Three castles in the desert.

We visited three castles/fortresses in the desert north and east of Amman. They were very different, what they had in common was that they were old.

Qasr Azraq is the largest of the three and is strategically close to thee only water supply in 12000 square km. It is built partly with dark basaltand some of the constructions were very special as this outside stairs.

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or this ceiling

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The door in the gate was a big rock but was constructed so one person could open or close it.

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Lawrence of Arabia spent a few months here in the winter of 1917 during the revolt against the Ottoman empire.

Qasr al-Karanah looked like a military fortress to me, built as a square with sides 35 meters and towers in each corner. But there are other theories like caravanserai, meeting place for local chieftains, resting place for travelers.

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As can seen there are slits in the walls, but apparently they can not be used by bow and arrow, but is meant to give light and ventilation.

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Qasr Amra is clearly not meant to have a military purpose. It was q resting place for the kalif of Damascus during hunting season.

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The main room was decorated with fresco painting on walls and ceiling. The motives were different, but included a nude woman! (Top left in the picture).

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But also pictures of hunting and other motives.

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Karakorum.

Karakorum is an old city and was the capital for a few years in the 12 hundereds. Today it is not much of a city.

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We went through the shopping  street and many of the shops were actually containers.

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In the late 12-hundreds the rulers had a silver tree built. It had four snakes with open mouths around the trunk and an angel with trumpet on the top. When the ruler wanted something to drink he had the angel blow the trumpet and alcoholic beverages came out through the mouths of the serpents. They had reconstructed the tree but unfortunately without the beverages.

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Just outside the city was a huge temple-monastery complex inside a wall of stupas.

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Inside were a number of temples with traditional interior.

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There were monks in one of the temples. I assume they were studying as they were reading loudly and chanting.

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Karakorum was in many ways a strange experience. The primitive shopping area compared to the lavish decorations in the temples. The standard of the houses people lived in compared to the size and details of the temples.

It seems that for all religions the buildings for worship are so much more important to people than the secular buildings. (Except may be the quakers).

Holy places.

The religion with the most followers in Mongolia is Buddhism, the Tibetan type. So in addition to temples there were holy places with no buildings. Some temples were in cities, but we also visited temples with no neighbourhood.

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So we could see statues placed alone like this.

Another type of holy places were without buildings or statues, just marked with  pile of rocks or a simple wood construction.

There were offerings on these places. I saw money, food but also more unexpected things like chocolate in horse sculls, steering wheel.

When we came to these holy places we did two things, we put a rock on a pile and there were many small piles and we went around the biggest pile three times following the sun.

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On one of the places we had a glass of vodka, first we threw a few drops over our shoulder, then some on the holy place and then we could drink.

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This is our local guide with the vodka.

Again the same thing is happening in the countries that have been atheist for decades. Religion is growing and is important to people.

Buddhist temple in Gorkhi Terelj

We visited a buddhist temple in Gorkhi Terelj National park, that is I waited at the bottom of the stairs to watch, talk  to and take pictures of people. The temple is on a hillside with 109 steps up (109 is a holy number) and budhist symbols were paiten on rocks on the hill.

I enjoyed sitting there watching peopl, trying to talk to them with no common language. A smile and hello go a long way, and the smiles and hellos I got back made my day. To some it seemed that being taken pictures of is a serious matter, but there were always smiles, giggles and laughter when they saw the pictures.

Gers.

Ger is the traditional Mongolian dwelling  and they all looked the same on the outside. We spent eight nights in gers and also visited a couple and concluded that they were different inside. Some of the gers I slept in:

In one of the camps they had a ger library and a ger restaurant.

I experienced only two problems. One was that the toilet and shower was in a separat building so to pee at night was an expedition with flashlight. One night i met horses grazing around my ger.

The other disadvantage was that the door was so low I regularly banged my head.

 

 

 

 

Numidian Mausoleum.

The Numidians were Berbs living in todays Algeria, part of Tunisia and part of Libya. They ruled before the Romans and when the Roman empire collapsed. Africa until the Islamization. They have left some huge mausoleums, and we saw two, one close to the capital Alger, and the other not far from Constantine.

The mausoleums were huge and I wonder how many tons of rocks the workers had to transport and lift. The one we actually visited was restored but was in rough shape. We could not go inside so we just went around it.

“The bridges in Constantine county.”

Constantine is a city in the north-east of Algeria. It is an old city, founded by the Phoenicians. It changed name and rulers (Romans, Numibia, Ottoman empire, French). It is named after emperor Constantine.

The old part of the city is on top of a cliff with a deep ravine down to a river. It did not have much water when we were there.

As a consequence they had to have bridges, seven bridges in different styles.

We crossed a few of them, and one was definitely for pedestrians only as it ended in a lift up to the street. It is the first time I walked over a bridge and straight into a lift.