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  • Writer's pictureanusha gopalakrishnan

Exploring the Ancient City of Jerash | One of the Best Preserved Roman Cities in the World



If historical ruins and ancient civilizations are your thing, then Jerash should be on your itinerary when visiting Jordan. Jerash comes as a close second to Petra; as it is the second most popular destination in Jordan among travelers.


The complex Greco-Roman architecture of the ruins is a visual treat that is not to be missed. Think of pristine Roman columns, ancient temples, majestic arches, baths, and large amphitheaters.


Jerash is located approximately 50 KMs from Amman and it makes for a perfect day trip from Amman.


One would think that the ruins would be located in an abandoned part of the city somewhere far out but we were surprised to find that it was situated smack in the city center. It was wonderful to witness the amalgamation of ancient and modern life - a beautiful paradox.


History


Ancient City of Jerash, formerly known as Gerasa is one of the biggest and most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world outside of Italy. The ruins are so exquisitely preserved that it is dubbed "the Pompeii of the Middle East".


Circa August 2015, an archaeological excavation team from the University of Jordan uncovered two human skulls that date back to the Neolithic era onsite. This suggests that human occupation in Jerash can be traced back to 7500-5500 BC.


Jerash was founded by Alexander the Great and it thrived under Roman rule. During its golden era, Jerash had a population of 20000 people. The agricultural land encircling the city advanced the prosperity of its people.


The City's downfall is closely associated with the Galilee earthquake which took place circa 749 CE. Sometime during the 12th century, Jerash was transformed into a Crusader garrison before it was completely abandoned.


It was rediscovered in 1925 and restoration work commenced shortly after. Part of the city is yet to be excavated.


To date, Jerash remains one of the most magnificent Roman cities to have ever existed.


Getting to Jerash


Driving - Car Rental


The most convenient and hassle-free to get to Jerash is by driving. Many car rental companies in Jordan have an active online presence. There is a ton of options available to choose from. I would recommend getting in touch with Mr. Abdullah of 360 days. He is contactable at +962 7 7036 0360 (mobile), +962 7 8036 0360 (WhatsApp), and info@360days.rent (email)


Car parking located outside the entrance is free and safe.

By Bus


There is a regular bus service from Amman to Jerash and back. You can catch a bus from the Tabarbour bus terminal but the bus only leaves when it is full. So this might not be the best option for you if you are on a time crunch.


If you are planning on a day trip, it is advisable for you to arrive early as you have to also consider your return trip.


By Taxi


A single trip should set you back by approximately 20 Jod per way. You may want to use the local e-hailing platform, Careem to compare the rates. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel to arrange a taxi for you. Be careful not to fall prey to taxi scams.


Tour Packages


You can also check out tour packages that offer day trips to Jerash. These tours usually include a tour guide- so that is a plus if you are looking for a guided experience.


Entrance Fee


The fee schedule is as listed below:

Foreigners: 12 Jod

Jordanians: 0.50 Jod

Children: Free


The fee includes entrance to the archeological museum.


Jordanian Pass holders are entitled to free entrance. I would strongly recommend that you purchase the Jordan Pass before your visit to Jordan. The Jordan Pass provides you access to 40 over attractions in Jordan including Jerash. It also saves you a lot of money and is super convenient.


Operating Hours


The visiting hours of the Jerash ruins vary throughout the year. The opening times are as follows:

  • 8 am to 4 pm November to March

  • 8 am to 5.30 pm April & May

  • 8 am to 6.30 pm June to October

  • 8.30 am to 6 pm during the month of Ramadan

The archeological site of Jerash is huge so you will need at least 3-4 hours to explore the entire site. So please plan your trip accordingly, especially if you are planning a day trip.


Do you need a Guide?


Most people recommend hiring a guide for a better understanding of the sightings but we did not do that.


We explored the site on our own with the help of signage and Google. If you are one of those who prefer a guided experience, there are English-speaking guides for hire onsite. They can be found milling around the South Gate or Hadrian's Arch.


Best time to Visit


The best time to visit this region is in Spring, between March and May when the weather is nice and mild. The wildflowers are in full bloom during this season. These flowers make the most beautiful backdrop for the magnificent ruins. These blooms alone warrant a visit to this region during this time.


Jerash gets really hot during summer but the Jerash Festival takes place in July every year. The Jerash Festival is the most spectacular cultural festival in the world and it attracts about 100000 visitors. The Festival features folklore, music, dance, arts, and handicraft. If art and culture are up your alley; the summer heat should not stop you!


Winters can get a little chilly but it also tends to get a little warm during the day because the complex has limited shade. So bring a jacket just in case it gets cold.


Regardless of the season, aim to arrive early so that you can take your time and explore the site without having to deal with the crowd.


Top Sights


There is a relatively circular route around the city that will lead you to the major highlights that should not be missed or you can walk in whichever direction you like. You can pick up a map of the city at the Visitor Centre.


The absolutely not to be missed structures are:



Hadrian's Arch - Also known as Triumphal Arch, the biggest arch in the Roman Empire. This arch was built in 129 CE to memorialize the visit of Emperor Hadrian.





Hippodrome - Erected circa 300 CE and was used as a sports arena back in the day. Chariot Racing and Gladiator fights were held here. This arena can easily hold up to 17000 spectators in its heyday.


South Gate - One of the four gates that leads to the Oval Forum / Plaza


Oval Forum - One of the most prominent structures in Jerash mainly because of its form or shape. This structure is the only oval-shaped plaza of the classical era.



South Theatre - This structure is located next to the Temple of Zeus. During peak hours, a team of Jordanian bagpipers will perform at the theatre. These bagpipers are happy to oblige to a photo request in exchange for a small donation.



Temple of Zeus - A great vantage point with amazing views across the ruins and the present-day city.



Cardo Maximus -A 800 meter-long, wide paved road that runs through the heart of this ancient city. The said road is still paved with its original stones and track marks from the wheel of carts are still visible.



Nymphaeum -Main fountain of the city devoted to the water nymphs. This nymphaeum is embellished with marble and made with seven lion heads from which water cascades into a basin below made from granite.


North Theatre - A smaller theatre compared to its counterpart. The theatre is so well preserved that events and performances are still held here today.




The moving column sways with the wind. It was built in such a way as to weather high winds and earthquakes. The wonders of ancient engineering left us mesmerized.


Temple of Artemis - This temple is said to be Jerash's most important temple. It was built in honor of Artemis, the Goddess of fertility and hunting. Back in the day, animal sacrifices were conducted here.


Ancient water-powered stone sawmills dating back to the 6th century


Souvenirs


You will pass an indoor souq selling food, drinks, and souvenirs before entering the site. You can shop for some Jordanian merchandise here if you like. I found the vendors here to be less persistent compared to those in Petra.


Miscellaneous Travel Tips

  1. Arrive early if you are visiting on a Friday as it can get super crowded. Parking can be scarce if you arrive late.

  2. There are restrooms at the indoor souq and at the Visitor Centre.

  3. Vendors can get a little pushy so be firm and walk away if you do not intend to make a purchase.

  4. You will find random chaps volunteering interesting information of offering to take your photos. Do not engage because they expect to be tipped.

  5. Wear comfortable shoes.

  6. Do not forget your sunscreen. There is almost no shade onsite.

  7. Stay hydrated. Carry water.

  8. There is a restaurant onsite in case you get hungry.

  9. Entrance to the Jerash Archeology Museum is included in the ticket price. It is worth popping in as they have some cool artifacts on display.


Conclusion


As I was wandering through the ruins of what was once a thriving city I cannot help but picture how life must be back then. It felt both eerie and bewildering at the same time.



All in all, Jerash is a perfect destination to visit if you are looking to bask in the history of this ancient complex and it also makes an excellent backdrop for photos! I highly recommend that you include Jerash in your Jordan itinerary when you are planning your Jordanian adventure.


To make the most out of your trip to Jerash, I recommend that you also visit Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife which is a short ten minutes drive from the ancient city of Jerash. Click here for more information about this Sanctuary.


Till my next adventure, toodles.



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