Scotsabroad's Weblog

April 10, 2011

Dead Good

Filed under: Running,visits — scotsabroad @ 6:21 pm


I have just returned from Amman having run 21km of the Dead Sea Marathon. Advertised as a run to the lowest point on earth, I was looking forward to the finish and the experience of floating in the Dead Sea. There were staggered starts for the ultra, full, half and 10km routes – with all runners finishing at the same place. I felt like we had been up for hours, having assembled early morning at King Hussein Park and then got bused to our starts,  as we waited in the cold and the spitting rain until the start at 7:45am. In reality it did not feel as if we were running downhill at anytime. Indeed the final 2km were uphill. Being passed by the elite marathon runners 6k from the finish was a little bit disheartening. Their running speed after 35+ km was just incredible to witness. The route had decreasing kilometer markers and I enjoyed seeing the distance to the finish diminish. But I ran out of energy on the last 4km. It was very warm when the sun shone and I had no fuel reserves. I walked some chunks at the end while drinking water-  came in at 1hr 49min. A good run but the Dead Sea was a bit of a disappointment. Where we finished was very grotty – and although there were a few people wading over the rubbish and in the water, nobody looked capable of floating. One child was even wearing a rubber ring. I resisted the urge to even paddle. Our bus back to Amman broke down – and by that time I knew how it felt.

I made it for a late lunch and a few beers with Iain Benzie and his (soon to be extended) family. They were up from Aqaba for a pre-natal hospital appointment. We then went looking for some culture and had a quick visit to the Roman Theatre. The second century theatre was a good climb. Steeply raked into a hillside and designed to keep the sun off the 6000 spectators.

The following day I visited the Citadel. The ruins on the hill, dating from Roman to early Islamic times, gave a great view of the city (once called Philadelphia) bathed in glorious spring sunshine.

In the Archaeological Museum on the site I saw some very quirky and appealing statues. Like creations from Key Stage 1 children they look out from glass display cases. These Ancestor Statues from 6500 BC were discovered in the early 1980s on the outskirts of Amman. Neolithic  funeral statues were deliberately buried underneath the floors of uninhabited houses. Neolithic practice was to bury important family members (such as clan chiefs) under the floors of their own homes. There is something extraterrestrial about them. I liked them.

I walked down from the Citadel to the Roman Theatre and visited the King Hussein Mosque.

I then took a taxi out of the city to a town 25km away – but close to the airport. Benzie had told me (after a few beers the night before) that the Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba had a mosaic floor showing the oldest map of the world. Not the world, but the oldest existing map of Palestine.  St. George was built over a ruined Byzantine church from around 500AD. The mosaic floor just seems to have been built over. The map as a whole must have been magnificent – made from 2 million stone tessarae. It shows all the places of Biblical significance such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem as well as Mount Sinai and the Nile Delta. The only intrusion to a very tranquil setting was the loud religious music being played through the church speakers. Pure dead brilliant weekend.

April 1, 2011

Stop at Sadat

Filed under: Cairo,politics — scotsabroad @ 3:14 pm

But for how long? While running in the Wadi this morning I found out that more demonstrations were planned for today in Tahrir Square. This was not good news as the boys had plans to go downtown for The Tahrir Book Fair at the American University. We decided to venture on the Metro and see how it went. The journey proved to be very quiet with only a few demonstrators on route  with rolled up flags and plastic bags bulging with food. We got off at Sadat below Tahrir Square. We noticed the obliteration of Mubarak’s name, further on up the line, on all metro maps. You can just make out the penned-in word,  Martyrs – replacing the deposed president on the map above. I don’t think it will ever be the end of the line for Nasser but how long until Sadat’s name is erased from the map?

We surfaced to a wonderful scene in the beautiful spring sunshine. Tahrir is clean and shows little signs from the turbulent events in January. Vendors of patriotic merchandise line the streets, others sell t-shirts from the bonnets of their parked cars, children get their faces painted while loud music and loud-speaking accompany all the  flag waving and cheering. People sit around waiting for Friday prayers and to picnic afterwards in the warmth of the day. The only evidence of the Egyptian people’s anger is the burnt out SDP building across the square.

We walk untroubled to the AUC. We spend a pleasant few hours browsing the stalls. Cairo gets a book. Lucas a photo album. I get a second-hand book for 25le about a spy in Cairo in the 1950s. We travel home through a city happy and optimistic.

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