April 6, 2010

Amman among the ruins

Bellies full of foul and hummous, we decide to climb the hill. Amman seethes with morning traffic, and I have a strong desire to escape it. Having spent the last long while on transport and in transport hubs, I feel as if the world is choked by cars. Their racket is the soundtrack to the 21st Century, and their demands for space take precedence over all else.

So- up the hill and into a residential area, cats scavenging in big bins and a sleepier day coming into being. Amman seems to have been thrown together, handfuls of brick, dust and cement assembled by an imaginative kid. Half-done paths wind up behind houses with their bones showing, steel cabling poking from the roofs.

We’re going the wrong way- a man gestures towards a set of not-quite-steps with a smile, and we follow his nod. Clambering up, through a gauntlet of rusted fence and stinging nettles, and we see what he was smiling for.

At the top of the hill, sun-soaked and broad-shouldered with a view over the entire city, a Roman temple stands. It is roofless but magnificent, its high entrance pillars balancing a stone centerpiece. Cast around it in the grass are smaller pillars, supporting nothing but the sky. Billy and I sit on one each, silent for a good while. A schoolboy passes through kicking a football, calling through the quiet to his mate on the other side. The traffic flows far below, barely audible. Smog and desert dust mingle over the city, softening its edges. Everything looks made of sand.

A man’s voice is calling from a long way off. It takes a moment before we realise he’s calling to us; something like the Arabic word for Hey You. We haven’t got tickets, he’s telling us. We didn’t come through the proper gate. We hop down from our pillars and scoot back down through the stinging nettles, still wrapped in our moment of calm.

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