A panorama view of the Temple of Artemis at Jerash

Our time in Jordan is rapidly drawing to a close, and on our third-to-last Saturday in the country, we took a trip to the Roman ruins at Jerash.

We were very lucky to get a bus to Jerash from Abdali that was leaving right that second. Sure, it meant that we had to sit separately and squash into the last two seats on the bus (the other three friends who were with us had to stand), but it sure beats waiting in a hot bus for an hour until it fills up with passengers.

On the Cardus Maximus

We've seen more than our share of Roman ruins - Syria is full of them - but Jerash is definitely among the best. If for nothing else, it is amazing even for its size. The ruins go on for a long way and spread onto several hilltops.

With the exception of Petra, most historical sites in Jordan do not charge admission fees, or if they do, it is only 1 JD. Jerash, apparently, is another exception. The price for foreigners is a whopping 8 JD. Having to fork out 8 JDs almost made me wish I'd gotten a Jordan University ID way back when, but really, this is the first time it would have come in handy. So I'll just consider the 8 JDs the price of not going through the hassle of getting one of those IDs.

The Temple of Artemis

My favorite part of the ruins was the Temple of Artemis, way up on the farthest hillside. Maybe it was because I thought we had already seen the coolest parts of Jerash while walking along the Cardus Maximus, and then all of a sudden there was this gorgeous temple on the hillside, surrounded by windswept grass and overlooking the beautiful countryside.

Our original plan was to go to Jerash for the Jerash Festival, but sadly, it has been cancelled this year due to the conflict in Lebanon.

A view over the ruins from the Temple of Artemis

We had a bit of an adventure getting back to Amman from Jerash. When we were done enjoying the site, we headed down to the main traffic light near the ruins to see if we could catch a returning bus or minibus to Amman. Along the way, we were approached by half a dozen dudes with minivans trying to tell us there were no more buses/minibuses/taxis/transport back to the capital.

One guy in particular was just sure he could get us to pay him for a ride back. He cornered Jeremy and immediately asked where in Amman we wanted to go. The thing is, the guy already had his answer all ready - whatever Jeremy said, he was sure he would be able to happily report that there was no bus to that location, leaving us with no other option than to hire him. Imagine his surprise when Jeremy said "Abdali," the one place that actually was a destination for the buses leaving town. This fact didn't stop him from lamely replying, "But there is no" His hopes of getting us as passengers faded significantly as he finished his sentence.

Anyway, we did manage to find a minibus back to Amman, but it was full. As we watched it drive away, yet another minivan driver approached us and said he would take us for the same price as the minibus. There were a few red flags about his offer that made Jeremy and me very skeptical.

Red flag number one: he was speaking to us in English. Never, ever trust an Arab in a situation like this if he is only speaking in English. The red flag got even brighter when he insisted it was a good deal because "I speak to you only in English."

Another red flag was that his deal didn't make financial sense. He was offering to take us five passengers for only 700 qirsh each, netting him 3.5 JD total. I was suspicious of anyone offering to drive all the way to Amman for so little money.

We went back and forth on the price issue, Jeremy spelling out the deal in every way possible to make sure we weren't getting cheated. Jeremy was speaking Arabic and the guy was still only speaking English, but we managed to pin him down on the price so that it was absolutely clear that upon exiting the vehicle at our destination, we would each be handing over 700 qirsh.

Finally, we took the deal. Both Jeremy and I knew there was something this guy wasn't telling us, but we had clarified the price issue so well that we decided not to worry about it.

The penny dropped before we even got to Amman. The driver stopped the minivan in Suwelieh, a suburb outside of Amman, and told us it was the end of the road. Much arguing ensued, with all five of us insisting that the deal had been to take us to Abdali in Amman. The driver protested that he had never mentioned Abdali. We countered that he had never mentioned Suwelieh, either.

I wonder if, during the initial negotiations, he purposely focused on the price so that we would forget to confirm the destination. If so, good on him, because it worked.

In the end, Jeremy gave him a good verbal beating, we paid him his money, and went to find a bus that would actually take us to Abdali. And all it cost us was another 150 qirsh.
Posted by Picasa


Open letter to the Arab world: fireworks