A few weeks ago, we decided to head out and find the fields of black irises that were alleged to be taking over the hills surrounding Amman. We had GPS coordinates, which we dutifully plugged in, and then went happily following their lead. Driving outside of Amman is always interesting. The hills and fields and stone walls and goat paths are seemingly endless. And it’s a nice change of scenery from villas, shops and restaurants.
As is typical, we had a few turn offs suggested by our dear Garmin that really weren’t roads, more like “Bob’s driveway,” or “sheep’s lane” (literally). But after a few turns or continuations, and quick recalculations, we were back on the path heading for this sea of black irises.
We drove up this steeply inclined hill to the exact point where our GPS wanted us to stop and found ourselves in someone’s driveway (yet again). We decided to go a little further on, cresting the top of the hill, only to be in a cul-de-sac of four other houses. Even still, we stopped and looked around. There’s nothing saying that the fields of black irises couldn’t be in someone’s backyard, right? Well, apparently not these backyards.
So we turned around and went back down the hill to our initial GPS position and stopped again. We looked around and around, but nothing but normal fields, stone walls, and more goats. As we sat there, pulled off to the side of the road, looking through our guidebooks trying to see where we went wrong, my husband suddenly said, “What’s that?” and pointed to a pile of ruins directly in front of us at the bottom of the hill.
It definitely looked like something… important. It wasn’t just “Bob’s Pile O’ Rocks.” So we dug through the guidebooks and Google and found out that we were peering down on the ruins of a pre-Roman villa known as Qasr al Abd, “Castle of the Slave/Servant.”
According to our quick research, these are all that remains of the beginnings of a grand estate built around 200 BC, that was never finished. It apparently suffered significant damage in the 365 AD earthquake, and while there’s not a huge amount to explore, there are some interesting things to see; including some limestone blocks alleged to weigh upwards of 25 tons each, as well as some still visible carvings of leopards, eagles and even lions around the exterior (look both at the top and bottom edges as you walk around).
When we were there the iron gates were open allowing us access to the interior. For little ones it’s not the safest of environments to wander through, however for the older kids it’s probably great fun. If the gates aren’t open, the guidebook says the guardian may appear and for a nominal tip (1-2JD) will gladly open the gates as well as the museum off to the side.
Following this, if your wayward exploration quotient hasn’t been met for the day, on the way home stop by the Handicraft Projects shop in the village of Iraq al-Amir, just 1 km away. Also, there are the remains of a Roman aqueduct near some plant nurseries you’ll probably pass and a very popular local café, al-Yannabeea, that apparently has passable bathrooms. All options for more excitement, I’m sure.
So, while we missed out on the black irises, we will keep them in mind for next year’s wanderings; but as is often the case in Jordan, we still found something worthy of a day’s adventure, even beyond “Bob’s goat path.”