05 April 2011

Wadi al-Seer

Thanks to the urging of my friend Brian who has an excellent blog called Pilgrim Without a Shrine, I finally made it up to Wadi al-Seer a few days ago. The spring weather was just beautiful with an achingly blue sky and a few puffy clouds scuttling lazily across. Thanks to the recent rains the grass and vegetation was breathtaking! So much green! I had quite forgotten how much I love the green of nature back in Alabama.

The drive up from Amman was pleasant enough, but once we left the highway it was stunning! We traveled several kilometers along a one lane track with grass growing in the middle. Along both sides were the ever-present stone walls separating fields and grazing areas. The grass was thick and lush and the sheep and goats were visibly enjoying the sweet taste. At last we arrived at the castle, Qasr Iraq al-Amir.

This castle was built by Hyrcanus, a member of the locally powerful Tobiad dynasty in 2nd century BCE following his expulsion from Jerusalem.

The historian Josephus described it in his Antiquities XII, 230 as a strong fortress constructed entirely of white marble up to the roof, with beasts of gigantic size carved on it. He reported that it was called Tyros (Greek; mountain, or rock) which translates to Seer in Arabic. So, it is from this name that the local valley gets its name...Wadi al-Seer.

Over the years there was a great deal of debate over the utility of the site. Some scholars contended it was a palace, others a temple, and still others a combination of the two. Nowadays, most agree that it was in fact, a palace. The tiny rooms at the ground floor were almost certainly storage areas. The upper floor was used for living space and religious functions. It is believed that the palace was part of a large estate, surrounded by a lake or reflecting pools with a network of aqueducts to supply water to the fields and orchards.

Upon being defeated by the Seleucid forces of Antiochus IV in 175 BCE, Hyrcanus committed suicide. Qasr al-Abd was still uncompleted. Soon after his death the Tobiad dynasty appears to have died out.

The building was occupied and substantially modified during the Byzantine period. It is believed to have been a monastic settlement. in 362 CE the palace was completely destroyed by earthquake.

Notice the hole in the lion's mouth similar to the panther on the other side of the building. I believe these were fountains.

Nowadays the Qasr is occupied by pigeons and lizards

A great deal of rubble still lying about
Ruined columns

Interior view, showing some of the storage rooms

Notice the vines growing in a defect in the marble

A half-buried pediment. Note how sharp some of the carving is after 2300 years!

Fields near the Qasr that are filled with beautiful poppies

Enjoying her day off
Altogether, it was a grand day. The castle is only about half-hour or so drive from Amman and the villagers there are very friendly. As we drive through the tiny villages people in the streets would wave and shout greetings to us. Arab people are, without a doubt, some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.


Kathy Woods said...

Thank you for the beautiful pics and the informative texts. Keep travelling Jim, and keep on posting.

javid said...

hey cool Love u JordoN<3
-Eiyaz Mohammed

javid said...

Hey cool Love u JorDoN and Gelnar<3
-Eiyaz Mohammed