Jebel Al-Qala, Amman, Jordan

stone face CU

Hercules Temple columnEarlier today, I went to the old part of Amman, where Roman ruins mingle with the trappings of a modern Arab capital: the honking horns, bustling businesses and blaring music. Modern streets surround a Roman theater which rises up the hillside, blanketed with homes. Jebel Al-Qala is the citadel of Amman, and on its top are the ruins of a temple to Hercules built around 170 BC, and the Umayyad palace, built in 720 and used throughout the Abbasid and Fatamid periods. A reconstructed dome (it’s debatable whether this building ever had one) was built in 1998 with an inner structure made of golden wood.

Hercules Temple Jebel Al-Qala Amman Wide shotThere’s also a nice archaeological museum with artifacts from the Stone and Bronze ages, the Nabatean period, and onward through the Roman and Byzantine periods to the various Muslim controlled eras. In the photo above, ancient eyes stare from a stone face on a Hellenistic sculpture.


Temple of Hercules at Jebel Al-Qala Amman Jordan Temple of Hercules with sunset

Umayyad Palace Umayyad Palace dome inside

Photos and Text ©2008 Craig Duff
All Rights Reserved


Notes from Home

Locust Trees in Ohio

Things I learned on my visit home to Ohio.

Hornet’s Nest— Over the summer, hornets made their home in my mom’s basement in a cubby hole that she had long used for canned foods. The hornets nest is huge — about three feet high and a foot and a half across. There was some talk about “Craig” removing the nest because “the hornets are dead now because it’s too cold.” But “Craig” managed to convince “Mom” that a better scenario would be to hire a professional. Opening a hornet’s nest is not just a metaphor for playing with danger.

basketball backboard in Ohio— The old backboard of the basketball net behind the house is showing its age, and the TV antenna tower still stands, but has a rusty patina.

Pine Trees Ohio

— For several Christmases, my family decided to get live spruce trees with the roots intact in an earthen ball, so we could plant them in the yard afterward. Most of those trees survive in my mom’s yard, and — along with several pine saplings I planted when I was a boy scout — are now some four stories tall. The old locust trees in the front yard, which were there when the house was built the year I was born, grow more slowly and look much the same as they did when I was growing up. Their scraggly limbs in winter looking like varicose veins on the sky.

— I was reminded of an anecdote from my youth I’d conveniently forgotten. When my cousin Angela cut her leg on some barbed wire in the woods behind our houses, I apparently decided to put a tourniquet on it (a bit histrionic, I know), much to the horror of my aunt.

Mecca 2The county where I grew up was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, and was named for the former governor of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull, who owned a great deal of land here. It is almost perfectly square, with 25 perfectly square townships. Some of the names of those townships seem borrowed from the pages of a Western Civilization textbook: Mesopotamia, Vienna (pronounced Vye-ENNA, the town where I went to high school) and Mecca, where my mother’s family lived.

Continue reading “Notes from Home”

Building the “Arab House”

Emad and Violette 1Here are some images from the last two days here in Jordan, as a host and crew from Jordan Television, others from a local production company, an anchor from the Lebanese Broadcasting Company, myself and two others from the International Center for Journalists, produced the host segments for a program called “Arab House.”

Emad at teleprompterThe program — known as Al Beit Al Arabi in Arabic — is a cooperative venture between the two broadcasters and each will present the four-part newsmagazine series during the month of February. Arab House was the brainchild of Carolyn Robinson, a friend and former CNN colleague, who based her idea on the World Report program on CNN. Taysir and Carolyn

The show presents news stories from both countries on major social issues affecting the Arab world.

I’m here as a Knight International Journalism Fellow (the same program that sent me to Egypt last year), for a month-long stint in Amman and Beirut. Carolyn has also been a Knight Fellow various times in places like East Timor and the Middle East.

Jordan TV Sound manCarolyn and I hatched the plan for my participation during a train ride from New York City to Princeton when we went to visit the campus last fall.

For the three-camera shoot we commandeered a local coffee shop with its rustic interior, and shushed the young folks smoking their bubbly pipes when their chatter got too loud.

Emad and Violette 2Yesterday, when the room got chilly, I put on my black beret and scarf and looked a little like Francis Ford Coppola as I directed the action.

One young girl who watched from a side table during the shoot came up to me afterwards and asked, with all earnestness and sincerity, “how can I be an actress?”

I’m having a blast, and it’s great to be back in this part of the world. Some of my handful of Arabic words are even coming back to me.

A convergence of cousins

Greetings from Amman, Jordan.   I’m having a great time here, working on a television news magazine project that combines the efforts of Jordan TV and LBC in Lebanon.  We spent the last few days producing the on-camera presentation for the hosts of the show.  We shot those yesterday and today in a coffee shop here in Amman.

I’ll post photos and stories about my adventures here soon, but I wanted to show you one photo of me, my sister and several of my cousins (from L to R: Renee, Tim, Angela, Laura, Me, Jennifer and Mary Kay) on Christmas Eve.

duff cousins at christmas

And during my trip home to Ohio, my sister, mom and I went to Falling Water, the famous home designed by the original “Starchitect” Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s.  It’s in the laurel highlands of Pennsylvania, about two and a half hours from my boyhood home in Ohio.

mom and craig in PA

Evil Ornament from Hell

Ornament from HellSince Orthodox Christmas is not until this coming weekend, and they’re still playing carols in Amman’s restaurants, it’s not too late to discuss the very important subject of holiday child abuse.

Yes, I was an abused child during the holidays.

The method of torture was the ornament pictured here, and it caused me untold fear. Just look at its beady eyes, how they glare over the little “Noel” book! The black orbs follow you everywhere, and even when you’re elsewhere in the room, you can’t escape them.

The Horror! The Horror!

At least that’s what the imagination of a young boy dreamed up over so many Christmases in Ohio. The ornament is an antique, from my grandmother’s holiday trimmings. It sits in a red metal mesh wreath and glares terror from his perch on a pine cone stool.

It used to freak me out.

Ornamentfromhell closeupWell, truth be told, it still gives me the willies.

And so mom still puts it on the tree closest to where she knows I will likely sit, where the little elfin bastard can still terrorize me. This year, it sat at eye level next to the chair opposite where my mom usually sits.

The demonic elf has even traveled when we have Christmas in other places (but mom decided not to bring it to Egypt last year, for fear that if her luggage were lost the “fun” would be over).

So even though I don’t know where I’ll be next Christmas, chances are the evil elf will follow me. The abuse continues.