Saturday, June 17, 2006

Iraq al-Amir

So, today, for our relaxing Saturday, we decided to go on an adventure - a daring adventure. We went to Iraq.

Iraq al-Amir, that is... Same spelling, different meaning (Iraq country = عراق - Iraq al-Amir = عراق). Just outside of Amman there are a whole line of ancient caves, named Iraq al-Amir. They were anciently used as calvary stables and are currenly just cool huge caves.

They are on the edge of a huge, fertile, green valley full of fig and olive orchards - stark contrast from dry Amman and the surrounding deserts.

We took a taxi from Amman, since it is so close, and had the taxi drive wait for us while we explored the caves. These caves were completely different from the ones at Petra that we spent 2 days exploring. These caves were deep and short and...moist! Moss was growing all over the place and made the caves look and smell really cool.

Moss growing on the rocks in a cave

Nancy in the front of the deep cave

In one of the caves (see above), we found 2 bats flying around, and towards us. I tried getting a picture of them, but the camera kept turing off (the batteries didn't want to cooperate anymore).

We went up to another cave and as we started going in, we heard tons of screaching. There was a whole flock of bats - we just woke them up. We quickly left the cave before we were taken away by angry rabid bats, or turned into vampires or something.

After a while at the caves, we went down to an ancient fortress down in the valley. This was actually pretty cool. In all my travels in Europe and the Middle East, the only ancient buildings I've seen have been churches and castles - never a small outpost fortress. Those usually get demolished or become castles or churches. This little fortress was only about 50 feet by 25 feet. The neat thing is that it is a really good example of pre-Roman architecture in the Middle East. It's made with giant slabs of solid rock - none of them cut uniformly - all laid and stacked on top of each other. It was surprisingly well preserved, just like most things here in Jordan. I guess the desert preserves things pretty well out here.

On the outside of the fortress we found this old marble lion fountain built into the way, amazingly well preserved as well.

After all that, we took our taxi back to Amman - a 15 minute drive. It's amazing that an area so sparse and green is that close to the main city. Cool stuff!

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