Jon and I had the privilege to visit an archeological project in the north of Jordan. We have never heard of the site prior to our invitation to come visit and see the excavations. However, it just happened to be a city of the ancient Decapolis, Abila.
Abila is 3 miles south of the Yarmuk River, which is the modern border between Syria and Jordan. The ancient city is only about 12 miles off the road that heads to Um Qais, another city of the Decapolis and a popular tour site in Jordan.
Thankfully we were emailed a map because there are no signs directing you to the ancient city. As instructed, we turned on the one lane dirt road and began our ascent up a large hill. Just as we were rolling over the hill and questioning if we were on the correct road, we were astonished to see the remains of a city that could not be seen minutes before. Massive columns emerged behind small olive trees on a neighboring hill to represent what was once a basilica from the Byzantine Period.
We enjoyed seeing the different sites that were being excavated. We also loved meeting the summer team of students, professors, and local Jordanians. They were hard at work at discovering and recording archeological history dating back to the Neolithic Age (8000 B.C. – 4000 B.C.). At lunch we learned the excavation team lives in a local school for the summer. They have the great opportunity to work alongside locals and interact with the local community.
We loved hearing the stories of how the students and professors were engaging the local community (which is fairly easy with Arab hospitality). One young man, his first time overseas, seemed to thrive off of his experience learning and living in another culture. He had three dinner invitations that night and was disappointed he could not make them all.
Little to say, Jon and I felt lucky to see such an important city being dug out of history. Though I learned that I would not have the patience to be an archeologist, I was reminded that I love to see places most people have never seen. I also love to see people learning and interacting with foreign cultures. It is fun to see people go home with a positive and life changing experience because they had the opportunity to work alongside someone different than them and they accepted an invitation for dinner.
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