Jordan is a fascinating country with nearly as many incredible Roman ruins as the Italians. While I had always known about Petra, I had not heard about Roman ruins of Jerash until our recent visit. The Jordanian history and fusion of cultures and ethnicities makes it a very special place in the heart of the Middle East. It has many neighbours including Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Jordan is situated in a region surrounded by conflict in recent decades and indeed throughout history. Recently, they had had to deal with the refugees from Iraq and more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees since 2011. This has added significantly to their population of four million and created employment, housing and infrastructure problems, yet the Jordanian seem it in their stride with few prejudices.
Jordan has been home to many of the world’s oldest civilisations. Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Nabataeans, Romans, Crusaders and Turks all traded, built cities and fought wars in Jordan leaving behind rich cultural influences. It’s from this, modern Jordanians have built their identity.
The Roman city of JerashThe Roman city of Jerash is just 50 kilometres from the capital Amman. Jerash is described as a city of ruins, but don’t let that fool you. It may not look the way it did two thousand years ago, but it’s one of the best-preserved Roman cities you’ll see in the world. The scale is impressive. The ruins are a close second to Jordan’s favourite visitor destination, Petra, yet few people know about them.
Jerash was founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. But, it was about 300 years later under Roman rule it really began to flourish.
While some people compare it Pompeii, the Jerash ruins were not covered by a volcanic explosion. An earthquake hit the region in 749AD destroying huge areas of the city, leaving the ruins buried for hundreds of years before German explorer, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen discovered them in 1806.
Excavation started in 1907. However, it is really over the last 70 years most of the excavation work has been done. The shear size and level of preservation is incredible and slowly further discoveries are being made as the excavation continues.
Visiting the Jerash ruins
- Hadrian’s Arch : built in 129 AD to greet Emperor Hadrian during his visit. It is the gate to Jerash.
- Hippodrome : a restored Roman-era stadium.
- Forum (Oval Plaza) : this is the main attraction, bordered by 160 Ionic columns.
- The Card : is a 600 metre colonnaded street running the length of the city. Adjacient to it is the remains of the Hippodrome, a former sporting arena that now holds chariot races to recapture the imaginations of visitors.
- Temple of Artemis : impressive temple ruins dedicated to the Ancient Greek deity.
- Agora : once the city’s main food market positioned around a central fountain.
- Nymphaeum : an ornate public fountain decorated with lion heads and dedicated to nymphs.
- South Theatre : the larger of the two theatres, it can seat up to 3,000 people. The site is still used for concerts and performances today.
- Jerash Archaeological Museum : houses a collection of artefacts such as coins, statues and sarcophagi found during the numerous excavations.
Definitely worth a visist. It is just 48 kilometres from the capital Amman, so an easy day trip.
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