Today was a LOVELY day. Some friends and I decided to get away from Mafraq and explore Jerash (an ancient and modern city), Ajloun Castle, and eat at “the best restaurant in Jordan.” All was accomplished PLUS an ice cream stop on the way home with just one teeny little flirting incidence.
Jerash is a cool city. It boasts human occupation for over 6,500 years and was one of the ten great Roman cities known as the Decapolis League. What I didn’t know till reading about it is that it’s nestled in a valley of the mountains of Gilead. So yes, “There is a Balm in Gilead” may or may not have been hummed intermittently throughout the day. :PThe first historical reference known about Jerash was by my buddy Josephus at the turn of the 1st/2nd century. Apparently the “tyrant of Philadelphia,” Theodorus, took his treasure there for safe keeping in the temple of Zeus. I climbed around Zeus’ temple, but found no treasure…hmm, maybe next time. ;)
Ajloun is a castle built in 1184-85 as a fort to protect against the Crusaders. It was in a chain of forts which lit beacons at night to signal each other from the Euphrates to Cairo! Tell me which one of you is not picturing Lord of the Rings right now!!! They also were a part of a pigeon chain from Damascus to Cairo – apparently the strong little chaps could make it in under a day. Pretty impressive for small wings. :-)
An Arab historian tells a story that some of the stones the castle was built with have crosses on them because a monastery once stood on the site. Apparently it was inhabited by a Christian monk named Ajloun, but when the monastery fell into ruin, the castle took its place. So they say…
You can’t really see the castle for the trees (which is pretty amazing in the desert, but it’s a nice site due to the Ajloun Nature Reserve nearby maintained by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature). This is why I had to flirt. Because there were trees. Okay, I didn’t have to, but this is why I flirted.
According to the normal summer schedule and the schedule posted on the government website, the castle is open for exploration till sundown. With that in mind, we lollygagged around Jerash and arrived about an hour before sunset. HOWEVER, the gate was closed and all of us in the car instantaneously gasped and said, “Ramadan!” Castle hours were shortened by an hour so that the staff could go get ready to break the daily fast that evening. We had driven all that way only to find that our desire was unattainable!
Or was it?
A gentleman in the car sighed and said, “You guys should go flirt with the guard and make him let us in.” I chuckled, but then thought about it. I’m in a touristy place where no one will probably ever see me again and flirting with an Arab man takes no more than smiling and greeting him, so if it could get us in to see the castle it was worth a try, right? I could play the ignorant tourist card, right?
As I type this out I am laughing at the fact that this actually happened. It probably gets me kicked off the perfection pedestal, but it was about time for that anyway.
I got out of the car with my head uncovered (normal for tourists, abnormal for local culture), but my hair was pulled back so that wasn’t too bad (here “loose hair = loose woman”) and walked with purpose up to the gate. I left my sunglasses on till the guard turned around then whipped them off and flashed him a smile.
“Marhaba!” I greeted him, staring him right in the eye. “We have come to see the castle, please.” His face fell as he informed me from the other side of the iron bars that it was already closed. “You see, things are different because of Ramadan,” he tried to explain, sputtering with multiple excuses. I just kept smiling at him, with a hopeful glint in my eye.
I could literally see the indecision on his face.
And then he broke.
“Come through the gate,” he said with a grin, and told one of his guard buddies (who was wearing pj pants, oddly enough) to give us a little tour.
“Shukran,” thank you, I told him, and we went on our merry way. The castle was pretty neat. The view was amazing – we could see all the way over to the Dead Sea!
I don’t plan on making this flirting thing a habit, but maybe once every 28 years is okay? Maybe? ;)
Praise God for a fun, relaxing day building relationships with new friends (I really do mean those I went with, not the castle guard :P).
Continue to pray for A* as she misses her family and N's* abscess wound to heal.
Pray for me to keep my focus on the LORD and be faithful to keep my relationship with God up on top where it belongs and that I would love people well. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage... And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Galatians 5:1, 6:9