Posts Tagged ‘Salt’
Note: this post was written on Saturday, May 19, after our group traveled to Salt, an ancient city in Jordan that was once destined to be the kingdom’s capital.
Last year, while I was studying in Jordan for two weeks, I was fortunate enough to be one of the eight members of our group of 32 to travel on a more intimate excursion to the city of Salt, about 20 km northwest of Amman.
Big Rob, our photography professor, rented a small blue van for the day and hired a driver to take us into the ancient city for the afternoon. You can read more about that trip here.
This year, since our group of about 50 is going to be in Jordan for the entirety of the five-week program, everyone went. Taking a trip with a group that size into a smaller, more conservative Jordanian city was…an interesting experience, to say the least. I’m glad that I was fortunate enough to experience Salt on a more personal level last year, because this year, we were herded around like an American zoo, in Salt for a special showing. People wore jeans that were far too tight. Others wore low-cut shirts, and summery dresses. The whole scene was very strange; there we were, an obnoxious group of 50 loud Americans at a lovely cafe under a tent, enjoying tea and Arabic coffee and ice cream and sheesha and whatnot. Someone decided to plug their iPod into the speaker system at said cafe.
I have never seen cultural imperialism first-hand before, but there we were, dancing along to terrible, awful, American pop music as locals glared with disgust. Instead of enjoying the Jordanian culture, someone felt the need to turn us into a spectacle. Well, I can’t say too many bad things, because I did nothing to change the situation. I was right there with my peers, dancing. Granted, before this happened, we were dancing to traditional Jordanian music, even a song dedicated to the city of Salt.
I won’t write much more to describe our day at the zoo, because I feel that my photographs tell a better story than my words can. Before our pitstop at the tented cafe, we visited the ancient Greek Orthodox Church of St. George (Al Khader Church), which was erected in the 17th century, which was, for me, a highlight of the excursion to Salt this year. During our time there, I was given two things from the priest: the first, a bottle of holy oil, and the second, a green cloth. I was told it was “for wishes.” You are supposed to tie it around your wrist as you make a wish, whatever that may be. And when it comes off, either naturally over time or at your own will, your wish will be granted. While most of my peers and professors tied the strips of green cloth around their wrists, I rolled mine up and placed it in my pocket. I had the feeling that, someday soon, I would need it. (I’ll let you all know when I do…)
We also sat in the city square, under the shade of many trees, sitting among locals as they played mancala. We visited one of the first schools in Jordan, a boys’ secondary school. We visited a lovely, family-run restaurant for lunch. We went to the archeological and historical museum of Salt.
After our tea and coffee break, we drove our big yellow bus up to the highest point in the city to watch the sunset. After sunset, I got to see the tomb of the prophet Elijah in a large, elegant mosque. It was quite incredible. Unfortunately, my camera had died at that point, and all the photos I took are currently being held captive on other cameras and memory sticks. Oh well. Maybe someday, they’ll be returned to me via email. (Jonathon, Caroline: if you’re reading this, I’m talking to you!!) See below for the shots I was able to get.
Over the course of three weeks living in a sprawling city built on 19 hills, you tend to take
a lot too many an excessive amount of pictures. After a while, you’ll find yourself scrolling through the images wondering what part of the city is seen in each picture.
Is that near the Al Hussein Mosque? No, this must be in downtown Amman. I think this picture is of the city from the Citadel. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I find myself in the aforementioned situation this afternoon, as we drive back from an excursion to the city of Jerash (Gerasa), where we spent the better part of the day. (More on the sites later tonight.) I’m sitting on a bus driving down a hill, and I have no idea what I’m looking at in my own photos. Shame on me. I suppose that I could have written a note each time I snapped a shot, but is that realistic? Not really. I could carry a notebook around, and I do, but I use that for things like this. It’s a notepad, and I write notes in it- sometimes those notes become blogs, but most times they stay put right there, in my notebook.
I wish my camera had some tool to record the location of an image; it can’t be too far off, can it? I mean, the only way I can at least keep track of when things happen is by referring to the timestamp of each photo. I’ll stop my rambling, and just insert my gallery. Below, please find a few of my scattered, unlabeled images of this city, as seen from some other, unknown parts of Amman.
Additionally, there are photos of Salt, the northern Badia, and Madaba, with more to be added soon of Petra and Aqaba. Be sure to check back to this gallery in the coming weeks, as I continue my travels in Jordan.
On that first day two weeks ago, I was far too hungry to snap photos before ultimately stuffing my face full of juicy, tender chicken, carrots, onions and rice. I may have also still have been half asleep after my sleepless night and early morning.
Below are some images of the food I have been served over the course of two plus weeks living with my host family. Note: I’m usually starving, and thus dive into the meal before I pull my camera out. Some of these images may be of half-eaten food.
Also included in this slideshow gallery are other photos of meals, snacks, and munchies here in Jordan over the last two and a half weeks. Check captions for clarification on which is which, but you will probably be able to tell for yourself.
Note: this blog was written on May 25.
On my final full day in Jordan, I left SIT at 9am and headed to the former would-be capital of Jordan. My host mother, Mama Munira, told me and Ryan during breakfast that she was from Salt. She said that when the government sent men to scout the city, they decided that women were too pretty there for it to become Jordan’s capital. She was so happy that we were going to visit her old hometown, and she injected me with that same excitement.
Salt is a bustling city about an hour away from Amman. I joined the six photojournalism students and Rob in a little mini-bus. It was tight, but we all squeezed in for the hour-long trip.
There, I took some video of a new plumbing system being installed.
When we arrived downtown, everyone split up and explored the town.
It’s a much more quaint city than Amman is. There were far fewer tourists roaming the streets, which was a nice change of pace. As I passed a jewelry shop, I noticed that the grey-haired man behind the counter was puffing away at a cigarette. I stopped in to speak with the owner, Mosa Hyari, about the Ministry of Health’s new campaign to implement public health code 47, which outlawed smoking in public places back in 2009. Two years later, the government is beginning a campaign to enforce this law that has been mostly ignored. Even the shops with “no smoking” signs don’t actually stop anyone from lighting up. “Even if I smoke, I don’t like the habit. I’m against smoking in public places- cars, restaurants,” said Hyari. “In the beginning, it’ll be difficult,” said Hyari. “But if they’re serious, it will work.”
Valerie, Lily and I moved up and down the street, exploring this new city. Our driver then took us to his friend’s home, where we were served tea and biscuits. I met his son and daughter, who were adorable as they stood near their father, clinging to him and chewing on foot-long gummy worms. After our tea, he took us to the roof of his home.
I passed a soccer ball back and forth with his son, who was so excited to have company. The children’s joy was revitalizing.
We left soon after, bid farewell and thanked the family for their hospitality.
The people of Salt were all very friendly, just like in Amman, but were more excited to see foreigners. Everyone asked about New York, and one shop owner even gifted us ice cream. “From America?” he asked. As we nodded, he told us the ice cream was no charge. “For you, welcome.” We expressed our gratitude and enjoyed our snack on a bench across the street.
Lily called Rob to see what he had discovered in Salt, and we strolled down the hill to meet up with him. He took us to a pita bakery, where Lily helped the baker roll and flatten the dough.
He loaded the spinning oven with dough and pulled out fluffy, fresh pita bread. The bakers gave us some pita to enjoy, and it was some of the best bread I’ve ever had.
I’m glad that I got to experience a different part of Jordan. Early in the afternoon, shortly after our pita adventure, we hit the road once again and drove back toward Amman. I spent the better part of the return trip asleep and snoring with my head titled back on the seat. When I awoke, we were parked back in front of SIT.