Daytrip - Jerash, Amman
Jordan has 8 of the decapolis cities (prosperous cities of the Roman Empire in the Middle East) of the middle east and Israel has one, (Syria has 2) located at Beit Shan, just across the Jordan River in the west bank. The 6 decapolis cities of Jordan are all located in the east bank of the Jordan River and the most famous and the most preserved will be Jerash, which is a 1 hour drive north of Amman. there are several tour companies offering day tours of Jerash and other surrounding areas. Jerash lies on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins. Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, it came under Roman rule and was one of the ten great Roman cities of the Decapolis League.
The city's golden age came under Roman rule, during which time it was known as Gerasa, and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
Entrance of the Archeological Park is JD 4 and is open everyday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
accodring to wikipedia:
Ancient Jerash Attractions:
Remains in the Greco-Roman Jerash include:
The Corinthium column
The two large temples (dedicated to Zeus and Artemis)
The nearly unique oval Forum, which is surrounded by a fine colonnade,
The long colonnaded street or cardo
Two theatres (the Large South Theatre and smaller North Theatre)
Two baths, and a scattering of small temples
An almost complete circuit of city walls.
Most of these monuments were built by donations of the city's wealthy citizens. From AD 350, a large Christian community lived in Jerash, and between AD 400-600, more than thirteen churches were built, many with superb mosaic floors. A cathedral was built in the 4th century. An ancient synagogue with detailed mosaics, including the story of Noah, was found beneath a church.
While Hadrian's Arch may be an integral part of the current archeological site, it is obvious that it must have been outside of the whole when Jerash was a vibrant city. Hadrian visited after the city had been founded, and so the arch could not have been part of the walls of Jerash. Those walls are marked today by the South Gate, which is found a hundred metres or so from the Arch. It is a small, simple affair compared to Hadrian's monument, but it is nonetheless the true start to the wonders of Jerash.
The Cardo Maximum is the long, colonnade street that runs between the South Gate and the Northern Tetrapylon. It connects the Oval Forum to the North Theatre and the Nymphaneum, and is the main thoroughfare of the Roman city. Moreover, it is perhaps just as impressive as the Oval Forum, as it is lined by tall, majestic columns that make one feel as though one is passing through a stone version of one of those tree-lined country lanes.
The Nymphaneum is a common feature in the decapolis, the ten Roman cities of the Levant. While this structure was, ideally, consecrated to a nymph, it was in fact the location at which a spring was usually to be found. In the dry, dusty mountains of the region around Jerash, it is easy to imagine that such a place would have been revered. In the Roman city, the Nymphaneum is indeed a spectacular sight, which many parts of its more intricately carved walls in tact.
As Jerash was a Roman city, it of course had its temples. One among them is the Temple of Artemis, which is notable for some of its elegantly carved windows and for its brief colonnade atop the massive plinth that also served as a storage room or interior of the temple. This particular Temple was memorable to me because there was a young man who was trying to sell what he claimed were ancient Roman coins to tourists. Hucksters aside, the view from the plinth is impressive, not least because the Temple itself is on an elevated part of the site.
The Northern Tetrapylon is a bit of a gate or marker that indicates to the visitor the end of the colonnaded path that cuts through the site to the north. It is impressive in its monumental scale, but is all the more dear for the opportunity it affords to the visitor to take photographs of it with views to the modern city and the surrounding countryside.
The North Theatre of Jerash is, obviously, found to the north of the archeological site and is smaller than the South Theatre. Despite this, I think I preferred the North Theatre to the South one, as more of its proscenium is preserved and getting to the odeon requires going up steps. Somehow, this makes this part of the site all the more regal and elegant. The North Theatre is off the Cordo Maximus, or the colonnaded road that goes to the north of the site. Perhaps this too helps, as it gives the visitor more of a sense that this was once an inhabited city, rather than the isolated ruins amongst various broken stones and forgotten houses.
Jerash has two theatres, distinguished by their placement in the site. This theatre is known as the South Theatre. I did not find it to be as impressive as the one in Amman, although that may be because the one in Amman has far more spectacular views. This theatre is approximately the same size as the Roman theatre in Amman, and much more of the proscenium has been preserved, giving the visitor the ability to imagine the theatre as it would have been when Jerash was in its full glory. When I visited the site in February 2012, there were a few performers loafing about the stage, and I believe that it is still used for performances from time to time.
The hippodrome is, as expected, the massive stadium in which chariot races and other horse-related events were held. It is found just after Hadrian’s Arch and is immediately noticeable from the men dressed as gladiators who hang out around it, trying to convince tourists to avail themselves of the faux-chariot racing events.
The Oval Forum is one of the two most impressive sections of the ruins at Jerash, at least according to my own view. It is a wide open space that is ringed by Corinthian columns and that affords the visitor a remarkable view of the rest of the site. While it doesn’t have quite the same monumental scale as some of the other ruins, it is still quite impressive, and the openness of it is what gives it its exhilarating characteristic.
Hadrian’s Arch is one of the more monumental aspects of the ruins at Jerash, by which I mean that it is one of the few constructions that, on their own, succeed in surprising and amazing the visitor. Most of the other aspects of the site are impressive as part of a whole, rather than on their own. It was constructed in the early part of the 2nd century CE to mark the visit of Hadrian to the city. Under the current organization of the entrance and tourist facilities at the site, it is among the first of the ruins that you will encounter as you drive up to the entrance and again when you enter the site.
I feel as though there should be a clear distinction made between Jerash the new city and Jerash the archeological site, as they point to two completely opposed ideologies and cultures. The modern city is typical of urban areas in the Middle East: it is dusty, things appear to be under constant construction, and a lack of opportunities for expression and development have led to a profusion of ultra-conservative, at time fundamentalist expressions of the faith. It was here that I was approached on more than one occasion by men in jalabiyas trying to talk to me about Islam, and it was here that I saw the most number of women in abbayas and niqabs, not just hijabs. Nevertheless, the city lives from its massive expanse of Roman ruins, which not only bring in massive numbers of foreign tourists, but also represent the flourish culture that made this a rich and diverse place before Fathat al-Islam. It is a microcosm of the complexities and contradictions that make up Middle Eastern history, and it will not always leave you feeling more enlightened by your visit.
This area boasts an "unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years"!
Jerash was conquered by Pompey in 63 BC, coming under Roman rule and was one of the ten great Roman cities of the 'Decapolis League' (Damascus, Camatha, Hippus, Dion, Raphana, Gadara, Pella, Scythopolis, GERASA and Philadelphia.)
It is known as one of THE best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world.
Easily reached from Amman, (about 40 mins drive on a modern highway) at the very least about 2 hours would be needed to walk the grounds, but one might want double that to fully take in the glorious colonnaded streets, walls, baths and towers, etc., which sit so majestically for the centuries!
There is a modern city of Jerash, but it has been carefully developed away from the historical sites.
There is a restaurant near the entrance.
I took about 65 photos of Jerash, so please have a look at my Travelogues as well, to get an idea of how extensive and varied this site is.
Jerash an ancient and most spectacular Roman town awaits you in all its grandeur and beauty. This is the most complete preserved city in the Eastern Roman Empire.
A Tour of Jerash's monuments and public buildings , tracing he the daily lives ot its people, their habits, religon and a glimpse of what life was like in those times.
Entry is JD 8 for foreigners and Jordanians JD .50 - half dinar
I used any easy guide which was available in a few langugages for JD5 - very informative and worth the 5 Dinars
Well worth the visit and only half an hours drive - 48km - from Amman
A short ride North of Amman is the amazing Roman ruins of Jerash.
I expected a few bits and pieces, but this is an entire town, not quite Pompei, but a good second.
With theatres, columns and temples, the site takes about 2 hours to see in full. Lots of exploring to be done. They also put on a show with actors dressed as centurians, complete with chariots.
Entry was approx 7JD (Forget exactly), the show is extra.
You can get a bus here from the North station in Amman, but we got a taxi for 35JD to take 4 of us to Jerash, wait 2 hours, then take us to Aljoun, then back to Amman.