As I write, the people of Jordan are celebrating the annual two- to three-week-long Jordan Festival, until this year known as the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts. It was founded in 1981 by the only queen the United States has ever produced, the under-appreciated Queen Noor Al Hussein, nee Lisa Halaby, widow of the late King Hussein bin Talal. The renaming of the festival took place amidst frenzied controversy. Some believe the rebranding is a thinly-veiled attempt to co-opt the festival from Queen Noor; others believe Jews are now financially benefitting from it, a notion that is repugnant to some Arabs. Regardless, the show goes on.
To commemorate the festival, I've created another photo album, this time for the ancient Decapolis city of Jerash:
The remarkably well preserved ruins at Jerash are among Jordan's major attractions, and they are within an easy day trip of Amman. Jerash is also one of the best examples in the Middle East of a Roman provincial city. In its heyday, Jerash--known in Roman times as Gerasa--had a population of about 15,000 and, although it wasn't located along any of the region's major trade routes, it prospered because of the rich agricultural land surrounding it.
I've been fortunate to be in Jordan during the Jerash Festival and attend a musical performance at the South Theatre at dusk. The performance was patronized by the current king of Jordan, King Abdullah bin Hussein, and his wife, Queen Rania al Abdullah. What I remember most about it is that the king and the queen arrived in separate Black Hawk helicopters, landing very, very close to the South Theatre. The chopper blades whipped up such a tornado of sand, dust, and debris that many of the well-dressed, well-groomed people in the theatre were practically shaking their fists at the sky in frustration. They didn't seem to appreciate the hot-dogging grand entrance. The tornado took a few minutes to settle down, by which time most of us were covered with sand and grit. Fortunately (she cynically writes), I had just washed my hair prior to the event and, since it is very thick, it was still damp to the touch. After the chopper landings, I could've gone straight to a masquerade party dressed as human sandpaper. :-)
Still, a memorable time was had, and Jerash--festival or not--is certainly worth a visit if you're ever in the neighborhood.
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