Since we hadn't seen enough really old cities that looked better two thousand years ago than they do today, we went to Jerash last weekend. "Jerash" is Arabic for "sprawling historical site with one public bathroom, which is 1.5 miles from wherever you are."
Jerash is indeed sprawling. It's probably a good mile or two from the visitor's center to the farthest reaches of the ruins. Along the way, visitors are treated to lots of rocks and some dirt. And, as a bonus, because it's rainy season here in Jordan, green things occasionally poke through the brown. But they usually just look around, say "Dang! It's the Middle East!" and go back underground.
Savannah was a trooper. She hiked the entire way across the park and back without complaining at all. This had nothing to do with the fact that I promised her a treat on the way home if she kept quiet (I forgot to deliver on that particular promise -- bad daddy!) In fact, when we'd reached the nymphaeum (used to be a really pretty fountain, now is a mildly interesting rock), I turned back toward the entrance, so many miles back the way we'd come. Savannah protested.
Savannah (pointing further down the trail, in the direction opposite to the distant entrance): "But daddy, I want to go down there!"
Daddy: "Savannah, there's nothing down there."
Savannah: "But I want to go!"
Daddy (getting smart): "Okay, but don't blame me if the dragons eat you up."
Savannah: "I want to go home."
Halen quietly sat all day in the kid backpack I wore to tote him around. In fact, he was so quiet that several times I forgot he was back there and began frantically scanning the rocky landscape: "Shannon?! Where's Halen?! Have you seen him?!"
Usually I remembered his location on my own, but once he answered my worried call to Shannon himself: "Hi Daddy! I in da pack-pack!"
In Jerash's impressive amphitheatre, we were treated to one of the most culturally schizophrenic spectacles I've ever seen. As we entered, a duo of head-wrapped, mustached Arabs in flowing robes sized us up and asked where we were from. When we admitted we were Americans, one picked up a set of bagpipes, the other positioned himself behind a bass drum, and they commenced a jazzy version of "Yankee Doodle." Arab dudes, with bagpipes, playing "Yankee Doodle." That's like Jeff Beck playing the Sri Lankan national anthem on a bugle. Shannon captured the scene on a video camera and posted it to her blog, but she has one of those invitation-only blogs. If you really, really want to see it, leave me a comment and wire me some cash and I'll put in a good word for you.