A Visit to Jordan and Jerusalem

Assalam Alaikum (Peace Be Unto You)
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King Hussein

The late King Hussein provided the gold that covers the Dome of the Rock, a vitally important site in the Islamic faith. Ironically, because it is located in Jerusalem, Jordanian Muslims are no longer permitted to visit it. Therefore, King Hussein decided to build the great Blue Mosque in Amman. Personally funded by the king, it opened in 1996. In King Hussein, Jordan had a leader who cared so deeply for his people that they frequently refer to him as"father" or "brother."

Demonstrating his diplomatic skills, Hussein married an Egyptian, an Englishwoman, a Palestinian, and an American of Syrian ancestry. Each woman was beautiful and talented — and each marriage served to build international relationships for Jordan.

Hussein surprised everyone when he bypassed his brother, the crown prince, and named Abdullah, a son born of his English wife, to be his successor. That choice seems to have been a final master stroke from the master politician.

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Not long ago, I walked in the footsteps of Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed, not to mention Bedouin shepherds, Alexander the Great, Roman soldiers, the Crusaders, and even Lawrence of Arabia. All of us walked, at different times, on the land now known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

I traveled to Jordan primarily to see a renowned archaeological site called Petra, but, to my great pleasure, I discovered that in Jordan what you see is much less than what you get. I'll explain. The physical remnants of civilizations past, glorious as they are, were surpassed by the experience of coming to know and appreciate the many cultures that have flourished throughout the centuries in this largely infertile land.

For Jordanians, Bedouins, and Palestinian refugees, all residents of Jordan, achieving a satisfying life is a daily challenge. For one thing, this vaguely K-shape country about the size of Virginia is 80 percent desert. Further, its neighbors are Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia — countries in which few forget or forgive any real or imagined transgression no matter how distant in time. Jordan is a land of shortages: of water, arable land, and peace of mind.

On the other hand, from the point of view of a traveler, English is common, food is very tasty, roads and hotels are good, and hospitality is sincere. Jordan has a fascinating past and an intriguing dilemma in the present.

The modern country known as Jordan was created in 1919 when Britain partitioned lands formerly under Turkish control. Until 1967, the western border of Jordan was literally across the street from the Israeli parliament. As a consequence of losing the 1967 war with Israel, that border was pushed east all the way back across the River Jordan.

For many visitors one of the most interesting sights in Amman, the capital, is a collection of Dead Sea scrolls displayed in the National archaeological Museum located on Citadel Hill. In the first century, members of four Jewish sects used these scrolls to record their interpretation of sections of the Old Testament.

To hide their work from unsympathetic Romans, they wrapped the scrolls in linen and concealed them in pottery jars. They were lost to local consciousness until, in 1947, a shepherd followed a wayward goat into a cave and discovered the 1,900-year-old vessels. Although he sold them in the market for seven dinars (now about $10), they ultimately found their way to the Jordanian government.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 21 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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