The location of the pilgrims’ hotel in Jordan’s capital of Amman looked like any number of modern cities with nearly 3 million people. Shopping malls, office buildings and bustling crowds are the norm. But continuing the “theme” of their experiences, the pilgrims quickly headed to the nearby ancient ruins.
The Citadel is a national historic site in the center of downtown Amman. Its history spans many thousands of years, with even evidence of occupation in the Neolithic period, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited places.
The Pittsburgh group then headed to extensive ruins from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Before the city was named Amman it was Rabbath Ammon, and later Philadelphia. Its ancient history is preserved for antiquity and interested tourists.
Featured at the site are a large cistern, amphitheater, early church (with a rebuilt roof) and many other items. A museum contains artifacts from the area. Some of the pilgrims posed for photos with local people.
Next up was a visit to Jerash in northern Jordan, which is the location of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa and one of the best preserved Roman cities.
The ruins include a hippodrome (venue for races and other entertainment), amphitheaters, Hadrian’s arch (built to mark the emperor’s visit in 129-130 AD), baths and city walls. A truly vast and impressive complex of ancient buildings and columns.
The pilgrims had a chance to wander the grounds and be serenaded in an amphitheater by musicians on drum and bagpipe playing “Amazing Grace.” Kind of a surreal experience, but very memorable.
After breaking for lunch in Jerash, the Pittsburghers headed to the Jordan-Israel border crossing, which took a bit longer than expected to get through. Security is very tight along the border, and the pilgrims were required to show their U.S. passports on both sides. They also said goodbye to their Jordanian tour guide and met up again with their Israeli tour guide.
Their next appointment was at the Tel-Aviv airport for their flight home, scheduled to leave after 11 p.m.
All in all, an amazing trip full of extraordinary sites and experiences. Certainly something the pilgrims will never forget.
One final blog post is still to come, along with full coverage of the pilgrimage in the Oct. 25 issue of the Pittsburgh Catholic.