again, the photos were amazing. You are making me want to visit there when everything is a little more peaceful in the future.

    Thanks for Everything,

  23. I can’t even begin to fathom how awesome it was to be in the Middle East when such a historic event took place. I am incredibly jealous of you! The footage that we’ve seen of Ghadafi’s death is really choppy and see’s him wounded being pulled into the bed of a truck. Such a bummer you didn’t have a camera on you when everyone took to the streets, I would have loved to see a picture of that. I was wondering, how come you got a discount because you were Arab-American when you were shopping. Was it because you were a tourist? Usually tourists get ripped off! The hole in the wall thing also seemed really cool. Did any of your friends stand on another hole and talk back to you? Seems like a fun week!
    -Stephanie Warshaw

  24. Salam,

    What an appropriate time to be in Jordan! The promise of the Arab Spring must seem so real to you. Gadhafi’s death was mildly reported over here, with more skepticism than anything else. It was interesting to me to hear that Jordanian news is unapologetically showing reports and footage. I was wondering if there is much censorship of the media in Jordan, as I’m only versed in the status of media censorship in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Was this reporting unusual, or to be expected by their media?

    I also greatly enjoyed the pictures you posted. Coming from a country that lacks centuries of visible history, it captivates me when I see structures that were used many hundreds of years ago. This blog entry left me especially awe-stricken. I hope you are taking in all the history and realizing how lucky you are to experience it all. I’m sure you are :)

    – Lacie

  25. Hello Salam,
    That is so cool that you were able to the see the borders of Syria, Israel, and Iraq from the top of the Ajloun castle, and the fact that you were even sitting on the roof of a castle, awesome! Loved the pictures of the temples in Jerash! The picture looked like it was taken straight out of a movie scene, except better! Though I don’t know how I would have felt about sitting on a sculpture that was used for slaughtering animals! ☹ I also really loved the “Whisper Spot” that is very cool, I’m sure that was fun to play around with! Another thing that I loved was the Arab-American discount right on, lucky you, I wish it was that way everywhere! Hahaha! That must have been scary and overwhelming to be there when Ghadafi was killed, what was going on in your head when that happened, what were your emotions!?

    Savannah Reeve

  26. Salam!

    I have always wanted to see what Syria, Israel look like and I would have never thought it could be that beautiful! I have actually been to Jerash!! I am of Roman decent and it is beautiful over there, did you see the “Whisper Spot”? Noticing people’s post and from what you wrote I believe you did!! I cant believe you were in the exact spot Ghadafi was killed, must of been an overwhelming presence. I hope that these memories you take with you as you journey through more cities. Looks like a blast!!

  27. Salam,

    It is amazing to see all the rich culture there was in Jersah, although it may not look beautiful now just seeing it must of been amazing during its early stages of being built. Also the theatre of Jersah looks really cool and somewhere I would like to visit. Another thing that was interesting in your blog was the fact that you got a discount for being Arab-American. Keep up
    the studying and the good work, be safe and have fun!

  28. I believe that seeing these ancient and historical landmarks is always humbling and jaw dropping and that opportunities like these should always be seized, getting a peek into the life of ancient culture and customs through these immaculate and ancient buildings must be truly something to behold. these pictures are worth a thousand words. seeing these ancient cities still intact and the ancient amphitheater is incredible even from seeing the pictures I can get a sense of the feelings you must have feat. I cannot believe how many rich historical experiences you had. And the views of the bordering countries must have been incredible. Getting to walk the path of some of the crusaders and sit where ancient ceremonies were performed must have been just the best. I think its awesome that you got to see so many ancient sites and I had no idea that Jordan held soo many ancient cities and buildings. It is also cool that you got to experiences a little bit of present day history involving the changes in government you described, seeing a bit of a revolution first hand.

    Shane Desfor

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