Travel Jarash

In the end I was trailing behind, the next two blind people, sorry visually-impaired, were 50 yards ahead, and the next group, were a 100 feet along. I rambled, slightly puffing.

I caught up, they were at an enormous gate. They party had decided to wait, although I knew exactly where the cars were parked in the Jarash ruins.

We had just come from the enormously dazzling South Theater. Four school girls and their master who teaches English, had been rehearsing for a play titled "Pedestrian Crossings," something which we sadly don't have a notion of in this part of the world.

I was on stage, my wife was still next to me when my sister had gone off with a policemen to see the director of the site for last minute arrangements.

The stage had gone silent except for the mutterings of the girls and their teacher. Three of them were only partially blind, Susan was completely blind and so was Omar Arabyat, the teacher, he had written the short play, no doubt in Braille, and is now on stage as a final rehearsal and the feel of the place.

This is my third time here in as many months, standing at the very same spot, looking upfront at the judicious auditorium. Its large but small and homely. Slowly I dispersed, my wife was sitting at the third row of seats by now. I walked across the orchestra and followed.

We had practiced this before, but she said Arabyat and the girls asked her to sit there to see whether she can view them well enough, and she clasped her hands almost in jubilation, "I can, I can", but she already knew that.

I hobbled up the next row through the middle stairs. "Mind you don't go up too far, remember, your bad leg," she added to my irritation. I reached just before the mid-section of what is technically called the cavea and sat down feeling a sort of triumph. I look upfront, the other way round, seeing the stage and its magnificent back fa├žade that is made of arches and columns among much architectural paraphernalia.

The view was complete. I can now see everything, Oval Plaza, Colonnaded Street and the Temple of Artemis among other things. The girls and the master, took a tiny part of the stage, two Japanese tourists had now joined and one started singing.

There was no microphones, no synthesizer's, just melody of a voice that reached me as loud and crystal clear. I was greatly surprised at its soothing power. I lent my ear forward but there was no need to as the vocals represented every bit of harmony.

I jeered and clapped, and asked for more which she obliged. I just wanted to hear the purity of the voice which an archaeologist earlier told me this theater is famous for. The bag piper ushered her down. There is a spot in the middle of the pit where she stood and sang with the idea being she can be heard right at the top of the auditorium in the 28th row in mid-air. Amazing!

I wasn't there but I eagerly heard from where I was sitting. It was a stroke of luck, for just a bit later visitors were assembling. The bag pipes and a drum, started to beat to the tune of strangers who become friends, locking their hand to the Dabakah, the traditional folklore dance in this part of the world, there were two, a man and a women engaged in a ballet-like tap, oblivious to what was going on.

I was now walking in the midst of the isle that separated the two sections of the auditorium. Jarash has become naked to the eye, from all directions. It was a magnificent view. I realized the whole architecture of the place has been engineered vertically to make sure there is plenty of sound from the bottom up, plenty of light, but at the same time the sunshine hardly effects the viewing of the spectators.

I called to my wife, we talked naturally from a distance, we were in an ancient theater, a place where everything is heard even at a whisper. By now, the visually-impaired actors had been rehearsing, actually getting to know the stage, for the best part of an hour.

Their slot is for 20 minutes to play for children from the Jarash school and those from Amman. They are excited and their play is to make car drivers more aware of adhering to pedestrian crossings and to make people use them more often.

It's part of an educational activity related to the EU-funded ATHENA Project to make people across the Mediterranean countries more aware of ancient theaters and the role they have played in history.

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