National Geographic : 1952 Dec
Hashemite Jordan, Arab Heartland Old and New Ways Meet and Mingle in the Modern Moslem Nation Which Contains Some of Christianity's Most Sacred Shrines BY JOHN SCOFIELD With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author IN THE 30-year-old Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the wheel prints of progress appear on even the "unchanging" Arabian desert. Roaming 1952-model Jordan,°I called at the camp of Ali Haditha Kreisha, sheik of the Korshan section of the powerful Beni Sakhr tribe. The black tents of his nomads were pitched on grazing lands at the desert's edge near El Muwaggar. A look of momentary disbelief must have crossed my face when I saw an American auto mobile parked beside his tent. The jeep station wagon contrasted strangely with grumbling riding camels hobbled a few yards away. "It was presented to my father by the late King Abdullah," the sheik explained. Later I found that automobiles are no nov elty in the great Syrian Desert, of which these Jordan wastes form a part. At times, Bedouins of isolated areas in Saudi Arabia and Iraq have raided each other in Fords and Chevrolets. Drive Cars but Hunt with Falcons As we talked, Sheik Ali stood tall and erect, clad in a long, chocolate-brown robe and scarlet-checked headdress-the picture of an Arabia that is slowly disappearing. Master of hundreds of Bedouin warriors and a dozen times as many camels, he marched as a boy with Lawrence of Arabia-Col. T. E. Law rence. Today he is one of the ranking tribal leaders of this fast-evolving Arab kingdom. Inside the sheik's many-poled tent of goat hair, a servant blew up the fire by flapping the striped skirt of his dresslike garment and drew a long-spouted coffeepot onto the glowing camel-dung embers. As we waited for the fragrant cardamom spiced coffee, I saw a foot-high bird preening itself in the shadow of the tent. It was a saqr-from which comes our English word "saker"-a young falcon which these nomads of the Jordan desert train for hunting gazelle and grouselike hubara. "A falcon must be trained as carefully as you train a man when you make him into a soldier," the courteous and hospitable sheik philosophized. "Slowly, very slowly." Here was the contradiction of the Near East, a falcon, proud relic of a medieval sport, and an American automobile parked by the desert tent of a nomad chieftain. Nowhere is that contradiction between East and West, be- tween ancient and modern, more evident than in Jordan, heartland of the Arab world. This land of Jordan extends some 250 miles north and south, from arid hills that overlook the Sea of Galilee to a tiny port at the head of the Gulf of 'Aqaba. For much of its history-drenched length the meandering River Jordan lies within Hashemite Jordan's boundaries. So does three-quarters of the Dead Sea (map, page 844).* Jordan Rich in Bible History The entire western border abuts the new State of Israel. Much of what was once Pales tine, including Jericho, Bethlehem, and the walled city of Jerusalem, is now inside Jordan's frontiers. "Ours is a new country," a businessman of 'Amman, Jordan's bustling capital, told me, "and we have a new kind of problem. Some day we are going to fuse the traditional skills of the city-bred Palestinian with the vitality of the desert-born Arab of old Transjordan. Then watch us go!" As I listened to this Arab talking of his people's future, I thought of their vigorous past. Thirteen centuries ago these same desert dwellers came out of the isolation of the hot Arabian peninsula; in 20 years they conquered the Persian empire and wrested not only Syria but Egypt and other African holdings from Rome's eastern empire. In the century follow ing the death of Mohammed, whose religious teachings inspired the Islamic conquests, Arab warriors swept as far west as Spain. Though a new country in the political sense, Jordan includes some of history's oldest sites. In Jericho I watched Canadian archeologists Dr. and Mrs. Douglas Tushingham as they painstakingly uncovered two small, pathetic skeletons. The infants, they told me, were perhaps sacrificed during the construction of a neolithic temple, just then coming to light. After further studies, expedition leader Kathleen Kenyon, eminent English archeolo gist, concluded that the pre-pottery neolithic culture of Jericho, the layer I saw peeled out of the hoary mound, included the remains of probably the oldest city known to man. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Geography of the Jordan," by Nelson Glueck, De cember, 1944, and "Canoeing Down the River Jor dan," by John D. Whiting, December, 1940.