Saturday, June 15, 2013

Part 2 - Sharbil bin Hassneh EcoPark

The EcoPark was an amazing experience. We drove into the lodge area, and sat in the shade and we retailed with a symphony of bird song. Our wonderful guide, Adnan Budleri, is the Assistant Director of Research and Development with th EcoPark. I wish I had written down all the birds we saw - little owl, cattle egret, swifts, European bee eater, blue tit, black legged stilt, house sparrows, kingfisher, blackbirds, spear winged plover, dead sea sparrow, little grebe, and lots more. The trees were alive and flutering and singing with birds.This is particularly significant in that the landscape all around us was dry annual grasses.

Unfortunately, Jordan has lost most of its forests and a lot of its really cool wildlife. Trees were cut by the Romans, the Ottoman empire, damaged from overgrzazing and charcoal production for hubbly buubly hookah pipes. Less than 1% of the forests remain. The Royal Botanic Garden and EcoPark are restoring the 1 percent of the remaining forests. There are pines, oak (Quercus cathercanthus), White acacia (Acacia albudure), figs, funeral cypress, and Arabic acacia, They used to have roe deer, wild goats, mountain gazelle, ibex, cheetah, desert gazelle, leopard, lions, Syrian gazelle, lions.

We had a wonderful time and saw a lot of the northwestern side of Jordan. We got to the Ibis at 3:00 pm, met our drive from the Azraq Wetlands Reserve, and drove east to Azraq, about a two hour drive. The highway is a major conduit between Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Trasport of petrol comes through these roads, among other commodities. Clara says driving through Iraq in convey with petrol trucks is very dangerous, and they often hit a bomb or are boarded and the gas stolen. The long and short is that the drive scared the pucky out of me because of fast traffic passing frequently frequently with no passing lanes and big trucks. One truck had fluffy wool in it, and I didn't look closely. It turned out to be dead sheep and a cow, except I didn't look. It's not emblazened on my brain.

We drove by the huge Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp preparations on the way to Azraq. The area is 84 hectares in size.  They plan to bring 450,000 to 600,000 people to the camp within two months. The area is  flat black rock desert, no vegetation at this time of year, no trees, no water, and blazing hot in August. We presumed the refugees would be Syrian; however, in Azraq rumors circulate that it could be Palestinian (probably a rumor). The size and scale of this huge area as far as the eye can see, heavy equipment moving sand and gravel for the flat pads for tents, was really sad. It weighs on me. It leant a heaviness to my dreams. So much suffering. The camp is near a military base. US transport planes are landing with materials for the refugee camp, evidentally U.S. aid. One man was doing his prayers while the big equipment moved around him. I think we all need to do our  prayers. No one knows how long the refugees will be here, where the water will come from, whether the wastewater will contaminate the limited groundwater aquifer, will there be health care, education or any hope of earning a livelihood? The war in Syria is fully engaged, with no good guys, pawns by other countries supplying weapons, and just unspeakable tragic suffering. War literally is hll.

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