It was a hazy hot day when we were introduced to Jordan’s capital, Amman.
It’s a bustling, lively city where tradition meets modernity. Clad in a long flowing dress and light cardigan, I spent the morning exploring the Citadel and the most ancient part of the city. Nothing puts me in a great mood quite like historical travel.
Be warned, it only goes downhill from here in terms of my geekiness.
After sitting down for tea and lunch outside a pigeon pet store (don’t ask – I have no idea) our blog group had a decision to make regarding our afternoon itinerary. Explore the local markets and souks or get to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the new Jordan Museum.
I love shopping as much as the next girl, but once you’ve been to several souks, they all start to blend together. “No thank you, I don’t need a $10,000 Persian carpet.” “I’m sorry, I can’t fit that hookah in my carry-on.” and my personal favorite, “Only one thousand camels? Seriously, I’m worth at least 10 times that!”
Sigh, I can already feel the hate comments start to roll in, but I defend what I write – I’ve been to heaps of markets across northern Africa and the Middle East, and they are pretty much all the same.
Anyways, surprise surprise, everyone voted for the markets! Travel bloggers can be so predictable sometimes.
Standing up with my hands on my hips, I said something along the lines of, “the Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the OLDEST biblical texts in the ENTIRE world and they are right here in Amman! How can you not want to see 2,400 year old scrolls that are the oldest copies of the Bible in existence?!”
Total. Silence. Well, except for pigeons cooing in the background. In fact, I don’t think anyone even heard me, except for one of the guides and the pigeons.
Honest to god I will never understand people.
I repeat – the Dead Sea Scrolls quite possibly are the most important archaeological manuscripts to be found in the 2oth century.
Accidentally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in the caves in Qumran in the West Bank near the Dead Sea in the 40’s and 50’s, the Dead Sea Scrolls are pretty much the earliest written accounts of the (Hebrew) Bible. That’s a big freaking deal!
I LOVE reading about these kinds of discoveries and archaeological finds; I often imagine what it must have been like to stumble upon something so priceless and historically valuable.
Let’s just step back in time for a minute and put ourselves in Bedouin shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib’s shoes (if he was even wearing shoes) when accidentally fell into one of these caves in 1946 and found these jars of random papyrus that he sold for under $40.
I mean my god, can you imagine?
Why this hasn’t been made into a featured Indiana-Jones-style movie is beyond me.
And to make matters even more EXCITING, of the 981 mostly papyrus and parchment scrolls found in the Judaean Desert only one, I repeat ONE was made of copper. And guess where that one can be found?
Talk about special! Still unconvinced, my comrades still preferred the market. Shakes head.
So while everyone else wandered off to brush up on their bartering skills, I managed to drag one of our guides off to the museum with me. I like to pretend he was excited to see the unique-amazing-one-of-a-kind-copper-scrolls as I was.
Under a serious time crunch with the museum closing shortly, we rushed to try to make it there before the doors shut. Literally.
Crawling in the back of a taxi, we made our way to the Jordan Museum to see the scrolls. And by made our way, I mean get totally lost for an hour while I hyperventilated in the back of the car freaking out that I was missing my chance to witness history.
With Flo Rida blaring in the background about furry boots and apple bottom jeans, we zigzagged around all the main streets in downtown Amman looking for this damn museum.
As it turns out, the Jordan Museum is brand spanking new, so new in fact, it hadn’t officially opened yet and was operating under very limited hours when it was open to the public.
Of course, not knowing where something is does not deter Jordanian taxi drivers from trying to take you where you need to go. It just means a lot of pulling over and chatting to fellow taxi drivers with a lot of hand signals and me understanding NOTHING and grinding my teeth in the backseat.
Finally we pulled into the parking lot of the museum 15 minutes after closing time only to be ushered around to the back lot to wait. This would be the first of many hoops that afternoon.
Hopping out of the taxi, the guide S, me and the taxi driver (for some reason decided to stick around to see what happens) tried to explain what was going on to security guard number 1. Cue lots of Arabic, hand gestures, smoking (none from me) along with one crazy loud American blonde in a rainbow dress smiling and nodding a lot.
I swear to god, smiling will get you pretty far, especially when men are involved. I smiled so hard and for so long that afternoon I thought my face was going to break.
Eventually security guard number 2 came out and talked to us and we (and by we, I mean S) explained what was going on while I just smiled and nodded enthusiastically.
After more waiting around a manager or office person came out and talked to us, this time I could contribute to the conversation explaining my situation without using the world blogger (my god, can you imagine?) and we were invited inside.
Bidding farewell to my new taxi driver friend, we made our way through the bowels of the museum to the offices. Expecting to see behind the scenes skeletons, dusty wooden boxes and hidden treasure maps haphazardly thrown around the room, I was mildly disappointed to discover that offices are universally boring around the world. It even smelled bureaucratic.
After a lot of phone calls, and me becoming increasingly more desperate, I decided to just run with it.
No shame, I would see these scrolls or die trying, and I began “elaborating” my position. It’s not lying if there’s some truth to it, right?
According to office man, the person in charge of dispensing permission to let me see the scrolls after hours was off. As it turns out, it was Orthodox Easter and the boss was off work celebrating. Just my luck!
“This doesn’t look good for you,” office man stated several times, in a very pessimistic, nonchalant way. Glaring at him momentarily it took all my self control not scream “just let me see the goddamn scrolls!”
Be cool, Liz. Be professional. Play nice.
But I mean seriously, how many people under the age of 60 want to see these scrolls as badly as me? I reckon none.
Cue more phone calls and more waiting.
I hate waiting by the way. I have the attention span of a toddler.
Time is a very fluid concept in Jordan. As I glanced at the clock, I realized it had been almost 3 hours since we hopped in the cab trying to get to the museum.
Personally I think this was a tactical maneuver on the part of Jordanian officials to get me excited about seeing the scrolls. They wouldn’t keep me waiting for so long only to say no, right?
I started smiling even more, if that’s possible.
With the clock literally ticking, I was starting to get desperate. What could I say to let me in to see the scrolls?
“I also write for National Geographic.”
Oh my god, why WHY did that just come out of my mouth? What is wrong with me?
Resisting temptation to physically clamp my hands over my mouth and rescind that statement, I really started to freak out. I’ve never actually written for NatGeo; I have been featured by them a handful of times and I’ve had drinks with some of their crew in DC, but that’s it. Oops.
Eventually the phone rang again and with it came the permission I needed. God knows what the pessimistic office worker told him, but as it turns out he was on Team Liz. Wahoo!
I actually hi-fived his secretaries on the way out of the office! True jubilation!
And we were off to see the scrolls. At this point, I had a shadow of about 10 people trailing behind me as we made our way towards the glorious scrolls.
Am I just showing my nerdiness again or do all kids dream about getting to explore a museum after hours? With the lights dimmed around the various exhibits, I started to have a total From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler moment and would drift off towards the darker corners only to be ushered back in line towards the scrolls.
I guess I don’t want to push my luck.
And then finally, there we were, in front of the thick glass that protected the curved copper scrolls. Pushing my nose on the glass, I spent a solid 20 minutes staring at each and every scroll, trying to take a mental picture and observe them the best I could.
Because the scrolls are copper, they couldn’t be unrolled which means that had to be sliced, leaving you with these curved, copper pieces. Unlike many of the other scrolls that are biblical texts, the copper scrolls are written in a more colloquial Hebrew listing locations where gold and silver are buried.
That’s right, the copper scrolls list out buried treasure. EVEN COOLER, am I right?!
All to soon, I had to say goodbye to these magnificent artifacts and make my way back outside in the hot Jordanian sun. I think the adventure of getting to see the scrolls made it all the more exciting and worthwhile, don’t you?
Just keep smiling!
Have you been to Jordan? Now tell me, are you Team Market or Team Dead Sea Scrolls – be honest!
A million thanks to the Jordan Museum for putting up with me and letting me in after hours without any advance notice and for understanding my love for such important historical artifacts. Also thanks to My Jordan Journey for hosting me in Jordan – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own!