Jerash had long been on my mind but I had only recently read about the Roman ruins that is one of the best preserved sites of Roman architecture outside Italy. It is Jordan’s second most popular tourist site …and it is only a 30 minute drive from Amman!
Jerash, then known as Gerasa, was a strategic trading point, with Damascus to the north, Amman to the south, and Jerusalem to the west.
Jerash first became an important town in the third century BC under the rule of Alexander the Great.
When the Romans conquered Syria in 64BC, Gerasa, as it was known then, became one of the ten great Decapolis cities belonging to the Greek- Roman federation. Great economic benefits were bought to the city mainly through trade with the Nabataeans from Petra.
Prosperity peaked in the third century. At this time it was a Roman colony of 20,000 people but in the following centuries trade routes changed, shipping became more important and the town started to decline.
The Persian invasion of 414AD, the Muslin invasion of 636AD and earthquakes of 749AD all added to this and the city shrank to a quarter of its size.
There was a brief occupation by the Crusaders in the 12th century but the city remained deserted until it was rediscovered in 1806 by German traveller Ulrich Jasper Seetzen.
Excavation of this ancient city began in 1925 and continues to this day.
Being close to the entrance, Hadrian’s Arch is the perfect introduction to Jerash. The arch was built in commemoration of Emperor Hadrian’s visit in 129AD. Decorated with carved acanthus leaves on the capitals, it was originally twice the height and had three wooden doors.
WHAT TO SEE
The Jerash ruins can be easily walked in a couple of hours and it’s hard to miss anything important. The most notable sites are:
- Hadrian’s Arch: built in 129AD, this marks the ancient city’s boundaries.
- Hippodrome: a restored Roman-era stadium. This was the smallest of the two arenas in the Roman Empire.
- Forum (Oval Plaza): this is the main attraction. Bordered by 160 Ionic columns, it literally cannot be missed!
- The Cardo: a 600m (1,968ft) colonnaded street running the length of the city.
- 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, this can seat up to 3,000 people. The site is still used for concerts, performances and even the occasional chariot race!
- Jerash Archaeological Museum: houses a collection of artefacts such as coins
The ruins of the ancient city of Jerash are some of the most impressive in the Middle East — not to mention a bit random. Even if you’re a history junkie, you probably haven’t heard of Jerash and one reason is that the ruins don’t have UNESCO World Heritage Status. You can find it only in tentative lists .
Without doubt for me is the most interesting place in Jordan . to visit and make amazing photo shoot as I did with Dareen.