| go to lobby page | go to other departments |
Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, March 2008.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
Show & Tell Show-Notes: *
Cultural-Safari in Jordanian & Sinai/Egyptian Outposts of The Biblical Holy-Land: Astonishments! *
Mid-Summer 1958 Mid-East Tour-Madness: *
Brief-Backgrounder of the Post-Ottoman Holy-Lands: *
Petra Revisited, Circa 2008! *
OK! So How Was Petra, After All That? *
In the Beginning: In Ancient & Modern Amman: *
Roman Chariot-Races in Greco-Roman Jerash! *
Desert-Castles Beyond Amman: *
Mount Nebo: Moses & Pope John-Paul! *
The Jerusalem-Mosaic in Madaba! *
Lot's Cave & The Dead-Sea! *
With Lawrence of Arabia in Wadi Rum! *
Kerak: Crusaders' Castle Ruins: *
This Is My Beloved Son, In Whom I Am Well-Pleased! *
Port-City of Aqaba: Portal to the Sinai-Peninsula: *
Show & Tell Show-Notes:
Cultural-Safari in Jordanian & Sinai/Egyptian Outposts of The Biblical Holy-Land: Astonishments!
January is always a slow-month On & Off-Broadway, so Your Scribe took advantage of the Cultural-Lull to make a Pilgrimage to some less-visited parts of the so-called Holy-Land. This was followed by several weeks of organizing & computer-indexing the thousands of print, slide, & digital-images he generated there for his ArtsArchive collections, known generically as INFOTOGRAPHY™.
And that has been followed by an American Theatre-Critics' Mini-Meeting in Floridian-Orlando, so this is the first time Your Senior-Correspondent has been able to file a column in some weeks. But this is not a Conventional-Column: It is more in the nature of a Show & Tell Show-Notes because it is more about Ruins of Greek & Roman Theatres & Vanished-Civilizations than it is about Live-Performances.
As a Preface to my recent adventures in Arab-Jordan & Egyptian-Sinai, I must note that I was in this area fifty years ago, but I was so under-funded I had only a few rolls of film with which to record the Ancient-Monuments of the Middle-East.
Near the Nile in 1958, I took one photo of the Sphinx--by moonlight!--as well as only one of the Great Pyramid of Giza. And I had to be just as photo-economical in Nabatean-Petra, across the Red Sea in Jordan.
Nor would I then have even been able to visit Egypt & Jordan at all--let alone buy some rolls of Kodak™ film--had it not been for the generosity of ARAMCO, the Arabian-American Oil Company.
I had just taught two semesters of Public-Speaking & English Comp, as a University of Maryland Overseas professor, in the evening education-programs provided free by the company to its American, European, Asian, & Middle-Eastern employees. These classes also included American Military & Consular personnel, stationed in the Eastern Province of Sa'udi Arabia.
The U of Maryland/Aramco program had collapsed four years before because of Alcohol--actually an Arabic-derived word!--which is forbidden to all residents in this Wahabe-Fundamentalist Islamic-Kingdom.
My Predecessor had somehow managed to find some illegal home-closet-brew & disgraced himself, requiring his immediate removal from the country.
Fortunately, my classes went quite well; the program was restored, and I was even able to complete my first book: Briefing & Conference Techniques [McGraw-Hill, 1959]. So Aramco officials rewarded me with Air-Fare to tour Historic-Sites in the Middle-East. But no hotel, bus, train, food, or incidental-expenses, so I had to economize on everything, including film.
Animal-Images in Jordan: Watch Out for Camels Crossing! and This Elephant Is Going Nowhere! Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
As we flew into Beirut--once justly known as "The Paris of the Middle-East"--our plane was fired-upon. At the hotel, we were ordered to stay away from our windows, not to go out after dark, & certainly not venture into the Interior to see such famed sights as the Temple of Baalbek.
This was formerly the site of an International Arts Festival, but now, in summer 1958, the temple was fiercely contested by Druze & Islamic Military-Insurgencies. The next morning, shortly after I left the Suq--having bought a few souvenirs--an auto blew up in its midst. This was 50 years ago…
Last January, in 2007, I returned to Egypt, armed with five cameras & 200 rolls of print & slide-film, as well as four 550x microchips for my Canon Digital. I was planning to file a Show-Notes report like this one, but there was never time, with so many theatre & museum shows opening in New York when I returned.
This January, 2008, I was determined to return Jordan to the remarkable for-centuries-hidden city of Nabatean Petra, with its remarkable temple-like façades carved out of the living-stone of its great mountain-enclosures. Fifty years ago, I ran out of film--as well as money--so I had only a few photos of Petra to show for my efforts.
Way back in 1958, however, no Tourist in his right mind visited either Egypt or Jordan in mid-Summer. As the song says: "Too darn hot!" Also: No plastic-bottled-water then!
Then, as now, January was the High-Season in both Petra & the Valley of the Kings! In Petra, tourist-tents were pitched in the midst of the great Rift-Valley, but English & Germans were the only groups really interested in exploring the Antiquities of the Middle-East. Aside, of course, from Christian-Pilgrims, retracing the footsteps of the Crusaders… Onward, Christian Soldiers!
Portals of Petra: Eroded entrance-cleft to Long-Lost Hidden-City of Petra. Photo: © Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
In fact, Petra had been rediscovered in 1812, by a German-Swiss explorer, Jacob Burkhardt, after centuries of Oblivion. But in the 1950s, it was still relatively unknown to American-Tourists--although expeditions from the Cincinnati Museum had carried off some remarkable Nabatean carvings long before. [These were shown recently at Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum!]
Mid-Summer 1958 Mid-East Tour-Madness:
Among my English & Speech students in Dharan, Sa'udi Arabia, were a group of bright young Arab men whom the old King, Ibn Sa'ud Abd-al-Aziz, had brought from the Palestinian Refugee-Camps, displaced as they then were by the creation of the State of Israel.
During the days, they worked for Aramco, in the refineries or offices. Afternoons, they had Military-Training, the object of which--as some told us in class--was to "Drive Israel Into the Sea." I pointed out that the United States was not going to let this happen, as we were the first to recognize Israel.
Evenings, some of the most ambitious Palestinians took the free classes. What else was there to do for so many young bachelors? You had to have at least a goat or a camel to purchase a Sa'udi Bride, even if there were any available…
When two of the brightest of the Palestinian-Refugees heard that Aramco was arranging my flights to Lebanon, Jordan, & Egypt, they insisted that I should call upon President Gamal Abdul Nasser when I arrived in Cairo.
I did want to see the Royal Chambers in Cairo's Abdin Palace that had been recently vacated by the deposed King Farouk & Queen Fawzia, but this was now the Presidential-Residence, not a Public-Museum.
Nonetheless, parking my single-suitcase with friends at the American Embassy--without telling them of my plans, which would surely have been scotched--I arrived at the Palace, telling the camouflage-clad military-guards that Professor Loney was expected by General Nasser, or so I had been told in Dharan.
Imagine my surprise! I was, in fact, expected. I had a brief, but pleasant, chat with Pres. Nasser, after which I was shown the Faroukian-Chambers of the Palace.
How do these messages travel so far & so swiftly?
[Years later, when I wanted to visit the desert Performance & Sport training-center of Dr. Felix Morisseau Leroi--creator of Haiti's Black Medea--deep in the Interior of West African Senegal, I set out by taxi through a barren landscape with no phone-lines, but only Vultures perching in scattered dead-trees along a sandy-track.
[I could not Call-Ahead, & the Vultures didn't look like the West-African equivalent of Western-Union…
[When we pulled up before the ruins of a World War II Free-French Airbase, I found Dr. Morisseau reclining in a hammock, awaiting me & being fanned by some of his arts & sports students, including the young Champion Pole-Vaulter of Mali!
[The fabled Talking-Drums of Senegal had told him of my intended visit. The large white mud-brick chamber in which his students exercised & performed was virtually deserted, but he told me his students would shortly perform a Dance-Drama for me: an ancient story of a Village-Girl who falls in love with a Devil-Boy. The Emanation of her Dead-Grandmother saves her at the last moment, but the Village has to be Ritually-Cleansed of the Evil it has so narrowly escaped.
[Soon some twenty costumed student-performers appeared out of nowhere. More astonishing: at the Horizon-Line of that desolate desert-landscape, Senegalese tribesmen & women began moving toward the training-center, alone or in groups, on foot, on donkeys, or even on sand-swamped bikes!]
Nothing like this happened in Jordan when I arrived at the Amman Airport fifty years ago, however. At that time, Old Jerusalem was still in Arab-Territory. My good-fortune was that friends in Dharan had given me Letters-of-Introduction to the Anglican-Bishop of Jerusalem, so I was able to stay at the Episcopal-Palace.
I used most of my meager film-stash photographing the Actual Stations of the Cross, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy-Sepulchre, & the Damascus-Gate, as well as other Historic-Sites of the Holy-City. But I was also determined to visit Petra, far, far to the South of Jerusalem, hoarding film for that possibility.
[At that time, ancient Arab-Jerusalem was separated from Modern Israeli-Jerusalem by a wide swath of barren No-Man's-Land. As you could not travel in Islamic-Countries with an Israeli-Visa in your Passport, a stamp was put on a piece of paper when you crossed-over into the Other-Jerusalem, through the Mandelbaum-Gate.]
I was able to visit Bethlehem by bus, also Bethany. But there was no way to get to Petra, especially in a scorching July.
Fortunately, the Bishop's sister arranged for a taxi-driver--who often worked for the Cathedral--to drive me & a nice Scottish lady, whose husband was an oil-engineer in Basra, for British-Petroleum, down to Petra for $30 each.
No sooner had we left the Jerusalem City-Limits, than he stopped his cab by a large bush. From behind this concealment stepped a young German archeology-student who was going to have a free-ride to Petra at our expense.
I was annoyed. My Scots fellow-traveler was furious.
Nonetheless, we would never have known about the Oldest Map of Jerusalem in the world, an ancient mosaic in the floor of the Greek-Orthodox Cathedral in Madaba! Our Student-Expert gave us a guided-tour of the Mosaics & Icons, in fact. He also pointed out the Crusader-Castle Kerak, high on a mountain-ridge we could not visit.
We arrived at Petra just before nightfall, stopping short at its high, forbidding, surrounding mountain-walls--thinly cleft by a narrow erosion & wind-whipped passage into the Forgotten-City.
But there were then no hotels, no souvenir-shops, no tourists, & no real town, as there is today. The tent-tourists of the previous January were long-gone…
There was only a two-room mud & stone Police-Station. The three of us were given wood-frame beds--no mattresses or covers: too scorching anyway--as the cab-driver & the sole policeman slept in the taxi. A few snakes slide around under the beds, discouraging midnight urinations in the sands.
Early the next morning, three Bedouins were waiting for us outside with three donkeys, which we rode through the long, winding, multi-colored stone-cleft, suddenly to be astonishingly confronted by the magnificent façade of the so-called Treasury of the Ancient Nabateans.
On the left : The Nabatean Treasury: Classical Tomb-façade glimpsed through entrance-cleft to Petra. On the right : Onward & Upward: Eroded & time-worn stone steps to Petra's "Monastery." Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
Our Arab guides waited by the donkeys as the Student-German & I loped up the hundreds of steps--carved over two-thousand years ago into the Mother-Stone of the great mountain--to view on the Summit the ancient Sacrificial-Altars, for the shedding of Ritual-Blood, bathed in the Rising-Sun. Breath-taking, or, as the Germans say: Atmen-Beruabend!
The many great façades were carved for imposing Tombs or Mausoleums, the actual homes of the Nabateans--possibly mud-brick-made, as in Egypt--long since having melted into the sands. The ancient Roman-Theatre, however, was carved out of a stone mountain-side, having eroded but little. The Romans displaced the Nabateans, so there were also survivals of a Colonnaded Roman Road & a Temple.
My few remaining camera-shots were soon expended. I knew I would have to return some day, but I didn't know it would take me half-a-century to make the trip. Fifty years ago, I raced the full length of the long Great-Rift-Valley, dashing up the 800 steps to the so-called Monastery, a much more elaborate façade than that of the Treasury.
Although the valley was dotted with colorfully flowering Oleander plants, there were no wells or streams. In fact, Oleander thrives in desert-climates, as it does along California-Freeways…
When I got back to our donkeys, our Arab-guides were broadly smiling: they had drunk all our water. The canteens were dry… Both my Scots & German companions were furious this time. But nothing to be done about it: no Pepsi vending-machines…
Brief-Backgrounder of the Post-Ottoman Holy-Lands:
Although seeing & photographing Petra once again was my over-arching reason for returning to Jordan after fifty years, it was not my First-Stop on my two-weeks' Tour of Jordan & Sinai. From Paris' Charles DeGaulle Airport, I flew into Jordanian Amman, arriving at the Queen Alia Airport.
Fifty years ago, I spent no time in the Capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but went immediately to Arab-Jerusalem. In fact, all my Biblical-Visitations then were to sites on the West-Bank of the River Jordan.
After the 1967 Six-Days War, these borders changed definitively. In Manhattan, there were even parody Travel-Posters depicting the Three Pyramids of Giza, with the slogan: VISIT ISRAEL! SEE THE PYRAMIDS!
In the subsequent Peace-Settlement, Israel had to give back the Sinai-Peninsula, but Jerusalem was lost to Palestinian & Jordanian Arabs. But the continuing fear of some pious Arab-Muslims today is that crazed Hassidic-Jews will manage to blow up the Holy & Historic Al-Aqsa Mosque & the Dome of the Rock, built on the site of the Great-Hebrew-Temple, destroyed by vengeful Roman-Legions.
For Muslims, Jerusalem ranks with Medina & Mecca as one of the three Holiest-Cities in Islam. It is said that Mohammad ascended into Heaven on a Winged-Horse from the Temple-Mount, although he was never physically in Jerusalem. This fabled ascent was in a Prophetic-Vision, which the Dome memorializes.
Destruction of the Dome & the Mosque would surely trigger the End-of-Times Battle of Armageddon, promised to hopeful Faith-Based Christians in the psychedelic Book of Revelations. In this Doomsday-Scenario, the Jews & the Arabs will clash disastrously, followed by the Second-Coming of the Messiah & the Last Judgment.
The Good-News for Born-Again Christians--when these events come to pass, according to the Left-Behind novels of Tim Delahaye--is that they will be snatched-up into Heaven in the Rapture, in their Living-Physical-Bodies, without the cost & formality of Actual-Funerals!
The rest of Mankind will be "Left Behind." For these non-combattant Pious-Christians, the actual fighting of the Battle of Armageddon will be of no Lasting-Heavenly-Benefit for either Jews or Muslims. Not having accepted Christ as their Personal-Savior & Messiah, they will be Left-Behind…
No wonder Fundamentalist-American-Christians are flocking to Israel to see the Holy-Sites & Sights.
The Israelis have even created a kind of Theme-Park at Megiddo, foreseen in the Revelations as the Final-Battlefield!
Such enterprising Israel-Entrepreneurship has eluded the Hashemite-Jordanians, for they do not have such a large stock of Biblical-Oriented-Antiquities. Nonetheless, they are striving to develop Jordanian-Tourism, as my Tour-Route may demonstrate.
For centuries, all the lands in the Middle-East--& across North-Africa to the Pillars of Hercules--were ruled variously by Muslim Emirs, Pashas, Sultans, Caliphs, Khedives, & Ottoman-Emperors. But the Istanbul-based Ottomans were in serious decline, finished-off by the Modernizing Kemal Attaturk & his "Young Turks."
The Ottoman-Empire backed the Wrong-Side in World War I, so Britain & France were subsequently able to carve out quasi-Protectorates for themselves in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, & Palestine. The fabled Lawrence of Arabia helped destabilize much of the Ottoman-Controlled Arabian-Peninsula.
But the promises Col. TE Lawrence made to the Arab Chieftains who fought for freedom from the Ottomans were not honored at No. 10 Downing Street, to Lawrence's despair. He felt both he & his Arab desert-warriors had been betrayed.
One source of continuing Arab-Oriented-Agitation is the wording of British Prime-Minister Arthur James Balfour's famed Balfour Declaration. In this historic-document, he promised a Homeland for the Jews in Palestine, which is not quite the same thing as licensing a separate State of Israel.
In the 1950s--when I was in the Middle-East--if you were working or traveling in an Arab country, you had to avoid getting an Israeli-Visa stamped into your Passport. You would be denied admission to Egypt or Jordan, for instance, not to mention Arabia's Eastern-Province.
Even Jewish-Americans were not granted tourist-admission or work-permits in Sa'udi Arabia. In fact, way back in 1958, there was No Tourism in King Ibn Sa'ud's Domains. American-Jewish oil-engineers entered as Armenian-Americans!
[Before I was assigned to teach in Dharan, I had been giving U of Maryland Overseas classes at Burtonwood Airforce-Base in the English-Midlands, midway between Liverpool & Manchester. This was a kind of Cultural-Exile, so I had been promised London/South-Ruislip as my next posting, as a Consolation-Prize.
[When the US EUCOM Military-Orders for Sa'udi Arabia arrived, I went immediately to London to get an Israeli-Visa in my Passport. But in 24-hours, I was issued a completely new Passport & was on a Royal Sa'udi airplane to Dharan!]
As I discovered last winter in Egypt & again this January in Jordan, Tourism is a now major source of income for both nations. Israelis & Jews-in-General are very welcome now. Israeli-Visas are no longer a problem either.
This also may have something to do with the fact that the US Government provides handsome Annual-Subsidies to both Jordan & Egypt. Israel, of course, is the most handsomely rewarded of any foreign-country, with Egypt ranking No. 2…
[This should not, of course, be seen as an attempt to Buy-Security for Israel! Still, what is the Attack on Iraq about--aside from the Oil--but an effort to "Stabilize the Middle-East"? Americans are frequently reminded that Israel is the Only Democracy in the Middle-East, but Lebanon once shared that honor!]
Those Americans who grew up during the Great-Depression may remember old maps of the Middle-East with Palestine on one side of the River Jordan & Trans-Jordan on the other side? They were both British-Protectorates after the Great-War…
Old King Abdullah & his Hashemite-Dynasty had been Keepers of the Holy Cities of Mecca & Medina, but the marauding Sa'udi Bedouin-Warriors had conquered his domains & installed themselves as the Guardians of the sacred Ka'aba.
Jordanian-Signage: Which Way to Israel? Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
The Brits then gave Abdullah Trans-Jordan, which is why it is today known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. [They also installed a Hashemite-Monarch in Iraq, but that political-ploy did not endure…]
Driving around on the excellent highways that separate Jordan from Israel, I was struck by the fact that there were No Signs for Border-Crossings into Israel!
Modern-Signage in both Arabic & English showed distances to the borders of Syria, Iraq, & Sa'udi Arabia. Nowhere was Israel named on these signs!
The sign for the King Hussein Bridge--formerly the Brits' General Allenby Bridge--will, of course, take you across the River Jordan to Israeli-Jerusalem. But you have to know that in advance…
Petra Revisited, Circa 2008!
Arriving in the valley outside the Hidden-City of Petra, I found no trace of the old Police-Station where I once had a snake-infested Overnight.
Instead, a sprawling modern tourist-oriented city had grown up in the valley outside Petra & up the surrounding mountain-sides: Five, four, & three-star hotels dotted the landscape. There were even cheap-hostels for students. With Fast-Food & Souvenir-Shops galore…
Although I thought my five-star hotel would be located near the entrance to the ancient stone-city, instead my driver-guide drove our Japanese SUV ever upward, along an endless switchback-highway up a high mountain overlooking the valley & the forbidding range of mountains that enclose Petra.
This was the Swiss-managed Mövenpick Petra Nabatean Castle, a spacious neo-Moorish or Mudejar-inspired Caravanserai, whose immense central-court was closed for replacement of segments of the glass-atrium, designed by an Outstanding-Architect, but fabricated by less-than-dedicated artisans.
I also stayed in handsome Swiss-managed Mövenpick hotels in Aqaba & on the Dead-Sea, but it was almost impossible for their Reception-Staffs to find a pair of Scissors!
Of course, with vigilant International-Airport-Security now saving us from Terrorist-Seizures of our Air-France & Lufthansa flights, you cannot carry even cuticle-scissors in your baggage.
But you could be pardoned for thinking that at least a Swiss-Hotel-Chain would have a Swiss-Army-Knife on hand? Those Red-handled Victorinox multi-purpose Army-Knives usually have mini-cuticle-scissors among their arsenals of cutting & clipping-devices.
But none were on hand. Although the attractive & solicitous men & women who staffed the counters had excellent English, when I asked for Scissors, I was repeatedly offered Staplers or Paper-Punchs!
Speaking of Security, every Jordanian hotel had the Film-Destroying X-Ray baggage-screening-machines, as well as the buzzing Electronic-Portals which will detect every fleck of metal you might have clinging to your person. My suspenders set these off every time--but you cannot enter Jordanian hotels, even as an already-registered-guest, without going through this Robotic-Gamut!
OK! So How Was Petra, After All That?
Instead of hiring a donkey--as I did fifty years ago--or engaging a two-passenger horse-drawn two-wheeler, I decided to walk down the narrow, erosion-tortured cleft in the rock-mountain to reach the Stone-Metropolis.
This permitted me to make extensive photographs of details in the multi-colored rock-faces--rather like those in Antelope-Canyon at Lake Powell in Arizona! In addition, I could document the waist-high water-channels carved out of the stone walls, taking rain-water from the Outside down into the water-challenged ancient city.
Having traversed this passage on ass-back previously, I didn't realize how long this hard stone road really is. Fortunately, it is mostly downhill, not encouraging, however, for a return-journey on foot.
But, because the walk was so gradual, the sudden appearance of a sinuous wedge of the glowing, sunlit Nabatean-Treasury was much more dazzling than half a century ago!
Carved into Living-Stone: Called "The Treasury," this magnificent façade was created for a great tomb at the entrance to Petra. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
But what a surprise, once inside the entrance-end of the long Great-Rift-Valley! Instead of just three donkeys, three Arab drivers, & three Westerners of long ago, there was a throng of horse, donkey, & camel-drivers, as well as two-wheeled-carriages, & even bottled-water & kebabs!
Instead of dashing up the hundreds of stone-steps to the Sacrificial-Altars high above--been there, done that!--I was saving myself for the 800-step curving-climb to the so-called Nabatean-Monastery--known as Al Deir--at the other end of the long valley, now crammed with hordes of Camels & Tourists. Nothing like 1958…
The ancient open-air Roman-Theatre--whose semi-circular seat-rows were carved out of the stone of the mountain into which it was built--was Closed-for-Repairs. But my tiny Leica has a wonderful Zoom, which I stuck through the chain-wire-fence to get some details of the ruins of the old Roman-Stage.
Roman-Showtime: Ranks of seats carved into side of stone mountain in heart of Petra. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
The Roman-Colonnaded-Way--the Romans drove out the Nabateans--has been vestigially-restored, as have the outer-walls of a great Roman-Temple. In a mountain-face behind this temple is a Nabatean-Mausoleum that was never completed. Apparently, they carved these imposing geometric façades from the top down!
Across from the Temple-Complex is now a large indoor-outdoor restaurant, crowded with successive waves of guide-hectored bus-tourists. The former Soviet-Union must be doing OK, as there were hordes of stylishly-dressed Russians, only a bit glitzier than the armies of Polish-Tourists!
Fifty years ago, there were no Tourists but lots of Oleanders in the valley of Petra. None of these blooms to be seen now, alas.
Fifty years ago, I virtually ran up the 800-steps to the Monastery. This time, however--with both knees in serious need of Repair--I thought I was finished only one-third of the way upward.
A handy donkey-driver offered his services for $6 cash. At times, I thought the tiny donkey's hard-hooves, constantly sliding on the slick stone of the stairs, would bring us all, donkey, driver, & Infotographer over the edge, with steep drops down of hundreds of feet…
We Made It! Fortunately, I had exactly six one-dollar banknotes. I'd been saving them for hotel-porter tips, but this was a Much Worthier Cause.
Elegant Al-Deir: 800 stone-steps lead up to this mountain-top Petra mausoleum.Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
I managed to hobble back down all those stairs, as there were no dollar-bills left. I had planned a Second-Day in Petra--after all, it was the Real-Reason for returning to Jordan!
Nonetheless, I was able to take hundreds of print, slide, & digital photos in Petra. Such impressive sights & sites as the Urn Tomb, the Obelisk Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Palace Tomb, & the Corinthian Tomb have been duly recorded. Both these new images & those few shots taken fifty years ago will soon be online at INFOTOGRAPHY.BIZ.
Classical Tombs of Petra: Erosions of Millennia have eaten-away the elegant decorative-details. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
But I was already Done-For. I couldn't imagine climbing all those steps up to the Sacrificial-Altars the next day, let alone walking back through the cleft to our SUV in bustling Modern Petra, parked near the handsome sign for the Princess--now Queen--Aliya Home for Abused Animals.
There are a lot of them to worry about. Every time I saw an overburdened donkey struggling along the roadside, it was being harassed by sticks or whips. Even mothers dragging children in their wakes were flicking the sticks on the poor donkeys' backs. Boys & girls driving donkeys were not more considerate either…
In the Beginning: In Ancient & Modern Amman:
Although the winter-weather in Egypt was pleasant last season, it was generally cool to chilly in most of Jordan this past January. It even snowed in Amman, but only after I had departed for the South.
My Ya'lla-Tour--it means Let's Go! in Arabic, although I thought it might imply, instead, the Blessings of Allah--booked me into the 4.5 Star AMRA Crowne Plaza Hotel. I had never before heard of a "Luxury Tourist Hotel" being rated with half-stars, but I soon discovered a possible reason.
The first two nights, my otherwise "luxurious" room was so cold I had to sleep with my clothes on to avoid freezing. Repeatedly, I called the Front-Desk to do something about the malfunctioning of the air-conditioner/heater.
Each night they sent repairmen to the room. The ceiling-grills were unscrewed; unseen ducts & fans were tinkered-with.
Each time the workmen left me with the all-purpose Arab-Phrase: In-sh'allah, or If Allah Wills It…
This Pious-Invocation did not work, so finally they changed my room. I also had to change rooms in Aqaba & Petra, despite the advertised luxurious-appointments. When the bathtub-stopper won't function, you change rooms rather than fix the plug…
Nonetheless, all the hotels I visited were, indeed, generally excellent, with handsome public-spaces, swimming-pools, health-clubs, lavish buffets, & modern versions of Orientalisme in design & décor.
Even from a distance in Amman, I could always see the Crowne Plaza, as it stands in front of two immense new High-Rises, currently In-Process. The rest of the buildings of this sprawling city, ancient & modern, seldom rise more than two or three stories.
Amman is not exactly built on Seven Hills, like Rome, but it is spread out on mountain-sides & along sinuously-exposed sedimentary-shelves of upthrust ancient-lakebeds. Like Rome, it does have some impressive Roman-Ruins, as well as historic Greek & Arab Remains.
On what seems the highest hill sits the ancient Greek, Roman, Arab, & Ottoman Citadel, surrounded by thick stone Ramparts. At its heart--in addition to a restored Arab-Palace--are the remains of the great Temple of Hercules! Three of his massive-fingers decorate the entrance to the Citadel-Museum
Pillars of Hercules: Ornate capitals on temple-columns atop Amman's ancient Citadel. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
Elsewhere in the city--lower down--are the Historic Roman-Theatre & the Odeon, or Concert-Arena. Both of these have been handsomely restored & are used for Cultural-Events.
But there is no Jordanian National Theatre--even though Cairo has had an Opera-House since the opening of the Suez Canal & Verdi's composition of Aida. This probably has something to do with that old Muslim interpretation of the Biblical-Commandment against setting-up Graven-Images of Other Gods…
Roman Odeon: Amman's historic "intimate" theatre has been handsomely restored. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
If you are Commanded not to make Images of Men or even of Animals--the reason so much Islamic-Art features Geometric-Designs & Arabic-Calligraphy--you are even less impelled to create a Community-Theatre group!
The Natural-Human-Impulse toward Performance, or Acting-Out, finds its release in some Muslim Lands in Storytelling, as in The Thousand & One Nights; in Dance & Ritual-Movement, or in Shadow-Plays…
Roman Chariot-Races in Greco-Roman Jerash!
The most impressive survivals of the Ancient World in Jordan are to be found in Jerash. But there are bits & pieces of Greek & Roman temples & buildings cropping up even in small towns or the open countryside.
Imperial Elegance: Far off from the Great Forum in Rome, majestic colonnades & façades distinguished Jerash. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
Chariot-Races Restored: Ben Hur Lives Again in Jerash Hippodrome. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
The Greeks were here long before the Romans came, so what were once Greek, then Hellenic, & finally Roman Theatres & Odeons have undergone architectural & decorative changes over the Ages. With the Triumph of Islam, however, they were no longer needed for Dramatic-Performances--although they could provide ample space for public-gatherings…
At Jerash--where extensive Historic-Restorations are still in progress--the Roman-Hippodrome has been partially restored, now playing host to actual Roman-Chariot-Races twice-daily! Ben Hur Lives Again!
There were no afternoon performances of Medea or Oedipus in the splendid Roman-Odeon, but Jordanian Army Musicians did provide some stirring tunes in the ancient Orchestra.
Desert-Castles Beyond Amman:
Open-Door Policy: Solid stone slab secures a Roman doorway in Azraq Castle. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
Constructed on the historic Caravan-Route from Arabia to Mesopotamia, there are three ancient fortified stone-structures standing out in the Jordanian desert.
One of them, an immense stone fortress, Azraq Castle, was built by the Romans & remained in use in the Byzantine Era & beyond. Its ponderous doors are carved from great blocks of stone, with the upper & lower pivots also part of the stone-slab! These rotate in stone-sockets!
The Omayyad "Castles" of Amra & Kharaneh are also well worth the visit. Though built like a huge rectangular fort, Amra was more often used as a kind of Inn for Camel-Caravans.
Arab Camel-Motel: Built like a fortress, Castle Amra functioned as an Inn for merchants with camel-caravans.
Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
The Arabian-Potentate who built Kharaneh had a taste for beautiful women, not to mention no fear of Divine-Retribution for defying the Commandment about Graven-Images. The interior of his stone castle is lavishly decorated with painted images of Lovely-Ladies, as well as with pictures of Angels, Craftsmen, & Animals!
Busty-Angel: Despite Islamic-Prohibition of Representations of Humans or Animals, Desert-Castle Kharaneh is crammed with such images.
Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
The Azraq Wetland Nature Reserve was also on my program. But it was Closed-Until-Further-Notice, as a weather-battered sign advised. How do you close a Wetland?
Mount Nebo: Moses & Pope John-Paul!
On the road to Petra from Amman, a Major Pit-Stop is Mount Nebo, where Moses is supposedly buried! I could not find the Exact-Spot but it could be inside the Historic Monastic-Church, under the famous Historic Mosaics, which could not be seen because of the current Historic-Restorations which rendered the Sanctuary Closed-Until-Further-Notice.
Mount Nebo Symbol: Modern Version of Aaron's Staff. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
I did get to photograph a modern sculptural-rendering of Aaron's Rod or Staff, with a Symbolic-Serpent entwined. Also crying-out for a Photo-Op was the Tree the Pope planted on his visit to this Holy-Shrine. Sample Mosaics in the small museum showed me what I was missing inside the ancient Church.
The Jerusalem-Mosaic in Madaba!
As we had done fifty years ago, I stopped again in Madaba to photograph the Mosaics in the center of the Greek-Orthodox Sanctuary in the center of this ancient city. The heart of this mosaic of the Holy-Land & the River Jordan is a tiled-representation of the City of Jerusalem. It is the oldest-known map of the Holy-City!
Madaba Mosaics: World's Oldest Map of Jerusalem in tiles. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
Fortunately, my admirable personal driver/guide, Sufian Khader--no more touring with busloads of thrill-seeking Americans: "Glenn! Get on the bus! Don't you have enough photos of all these ruins?"--realized I wanted to discover & photograph as much as I could of Jordan's Historic-Past.
So he found me other ancient Madaba Mosaics in other ancient churches, now disused, aside from the occasional visits of serious students of Biblical, Greco-Roman, Christian, & Arab Yesterdays.
Lot's Cave & The Dead-Sea!
With the loss of the Jerusalem-Connection, Jordan doesn't have all that many Bible-Sanctioned Holy-Sites, so Lot's Cave is a Must!
Saint Lot--as he is known hereabouts--is supposed to have taken shelter with his daughters in this ancient cave, halfway up a towering-mountain, after the Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah!
Cave of Lot or Lut: Where Lot took shelter when Sodom was destroyed. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
There is No Pillar of Salt surviving--a vengeful Jehovah always seemed to mete out more Punishment to Women than to Men: ever heard of a Man stoned for Adultery in the Old-Testament?--as it would have melted-away Millennia-ago. But a nearby rocky-formation atop another mountain is said to have chemical salt-components!
This Holy-Site, like the Mount Nebo Church, was Closed-for-Repairs, or whatever--as no work was going forward anywhere.
Fortunately, my Guide was able to get the Laid-Back Caretaker to let us through the barriers & allow us to climb the steep steps up to the ruins of an ancient Byzantine Church, constructed over the Mythic-Historic Cave. The Church had long ago been destroyed by Periodic-Avalanches of rumbling stones, tumbling down the ever-unstable mountain-sides of this area.
My Knees--as well as the absence of a flashlight--prevented me from descending the dusty steps down into the complex of caverns that compose Lot's Cave. It has been thoroughly explored, of course. No Angels were found…
At the foot of this mountain is the handsome new stone structure of the "Lowest Museum in the World." It can claim that title, as it is near the Dead-Sea, which is, of course, below sea-level!
Unfortunately, there are No Exhibits or Artifacts in the Museum, so it doesn't look like it will open anytime soon…
The Dead Sea: The Promise & the Reality! Photo: ©Glenn Loney/INFOTOGRAPHY™/2008.
As for the Dead-Sea itself, it is Dying! Every year, the water-level drops by a Meter! You can see this on the Jordanian bleached mountain-sides which border it along the modern highway. Like far-off Lake Shasta in times of Global-Warming!
But Help may be on the way! There are plans to dig a Canal from the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead-Sea, providing it with New-Life. Not to overlook shipping-potentials for both Israel & Jordan?
If you decide to make this tour sometime soon, plan to spend time at the Mövenpick Dead-Sea Resort & Spa. It is immense & recreates historic Arabian-Interiors in luxurious suites, set up as a series of Village-Houses. TVs in every suite!
There may be no Drama-Theatres in Jordan--at least I couldn't find any listed--but the latest movies are on-tap & most hotels feature from fifty to sixty TV Channels: Russia & China are on-offer & in English.
CNN & BBC present really important Current-News-Events--unlike in the States--but the English-version of Al-Jazeera TV is a Revelation! Live-action-news you will never see on American Evening-News broadcasts!
Not only are there handsome swimming-pools at the Mövenpick Complex, but you can also walk--or ride a small funicular--down to the Dead-Sea Beachfront!
Yes, you do float on the Dead-Sea--thanks to the heavy salt-content--but I didn't try it as it was too cold!
With Lawrence of Arabia in Wadi Rum!
On-Track with Lawrence of Arabia: Narrow-gauge Railway from Middle-East to Arabia still functions. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY™/2008
Fairly far away from the Dead-Sea is Wadi Rum, an expanse of flat desert, with sheer stony mountains seeming to rise right out of the sand. Here sections of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia were filmed, not only because it is Very-Photogenic, but also because this was the actual site where Col. TE Lawrence trained his Anti-Ottoman-Army of Arab-Insurgents.
Great Stone Face: Arabian Portrait of Lawrence of Arabia. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
There are even relief-portraits of Lawrence & King Abdullah carved in the rock-faces. Near the actual camp-site, there are a number of ancient Arab-Petroglyphs of Camels & Caravanserais.
Natural Majesty in Wadi Rum: Mountain rock-formation known as the Seven-Pillars-of-Wisdom. Photo: ©Glenn Lone /INFOTOGRAPHY™ 2008.
There is also a handsome new Visitors'-Center, with the immense Seven-Pillars-of-Wisdom mountain in the distance. It is composed of what seem to be seven eroded pillars of Living-Stone.
For tourists to go out exploring in the desert of Wadi Rum, their drivers have to let most of the air out of the tires of their four-wheeled vehicles. Even then, it is tough-going…
Kerak: Crusaders' Castle Ruins:
Fifty years ago, I saw the great Crusader-Castle-Fortress of Kerak only from a distant highway far below, on the road to Petra. This time I was able to inspect it up-close, making special note of its interior construction. Lots of INFOTOGRAPHY™ photos!
Crusader-Castle-Fortress Kerak: Today a semi-restored & stabilized Ruin. Photo: ©Glenn Lone /INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
I also saw some smaller Crusader-Castle ruins, but not from a close range. The greatest of the surviving Crusader-Castles, Krak des Chevaliers, lies in the northern region of the Holy-Land.
What one needs to remember about all the Ultimately-Futile Christian-Crusades is that the Christian Kings, Barons, Lords, & Knights, Templar & Otherwise, held Jerusalem--on & off--for less than Two-Centuries…
Did you know that Saint Francis of Assisi also made a Crusade-Oriented-Pilgrimage to Jerusalem? But even that Endorsement did not help hold the Holy-Land for Christianity…
Richard the Lionheart's mother, the fabulous Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, also joined an early Crusade, with her then-husband, St. Louis of France. They had no Children & he wasn't much fun, so she had the marriage annulled by the Pope, then marrying King Henry II of England!
[He was the Cursed-Angevin--of the Norman-French Dukes of Anjou--who had St. Thomas à Beckett murdered. For which Religio-Political-Crime he did Penance…]
Henry wasn't much fun in quite a different way from St. Louis, as he had the glamorous, but always intriguing, Eleanor imprisoned, only letting her see her Angevin sons--King Richard, King John, & Geoffrey--at Christmas. For further details, see The Lion in Winter.
But St. Louis also had Eleanor imprisoned at one time, so being a Real Heaven-Anointed-Queen--instead of just a Drama-Queen--may not be that rewarding. Ultimately…
This Is My Beloved Son, In Whom I Am Well-Pleased!
When I read in my Tour-Itinerary that I would visit Bethany, I thought of seeing the Tomb of Lazarus--"Lord, He stinketh!"--but I had mis-read. The real Biblical-Bethany, like Bethlehem, is now on the Other-Side of the Jordan, in Israeli-Territory.
Instead, we were closing-in on "Bethany Beyond the Jordan," with road-signs periodically advising us that we were only a few kilometers from the Actual-Site where John the Baptist had Baptized Jesus!
They wouldn't make a sign for it if they didn't know for sure, would they? Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
The River Jordan must have gradually changed course over the past 2000 years. Today, at this point in Time & at this point in the River, it looks like a crooked, sluggish, muddy creek. Nonetheless, that did not discourage a Born-Again Pastor from loudly instructing his bus-load of God-Fearing American-Fundamentalists on the Significance of this Holy-Site.
The River Jordan Now: What would Jesus do about this? Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
On the Other-Side of the Jordan, a serious chain-link-fence runs along the rising river-bank, separating a State-of-the-Art Israeli-Installation from both Christians & Arabs at the Jordanian riverside. There was No-Way Christian-Tourists in Israel could reach this Sanctified-Site!
Jesus' Jordanian Baptism: Greek-Orthodox Stylized-Version.
Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
They also miss-out on another Inspirational-Location nearby: the Very-Spot from which the Prophet
Elijah ascended into Heaven in that fabled Chariot of Fire!
This Slab Marks the Spot: But no Chariots-of-Fire currently on view. Photo: ©Glenn Lone /INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
I searched, but there are no Burn-Marks on the Launching-Pad grounds. Of course, that first Heavenly-Airlift happened so long ago that Millennia of Storms would have erased every Trace…
Port-City of Aqaba: Portal to the Sinai-Peninsula:
At the Head of the Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan's Port-City--a Free-Port Zone: buy your tax-free souvenirs here!--is certainly worth a visit, both for its historical-remains & its bustling shipping-industry, featuring imported Petroleum, exported Phosphates, Manufacturing, & colorful Agricultural-Products.
It shares the landward curve of the Gulf with Israel. Along the Jordanian side of the Gulf--in addition to factories & shipping-docks--there are impressive new beach-front resorts either Under-Construction or already in-play.
Red-Sea/Gulf of Aqaba Tourism is the Wave of the Future: also on Egypt's Sinai-side of the Gulf!
But I did not go to Aqaba to sun-bathe. I wanted to visit the historic St. Catherine's Monastery in the heart of the Sinai-Peninsula. [You can also sun-bathe in Sinai's Sharm El-Sheikh.]
In the Shadows of Sinai: Fortress-walls of Historic St. Catherine's Monastery. Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
Visiting St. Catherine's is a Virtuous-Undertaking, but you should do it from Cairo. Not only did I not realize this, but last winter in Cairo, I had only time for an Alexandria Add-On.
Neither the Port of Aqaba nor the corresponding Sinai-Port of Nuweiba are designed for Tourism. If you do not have a Guide to lead you through the Labyrinth to board the Sinai-bound ship--with all the necessary Visas & baggage-checks--you will Miss the Boat. Same with landing at the base of the Gulf on the other side…
My gleaming Ya'lla Tour SUV had come all the way from Cairo to meet me. It took me from the Port into the Mount-Sinai-Hinterland where I over-nighted in a remarkable stone-village--named for St. Catherine of Alexandria--in Wadi El Raha.
As it was already raining slightly, I elected NOT to rise at 3:30 am to climb the hundreds of steps to the Summit of Mount Sinai to see--possibly--the Very-Spot where Jehovah gave Charlton Heston the Tablets of the Law.
The Tourism-Hook was to see a Glorious-Sunrise over the Promised-Land, just as Moses must have seen it 5,765 years ago, give or take a few hundred-years or so…
What I did get to see--as well as to photograph--was the solitary Ancient-Chapel on the hill where Moses' brother Aaron is said to be buried!
It may be remembered that--while Moses was occupied Up on the Mountaintop--Aaron & the Children of Israel were busy melting down their golden jewelry & coins to cast an Image of the Golden-Calf.
This surely must have been not really a calf, but an image of the Egyptian Cow-Goddess, Hathor, whom the Ancient-Israelis knew well in the Old-Country before they set off for 40 years of aimless-wandering in the Sinai-Desert…
Near St. Catherine's Monastery, you can actually see the Site of the Original-Golden-Calf: there is a Sign carved in Stone to designate the spot. As though that were not enough for the Truly-Faithful, there is--roughly-eroded into a nearby stony hillside--an actual figure of a Golden-Calf!
The Golden-Calf: Man-made Sign & Erosion's Sculpture! Photo: ©Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY 2008.
St. Catherine's Monastery is constructed with outer-walls like a great Medieval-Fortress, with good reason, as it has stood for centuries in the Heart of Muslim-Territory.
From Vintage-Photographs, it looks vast & fascinating, but it is not really so extensive. And most of it is Closed to Outsiders. It is, after all, a Monastery, where the monks are more or less constantly praying… When not Monitoring the floods of Tourists, Orthodox & Otherwise!
In any case, the Hordes of Tourists crowding the narrow passages into the Monastery-Church prevent lingering, nor are there many Photo-Ops, as photography is forbidden inside the small Sanctuary & the even smaller Museum.
Only Russian-Orthodox Tourists were permitted access to some other parts of the Complex. Roman-Catholics had to settle for kissing the Sacred & Historic Ikon of St. Catherine of Alexandria at the exit of the Church.
Raised a Methodist, I refrained from mingling my Saliva with who-knows-what Alien-Bacteria? After all, Body-Fluids such as Lymph & Saliva can spread diseases as easily as Blood.
I also recalled that haunting tale of Baroness Blixen, of the pious Roman-Catholic woman who contracted Syphilis--in spite of a Blameless, Sexless-Life--when she kissed the Saliva-Swamped toe of the Statue of St. Peter in the HQ of Christendom…
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this remote Monastic-Foundation--established by the Byzantine-Emperor Justinian after 500 AD--is that it is built on the original-site of Moses' Burning-Bush!
But the Wonders & Miracles do not stop there!
Although St. Catherine was Martyred--her Sinless-Body broken on the Wheel, hence "Catherine-Wheel" fireworks!--in Alexandria in 307 AD, a Flight of Angels airlifted her Bones & Other-Relics to her Titular-Monastery in the Sinai-Desert over two-hundred years later! I know this to be so, as I saw an ancient painting of this amazing-event at the Monastery!
[This is similar to the Angelic-Airlift of the Blessed-Virgin's remote & final home in the hills above Ephesus, flying it off to Loretto in Italy. I have photographed the Actual-House, still in situ in Ephesus--unless that is a Turkish-Tourist-Trap copy--as well as in Loretto. I also photographed the Loretto Virgin's-House in England at the Walshingham-Shrine. Talk about Heavenly-Housing-Booms!]
After all this Spiritual-Uplift, my Ya'lla friends drove me back to the Gulf of Aqaba, after which they drove all the way back to Cairo--at the same time an Egyptian Camel was being hoisted by crane from Sinai over the collapsed-barrier-wall separating it from Gaza!
I wish there had been time to drive up there: This was a Definitive-Photo-Op, suggesting some on-the-ground, day-to-day reasons why the Peace-Process seems to be Going-Nowhere…
The High Metal Gaza-Wall was fabricated by the Israelis, according to reports, not by the Egyptians. It is not clear whether it is supposed to keep Arab-Terrorists out of Gaza or out of Egypt?
What Exciting-Times we now live in!
Will Pres. Geo. Bush be able to Broker an Arab-Israeli Peace?
If that fails, how about Pres. McCain? Or Pres. Obama…
[If you would be interested in seeing the sites noted above--either in a small group or with a personal-guide & driver--contact Ya'lla Tours USA: www.yallatours.com.
[This is not a commercial-advert. In fact, this was the most expensive solo-tour I have ever taken, more costly than Thailand/Cambodia/Singapore combined. But worth it for the photos, even though I am not yet earning anything from their use. Nor am I paid for reports such as that above…]
| home | discounts | welcome | search | international | lobby |
| museums | NYTW mail | recordings | coupons | classified |