Thursday, December 07, 2006


Jordan has more than its fair share of ancient monuments showing that it's been a popular place to hang out for quite some time. The Romans left their obligatory columns lying around the countryside, even in the capital Amman where there is a 5000-seat amphitheatre in the heart of downtown. After the Romans came the Byzantines with their church-and-mosaic fetish, followed by the Umayyad Muslims. The Umayyads, being the first Muslims rulers, were still trying to get to grips with the austerity of their religion and found an ingenious way of doing so. They built a bunch of castles in the desert in eastern Jordan where they could have crazy parties in private without being spotted by Allah (or at least the clergy). One of these castles is especially fascinating for the frescoes inside depicting musicians, dancing, general merrymaking and even one of a lady wearing only what looks like a thong, possibly the only such existing example of Islamic art. It shows that perhaps Islam was far more tolerant and liberal back then (or perhaps that leaders everywhere and at all times have never practiced what they've preached).

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