Tuesday

Another early walk followed by a good breakfast – the lack of exercise is definitely getting to me! After breakfast we headed for the sixth century Church of the Apostles but, on finding the entrance to the Burnt Palace site open for the first time since we’ve been here, we popped in there en route. The guardian had limited English but did a good job of pointing out the important features to us. There are near-complete floor mosaics in several of the rooms of the Burnt Palace but the adjacent Martyr’s Church has had the majority of the animals and people removed during the period when mosaics were being defaced. It looked almost like a children’s jigsaw with shapes to remove embedded in the puzzle!

Defaced mosaics in the Martyr’s church

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From there we made our way to the Apostle’s church, which has the biggest restored area of floor mosaic in Jordan, with a famous centrepiece depicting a personification of the sea. I thought the animals were particularly impressive. Some areas of the church were roped off – presumably restoration is still under way. The guardian here told us that he had worked on the uncovering of some of the best mosaics in the Martyr’s church in the 1990s.

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From the church we ambled back to the hotel via the Archaelogical museum. This had yet more impressive mosaics, including some fairly explicit ones on the floor of one of the church buildings, but virtually nothing in the way of interpretation.
After an abortive attempt to buy Turkish coffee to take home yesterday (how to explain that we wanted the cardamon ground with the beans?) we got the helpful hotel receptionist to write what we wanted in Arabic on a piece of paper, so we picked up two freshly-ground bags on the way back to the hotel and sorted ourselves out in time to check out by noon. Our small rucksacks are fit to burst between the coffee and Dead Sea mineral soap, picked up as gifts. We buy still-warm cheese and potato-stuffed flatbreads for a picnic lunch which we eat in the garden of the visitor centre before heading to the bus station. Today’s bus driver has an interesting approach to road safety – he drinks coffee, smokes, talks on his mobile and, at one point, reads the newspaper, whilst driving. Not all at the same time, fortunately. Poor Firas has been waiting for quite a while at Tarbarboor bus station by the time we arrive.
We are greeted with Arabic coffee and delicious, freshly-made helpa when we arrive at Hanan’s and Barween, who lives immediately upstairs, comes down to join us for coffee. This evening Hanan has cooked delicious stuffed cabbage leaves for us and fattoush salad which is roughly ten times as nice as the one in the restaurant last night.

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