Category Archives: Travel

Jerash and Umm Qais Photos

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One of the many Greco-Roman remains in the ancient city of Jerash. This was a temple dedicated to the Greek God Artemis.

The ancient city of Jerash is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the “Pompeii” of the Middle East or Asia”, referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation (though Jerash was never buried by a volcano). Jerash is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Middle East.

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The sky was ominous and silent. It was such a beautiful experience. You could almost hear a bustling city from the silence.

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A pathway leading to a once Greco-Roman temple.

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Ancient ruins are scattered across this once vibrant city.

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I thought the herd was a nice touch to the scenery, so I had to snap a picture!

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Doesn’t this remind you of the Disney film Hercules? Except, this is definitely in the Middle East and not Greece. The influences are undeniable huh?

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The nearly unique oval Forum, which is surrounded by a fine colonnade.

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This area was once the market place of the city.

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This is situated in the extreme north-west of the country, where the borders of Jordan, Israel and Syria meet, perched on a hilltop (378 metres above sea level), overlooking the sea of Tiberias, the Golan heights and the Yarmuk gorge. Crazy you can look in every direction and a different country is in the horizon.

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The entrance to the ancient city of Jerash.

Touchdown in Amman, Jordan

By John Mitchell

After being on several planes for 18+ hours, I finally landed in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (اَلمَمْلَكَة اَلأُرْدُنِيَّة اَلهَاشِمِيَّة), in their capital of Amman, around 4 a.m. Sunday. Because it was so early, I didn’t really get the glamorous entrance I was hoping for where I would be flooded with Ahlan wa Sahlan, Marhaba or other forms of the word “welcome/hello.” It was probably better that way because I was exhausted! After getting my luggage from the slow conveyor belt, I headed to my first destination, the Landmark Hotel, where the people in my program and I would stay temporarily until we move to our homestays or apartments.

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On Monday, we headed off to explore the city of Amman. One of my first stops was the Royal Automobile Museum. This was a museum devoted to the former King Hussein’s car collection an, boy, did he have one. The museum had every car you could ask for. King Hussein had great taste! I, of course, marveled at the light Blue Aston Martin (being a James Bond fanatic does that to you).

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Our next stop was the Roman Citadel and Theatre. This was such a picturesque area. The Roman Theatre felt like I had just walked into the scene in “Gladiator” where Maximus looks around to the silent Romans screaming, “Are you not entertained!?” This theater was huge and the steps to go up were so steep, one could fall to their death. I made it to the top, but it was a traumatic experience trying to get down. The Roman Citadel rises above the city of Amman, overlooking the ancient city. I found it fascinating when our guide said that, just like Rome, Amman was built on seven hills. Due to expansion and laws on how tall buildings can be, Amman now covers more than 23 hills. You really felt like the king of the world gazing across the city at the Roman Citadel.

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For food, we headed to a popular place in downtown Amman called Jafra. When we got there, several Arabic dishes such as kebab, hummus, and various salads and pita lay spread across the table for us. For those who don’t know, I kind of like to eat a lot, so I had a blast. Also, like many cafes around Amman, the smell of argeela (hookah in the U.S.) fills the air. It is a favorite past time here.

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The next day, I moved in with my homestay family. The family, a lovely nuclear family, does not speak much English, which is good because it forces me to use the Arabic I know and improve on it. So, although sometimes it is difficult to get my point across, in the long-term, I’ll be very thankful. They have two little kids named Rami (6 years old) and Lara (9 years old). They treat me like an older brother, which is good sometimes and bad when I’m trying to study, etc. The family has taken me in as their own, so I have to visit family and travel with them, but they also give me the freedom I need to do my own thing. My house mom, Rania, keeps the food coming non-stop. A few days ago, she asked me if I was hungry and I said I wasn’t… well the next minute, she came from the kitchen with three huge burgers all for me and said eat! So if I get fat here, you all know why. Also, every 30 minutes she asks if I’d like shiae (tea) or qahawa (coffee), and won’t let me help out with anything. It’s definitely different.

Look out for my next post about my visit to the lowest point on Earth, Bahar al-Miiyaat (the Dead Sea), my first experiences with taxi drivers and being a student at the University of Jordan.

~JEM

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Roma: La Cittá Eterna

By Laura Hough

The second weekend in Italy, I went to Rome with three other girls from my program. Rome is a 2-3 hour train ride from Perugia, and we left at 7 a.m. This was my first experience on the Italian train system, and I was really glad one of the girls I was with had done it before. For a regional train, you don’t even have to buy your tickets early. Just check times online, then get there about half an hour ahead to purchase the ticket. We did make a little mistake — online, tickets were from 9 euro, and we ended up paying 19 euro. We were, however, on a nicer (read: quieter and smoother) train with plugins and comfy seats. Our train ride home on Sunday was much cheaper, but a lot noisier and less comfy. For Italian trains, always, always, always remember to validate your ticket — you do it after you purchase it, in a little machine in the station or out by the tracks. If you don’t, you get a fine. In Rome, we saw St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, and the Borghese Gallery, where many of Bernini’s sculptures are housed. Unfortunately, it was a little rainy, so that definitely dampened our spirits, as well as kept us from doing more of the outdoor activities. We still had excellent pizza and bruschetta one night, and some delicious gelato as well. I really liked Rome, and I can’t wait to visit again. It’s definitely at the top of my list of amazing cities so far. Hope you enjoy my pictures!

St. Peter's Basilica is breathtaking! Even the pictures don't do it justice. Definitely a must-see in Rome, in Italy, in the world.

St. Peter’s Basilica is breathtaking! Even the pictures don’t do it justice. Definitely a must-see in Rome, in Italy, in the world.
We climbed to the top of the cupola, and saw the entire city laid out below us. Definitely worth the 5 euro and 500 steps.

We climbed to the top of the cupola, and saw the entire city laid out below us. Definitely worth the 5 euro and 500 steps.

My favorite picture so far- a night shot of the basilica.

My favorite picture so far- a night shot of the Basilica.

Every where I went in Rome, I felt like everything I saw was ancient. These ruins (which, my apologies, I have no idea what they're called) were in a  piazza surrounded by shops.

Every where I went in Rome, I felt like everything I saw was ancient. These ruins (which, my apologies, I have no idea what they’re called) were in a piazza surrounded by shops.

The Vatican Museum has a whole room dedicated to vehicles the Pope has ridden in through history. This was my favorite.

The Vatican Museum has a whole room dedicated to vehicles the Pope has ridden in through history. This was my favorite.

The famous statue is in the Vatican Museum. I'm not very well informed on the subject of art history, but even I recognized this.

The famous statue of “The Thinker” is in the Vatican Museum. I’m not very well informed on the subject of art history, but even I recognized this one.

The beginning

By Stephanie Hornstra

Packing — my absolute least favorite activity to partake in. Needless to say packing and I have been butting heads for quite some time. So naturally, I began the process of packing for my five-month trip, the night before I left. DO. NOT. DO. THIS. I was on track until we weighed my enormous suitcase in at whopping 55 pounds, five pounds over the limit. I had practically air-tight sealed it with clothes, none of which I was willing to part with, so I was forced to unpack my entire bag and re-pack it into a lighter, smaller suitcase. Keep in mind this is all about an hour before we needed to leave for the airport. Finally, I accomplished the impossible feat of squeezing my clothes into a smaller bag and managed to make it to the airport on time, thus enabling my inner procrastinator. It was a close call, but I made it! And with everything I needed (except for headphones, all of my summer shoes, a backpack and swimsuits…). Moral of the story: Plan ahead, save yourself the time and stress!

After falling victim to the airport scam of overpriced headphones ($25.00? Is that even legal?), I boarded my flight. Ironically, the choice of movie was “Taken 2.” I’m sure the people over at US Airways all had a good laugh about it. The flight was long and boring — let’s just say if solitaire became an Olympic event, I’d take gold. The Amsterdam airport is clean and modern; everything was well labeled in both Dutch and English so I had no trouble getting around. The Dutch are extremely helpful and have very good English, they were happy to answer any questions I had. It took two trains, a bus and a short walk to get to where I live in Maastricht. I am still sore from lugging my bags around and my shoulder is slightly bruised (wimp alert).

When I finally made it to my room, I was so exhausted that I took a nap on my bare mattress using my coat as a blanket. It’s no penthouse suite, but my room is nice and spacious. They gave us a short tour of the city, being the oldest city in the Netherlands, it is home to a lot of beautiful architecture. We had a dinner for all of the exchange students afterwards; it’s amazing how many of us are here and from all over the world! Most can tell I’m American the second I open my mouth, as if it was written across my forehead. I’m trying to work on that.

Today I asked the info desk for a map so I could explore the city, they gave me the smallest map they could find so that I wouldn’t look like a “tourist.” It was raining, so the second I went outside the map was useless, but at least I didn’t look like a tourist, right? Not to mention the streets have names like “Wijnandsstraat” and “Vijverdalseweg,” so asking for directions turns into a lot of “Wijnand-what?” and “Vijver-what?” It made me think, how did people ever survive before Google Maps? Finding my way around has been my biggest challenge. That, or finding out that Europe doesn’t have Netflix. However, I’m managing. Pictures to come soon on a day that isn’t pouring rain!