Tag Archives: roman

Egypt: Alexandria

The funny thing about Alexandria is that the all the things that it’s famous for are no longer in one piece; it’s a city famous for what it was.

First stop are some Roman ruins, a small but well preserved amphitheatre. One spooky part is a spot in the middle where your voice gets amplified, you hear back anything you say with a slight delay.

Next stop: catacombs. These were the tombs of a rich, egyptianised Roman. Most interesting was some of the art work which combined Roman and Egyptian style, sometimes with errors (deliberate or accidental?), such as only three jars next to the mummy (there are supposed to be four for the internal organs of the deceased) and the dead having head-gear normally reserved for gods.

Last stop of the city tour was the fort right on the sea front. Built by Muhammad Ali — not the boxer — to keep out the Turks (unsuccessfully) it’s mainly interesting because it was built partly out of the original Pharos lighthouse — one of the original seven wonders which fell down in the 13th century during an earth quake.

Next we head out of town toward the hotel, but by avoiding a low bridge the bus gets lost. It takes us down lots of small streets, past various small, local markets and through neighbourhoods that see few tourists. The novelty eventually wears thin as the supposed thirty minute drive ends up taking nearer ninety.

And that was my very quick tour of the city. In the morning I was heading back to Cairo.

Jordan: Jerash

Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan

I remember when I was at school doing history I loved the Romans. They were so advanced and yet had these brutal elements, a combination that I found fascinating. Even now I continue to be amazed by Roman ruins. Nothing we build now seems to last more than a few decades yet this massive, two thousand year old empire still has buildings standing.

So I’m happy that the first major site of my trip through Jordan and Egypt is Jerash. If I’m honest, it’s not a site I’d heard of before I booked this tour. I’m pleased to say that it would have been a mistake to miss it, though.

Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan

I enter the site through a triumphal arch, which is located right next to the road and the rest of modern Jerash. It makes quite a contrast. The site is large, so eventually the sound of the traffic subsides.

Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan

Some parts, mainly those near the gates, have been reconstructed. They are, no doubt, authentic but looking fairly new it’s not really the look I was expecting. For similar reasons I didn’t feel inclined to hang around and see the jousting. I was more drawn to the paths lined with columns, piazza’s and mosaics. Not as pristine as the reconstruction but amazing in their own way.

Certainly the most surreal part of the whole time at Jerash is when I reach an amphitheatre, where three men entertain us with drums and… bagpipes. Yes, you read that right.

Bagpipers and drummers, Jerash, Jordan

They play for about ten minutes, marching around the floor, saluting members of the audience and, generally, confusing the hell out of most of us. Bagpipes? Jordan?

Overall it’s an impressive site with much to see. But it’s only a fleeting stop as I next head south towards Kerak.