We had an incredible view of the Israeli and Jordanian landscape as we made our initial approach into Queen Alia International Airport. I was lucky to be sitting behind Joan who was able to point out Israel, the West Bank, and the Jordan River Valley. My first thought was how in the world could such an arid, barren landscape support a population the size of Amman’s?
The first day of our program was devoted to outlining this same issue: water and resource scarcity. Amman is a sprawling city where one creamy limestone wall bleeds into the next and rooftop after rooftop is indecipherable with ubiquitous satellite dishes and single unit water tanks. Jordanians fill up these reservoirs only once a week and ration their water carefully. Even with these frugal measures, Jordan surpasses its water quota each year and with a population growing by leaps and bounds due to Palestinian, Iraqi, and now Syrian refugees the shortage will reach a critical point sooner rather than later. The pending crisis demands that national/political/and religious factions work together to manage integral natural resources, a task easier said than done.
The ancient nature of this contested landscape is even more apparent once on the ground. This afternoon we explored the city’s Hellenistic Roman amphitheater and Citadel where archaeological layers testify to early conflicting civilizations as a temple to Hercules competes with a Byzantine church for preeminence on the site. However, the later Umayyad palace and ruined mosque dominate the spot, a testament to early conflict and ascendency in this locale.