Jerash, Jordan

The Ancient, the Magnificent and the Everyday

I grew up in a new town where for thousands of years not much happened beside grass growing and cows mooing. Then around 60 years ago history started in the area when a whole load of concrete was delivered to the vicinity and a town quickly thrown up to house Londoners made homeless in the Blitz.

This is what I thought anyway. In reality Harlow’s story of human occupation began in 5000BC with a Mesolithic hunter gatherer encampment and progressed to become a religious centre during the bronze age and into the Roman era.

Besides its outline nothing much remains of the Roman Temple though the site is preserved in a small patch of green surrounded by the industrial estate to which it gave the name of Templefields.

We now live in a town in Turkey where Alexander the Great once expressed an interest in its affairs and the physical remains of the past are far more dramatic. But while imposing, our Apollo Temple is largely ignored in favour of nearby and far more famous Ephesus.

A World Heritage Site and set piece tourist attraction Ephesus attracts two million visitors a year and for many the ancient Greek city will be the highlight of their visit to Turkey

Didim’s Apollo Temple will also be seen by many eyes but most will merely glimpse the site out of the window of passing buses as they go about getting from one end of town to the other as part of their normal daily routine.

This is not unusual in Turkey. Not far from our pansiyon in Bodrum, where we visited last week, is a normal residential street that just happens to pass by one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

Another Wonder, the Great Pyramids of Giza, is similarity sited. Though from most photographs it looks like the Pyramids are in the middle of nowhere, they are in fact on the outskirts of a suburb of Cairo.

When we made our way to this iconic site we did so by subway and local bus. Walking the last part of the way we were latched on to by one of the many touts in the area. Halfway through his spiel he noticed we were no longer paying him any attention and assumed we had spotted a friend. So used to the sight, it didn’t occur to him we were drinking in our first glance of the tip of one of the Pyramids peeking out from over a wall.

The Pyramids, of course, are among the world’s premier tourist attractions but one of the pleasures of travel is stumbling upon a ruin little known outside of its immediate locale. It is just there, minding its own business down a side street and available to poke around or clamber on, often without having to pay an entrance fee.

The sight of such antiquity is made all the more pleasurable when hemmed in by modern buildings and passed daily with little thought given it by shoppers, students and business people getting on with their lives.

Apollo Temple, Didim, Turkey

Though traffic has recently been diverted away from the Apollo Temple, it is still possible to catch a glimpse of the Greek ruin from buses running from one end of town to the other

Bodrum Castle, Turkey

Stone from the Mausoleum of Mausolus was used by the Crusaders to build Bodrum Castle

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the remains of the Temple of Artemis (foreground) are passed on the way to Ephesus

The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

The suburbs of Cairo encroach on the Pyramids

Beirut, Lebanon

The new shopping district in Beirut surrounds the remains of a Roman market

Roman Walls in Diyarbakir, Turkey

The people of Diyarbakir eat and socialise under the city’s 6km long Roman walls

Erbil citadel, Iraq

The Citadel, one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in the world, dominates the Iraqi city of Erbil

The road alongside Jerash, Jordan

The main road of Jerash separates the new city from the ancient Roman city of Gerasa

Ancient theatre of Philippopolis, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

A busy road runs under the Roman Theatre of Ancient Philippopolis, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Roman Amphitheatre, Ohrid, Macedonia

If you don’t look where you are going in Ohrid, in Macedonia, you might fall into this Roman Amphitheatre

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