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更新时间:2018/1/19 17:51:07 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

Jordan's ancient town 'without a soul'

“Here is my house,” Ahmad Alomari announced. Preoccupied with navigating the rubble underfoot, I almost missed his declaration entirely. I glanced up at the roofless black basalt and white limestone structure in front of us.

"这就是我以前的家,"阿赫马德·阿罗马里(Ahmad Alomari)这么说。我那时正专注于在脚下的砾石,几乎都没听见他在说话。我抬起头看着我们面前的那幢没有屋顶的,由黑色玄武岩和白色石灰石建造而成的建筑。

“Wait, here?” I asked in disbelief. A golden glow from the early morning sun shone through the door and window frames, illuminating the weed-covered interior. I assumed from Alomari’s jovial nature that he was joking. After all, we were standing inside the ancient ruins of Gadara in the north-western corner of Jordan. And, unless Alomari is a spectre, he certainly wasn’t around in 63BC when the city became an important part of the infamous Greco-Roman Decapolis, a powerful network of 10 cities formed after the Roman conquest of Ancient Palestine.

"等等,这里?"我不敢相信地问道。清早金色的阳光穿过门框窗棂,照在已经杂草丛生的屋里。阿罗马里是个风趣的人,所以我以为他是在开玩笑。毕竟,我们当时站在约旦西北角的加大拉(Gadara)遗址里。而且,除非阿罗马里是个幽灵,不然当这座城市在公元前63年成为了恶名昭彰的低加波利城邦联盟(Greco-Roman Decapolis)的一部分时,他不可能在场。低加波利是在罗马征服古代巴勒斯坦之后由10个城市组建起来的强大同盟。

“Yes, here,” he repeated, his smile stretching wide across his face. “This is my home.”


Lonely columns that once supported three open-air theatres, a basilica and a temple dotted the hilltop. From Alomari’s home, I took in the dramatic view of the Sea of Galilee and Israel. A little further east, Syria’s south-western corner spread out before me.

如今散落的石柱曾经是支撑小山顶上三座露天剧场、一座会堂和一座神庙的柱石。从阿罗马里的家望出去,是以色列和加利利海(Sea of Galilee)的如画风景。再往东面一点,叙利亚西南角的国土在我眼前展开。

Forty-five years ago, Alomari was born in this very place – a humble house built from ancient stones left behind by Roman-era inhabitants.


But the site of Alomari’s childhood home has a history dating back to the 7th Century BC; the Ptolemies and then the Seleucids occupied the city before the Romans arrived in the 1st Century BC. Strategically positioned along trade routes, Gadara enjoyed a golden age of economic and cultural growth, with artists and scholars flocking to the city. But after several centuries, Gadara’s popularity and influence began to decline. Changes in trade routes and a series of earthquakes that destroyed the city’s infrastructure in the 8th Century likely contributed to Gadara’s ultimate abandonment. What was left of the Roman-era structures lay empty for a millennium.


In the late 19th Century, new life came to the ancient acropolis. “At that time, the people here were nomadic, pastoral and farmers,” Alomari explained. When one group – including some of Alomari’s ancestors – discovered the skeleton of the former hilltop city, complete with water wells and building materials, and in close proximity to farmable land and the Yarmouk River, they decided to put down roots. Alomari’s great-grandfather was likely one of the first people to take up residence in the ruins and help build a new village on the foundation of the ancient city.

到19世纪末,这座古老的卫城终于迎来了新生命。"那时,这里的人民多半是游牧者与农民,"阿罗马里解释道。有那么一群人——包括了部分阿罗马里的祖先——发现了这座山顶上的城市遗迹,这里有水井和建筑材料,并且靠近可以耕作的土地和雅莫科河(Yarmouk River),他们就此决定在此定居。阿罗马里的曾祖父可能就是第一批在这个古城遗址中住下并且在古城基础之上建造新村落的人之一。

“These are 2,000 years old,” Alomari said, running his hand along the rocks that form the walls of his former home. “But my father built this house less than 100 years ago.”

"这些都有2000年历史了,"阿罗马里一边说,一边用手挥过砌成他故居墙壁的石块。 "但是我父亲建造这个房子的时间还不到100年。"

In the 1960s, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities declared Gadara an archaeological site; it’s now awaiting consideration for Unesco World Heritage status. Stoves and other elements not considered to be of cultural and historic value were removed, and the homes built by Alomari’s community fell into disrepair. “The Department of Antiquities forbade us from doing maintenance on our homes,” he said.


“The first excavation I saw was in the late 1970s,” Alomari recalled. Shortly thereafter, Gadara’s 1,500 residents were told to relocate.


Some families moved out almost immediately, purchasing modern homes in nearby Jordanian cities like Um Qais. “Life wasn’t easy in the village,” Alomari explained. “We had to bring water from the well, wash clothes by hand. It was dusty. There were snakes and scorpions. And we only had electricity for a few hours each evening, provided by a generator.”

有一些家庭几乎是连夜搬走了,在附近的约旦城市例如乌姆盖斯(Um Qais)购买了现代化的住房。"村里的生活不易,"阿罗马里解释道,"我们必须从井里打水,手洗衣服。那时一直尘土飞扬,蛇蝎出没。而且我们每天只有晚上的几个小时有电,要靠一台发电机。"

But even as a child, Alomari recognised that the heart of a place is its people. “Without the families, the village became a body without a soul.”


Growing up in the archaeological site, Alomari loved sharing village life with visitors; Gadara has long been a site of Christian pilgrimage, with many believing it to be the place where Jesus Christ cast the demons from two men into a drove of pigs. Alomari’s interactions with foreigners remain some of his first and favourite memories.


“When we lived here, travellers visiting Gadara would come to our house,” he said. “They’d sit here on our terrace, drink tea and eat with us.”


He stood up from the stone window sill and I followed, stepping down over the derelict rectangular stones piled in front of his former home. “The first time I spoke to a tourist, I was about eight years old,” he recalled. “It was in here,” he said as we approached the entrance to the restored Roman theatre on the western side of the site. “My friends and I also played hide-and-seek here,” he added, his voice bouncing off the curved basalt seats surrounding us.


We continued our walk through the ancient city, making our way past the abandoned trader stalls along the paved Roman road, and up the hill towards the cluster of free-standing columns that mark where the basilica once stood. “We used to play football here,” Alomari said. “These were our goal posts.” On this day, there were no children running or playing; in fact, there wasn’t another person in sight.


“And that,” he added, glancing at an upper terrace dotted with modern tables and chairs, “is a restaurant now. But it used to be my school.” Alomari’s voice dropped and I detected a distinct sadness.


“When my family moved to the new house in Um Qais in 1987, I refused to leave my village,” Alomari said. He was just 14 years old at that time. “I stayed three days by myself. I slept in a tent on our roof in the old village, with just my donkey and bicycle below.”


A few years after his family relocated, Alomari heard the archaeologists were seeking English-speaking assistants to help with excavations. Although his language skills were extremely limited, his determination was boundless. “They called me in and asked if I could speak English. I knew if I said no, they wouldn’t give me the job.” So he stretched the truth and they hired him. Although he struggled to communicate, Alomari devoted his time to assisting with the excavations and improving his English over the course of the six-week assignment.

在他们一家搬走几年后,阿罗马里听说考古学家们正在寻找能说英语的助手来帮助发掘工作。 虽然他的语言能力非常有限,但他的决心并未受到约束。"他们打电话给我,问我能不能说英文。我知道,如果我说不能,他们就不会给我这个工作。"所以他夸大了真相,并被雇用了。虽然他的沟通需要一番努力,但在六周的任务期间内,阿罗马里投入全部时间来协助发掘工作,并提高他的英语。

His hard work paid off: he was offered a job as a live-in guard in the small antiquities museum located inside the archaeological site. “I didn’t even ask about a contract or payment,” Alomari said. “The only thing I cared about was that I could finally live in my village again.”


He made the most of the opportunity – working with archaeologists and interacting with tourists by day, and studying everything from English to archaeology by night. “I was in the museum alone at night, so I read everything I could,” he said. “My first salary was about 100 dinars. And I used a quarter of it to buy my first Arabic-English dictionary.”


That dictionary came in handy in his conversations with colleagues, tourists and even a special someone. “I fell in love with a German girl who visited Um Qais,” Alomari confessed. The two spent much of her holiday together, communicating in English as neither could speak the other’s native tongue. “When she returned home, I wrote her a letter in English – only about 10 lines that took me three or four hours to write!” When she replied with her own 14-page letter, he had to pull out his dictionary and his romantic side. “I started to read and write poetry,” Alomari said, smiling.


Although the young lovers never met again, Alomari found happiness living and working at Gadara. While he no longer lives within the archaeological site, he continues to assist the Department of Antiquities in its preservation efforts and guide visitors around the ruins. But the absence of life at his old village still haunts him.


Alomari’s dream is for the former villagers to once again inhabit their homes inside the site, but he knows this is not possible. So he’s found the next best option: partnering with community-based tourism initiatives like Baraka Destinations and The Jordan Trail to facilitate engaging experiences such as homestays and cooking workshops. Alomari also hopes to one day host his own guests at a countryside homestay he is developing.

阿罗马里的梦想是让以前的村民们再一次回到他们的房子里居住,但是他知道这是不可能的。因此,他找到的第二选择是:与以社区为基础的旅游项目进行合作,比如"巴拉卡目的地"(Baraka Destinations)和"约旦小径"(The Jordan Trail),以促进类似寄宿家庭和烹饪工作坊的体验。阿罗马里还希望有一天能在他正在开发的乡村住家里接待自己的客人。

“I already have the name,” he said, his smile wide once again. “It will be called, ‘Philodemos’.” Philodemus was a 1st Century BC philosopher and poet of Gadara – not entirely unlike Alomari himself.


“And do you know what his name means?” Alomari asked. “Philos is ‘friend’ or ‘lover’, and demos is ‘the people’.”


“Friend... of the people,” I said aloud. As Alomari described his vision of welcoming visitors into his countryside home to share stories and break bread, I couldn’t help but nod enthusiastically. Without the people and the stories, the archaeological site – stunning as it may be – is simply stones.