Monday, December 8, 2014

GARP 2014 in Jordan




This was the ninth and last year of  the Great Arab Revolt Project.   Originally projected to be a ten year study, the Directors closed out the field work this year.  Several  articles had been  recently published about the operation, both in  popular and professional media, principally discussing finds at  T E Lawrence's camp at Tooth Hill in southern Jordan.  We returned there this year and then, behind the Hill  to check for further evidence of British/Ottoman presence. 

I was assigned to field walks there and later,  excavations at Ramala  - the usual  scraping, digging, toting and, bless Allah, very little sieving. But tent rings, ah yes,always  tent rings.  And working on them with the same mentor with whom  I had  begun seven years before.  

There were twenty of us, professional and amateur, wandering about with  trowel in hand.  As always, several were former military:  British, American and Australian. Others were  archaeologists, history buffs, and TEL devotees.  Our usual lot, always a compatible bunch.  Three were new to the Project.

Stayed at the Edom Hotel at Wadi Mousa, again returning to my roots, for I had  stayed there when I first came to Jordan with an Explore group, in 2004.  Little changed.  And as I wandered about Petra particularly, the thought occurred more than once, I shall not pass this way again. The day there makes the entire trip worthwhile.  Awesome!

A most memorable event:  the opportunity to ride one of the small working units down the Hejaz Railway from Ma"an to Wadi Rtm, about an hour and a half.   A look at the landscape as the Ottomans saw it during WW1.  A look up at sites we'd worked on in years past.  A opportunity I never thought I'd have.  To be on the tracks whose existence was such a thorn in the side of the British.  That was blown up by the Arabs and friends, time and again. 

Another highlight: The chance to see Desi, the air field used by Squadron X.  Rather plowed up at present, but  one can imagine - or rather, look at old photos.  The beginning of what countries now rely on:  aerial warfare.  A sadness that such a beautiful experience, flying, gets used in such a  destructive way.  Now bombing used in lieu of Boots on the Ground!  Starting with the Brits in Iraq, post WW1.  Bummer!

Not only did we have several days off - with options for Petra and Aqaba - but there was time to visit past sites, ride the railroad, and walk about the ancient Roman and more contemporary Ottoman   lands.  And for the archaeologists, there were the finds which confirmed - or not -  various hypotheses. 

Aqaba is a resort city, much built up recent years, but with few tourists this year.  For that matter, Wadi Mousa/Petra have also suffered.  Stores were shuttered  and maintenance was raggedy.  More locals than visitors - which may be as it should be.  One ship was docked for the day with its passengers out and about to the delight of local vendors.  The city is much more than when I first visited; doubtful the WW1 cast of characters would recognize it. 

In the time I have spent in Jordan, I have gotten to many notable places:  Allenby Bridge,Jerash, Umm Qais/Al-Himma, the Dead Sea, Azraq, Karak, Shobak, Wadi Rum, Little Petra as well as Petra proper.  That is in addition, to many spots in the desert, used offensively and defensively by Ottomans and Arabs and Brits during WW1.  One of our directors commented that we GARPies were more familiar with the desert than the locals

N.B.: Not only  almost didn't get there but had problems returning:  going, my shuttle never appeared - found a neighbor to take me to the airport.  Returning, held over 24 hours in Amman as the pilot bashed his head entering the cockpit for four stitches worth - then, United came to the rescue in Frankfort, seeing me home as the Lufthansa pilots were on strike. 

Interestingly, one of my fellow passengers in Amman was a former military man who had been visiting at the Embassy - told me the Jordanians plan a big Arab Revolt celebration in June 2016.  So I may be back after all!

(For details, check garp-2014.blogspot.com, the ongoing project's blog with outstanding photos.)
 





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