Exploring the ancient Roman city of Jerash, Jordan’s other lost city
As I walked through the forum with broken and crumbling columns looming over me, the paving stones worn smooth over time and constant footfall, I could just imagine the hum of people as they went about their daily business, a hawker shouting his wares as people wandered past, the shrieks of children as they played in the streets.
This was once a great city in the Roman empire, an important city that anchored the Middle East to Rome, a popular city once well known, now lay forgotten.
There aren’t many places around the world where you can walk in the footsteps of history, to really get a feel for what an ancient city would’ve been like, but at Jerash you can. And it’s wonderful.
Just an hour north of Amman, the capital of Jordan, Jerash is incredibly easy to get to.
For us, we hopped in a taxi (organised by Abraham Tours) and drove straight up the freshly-paved motorway only stopping for sweet cardamom coffee.
The first thing I saw as we came into Jerash was the Arch of Hadrian, one of the standout sites within the ancient city. Already I had that giddy excitement that comes with studying classics at school for years (yep, I’m a surprise history buff. What of it?)
At 10JD (about £11), a ticket to Jerash is like a time-traveller’s token – as soon as you climb the steps and walk under the Arch of Hadrian you are immediately taken back 2,000 years. It’s like walking around in a living archaeology museum, the only wonder being why there aren’t more people to share it with.
The city of Jerash actually dates back long before it became a Roman city, but it wasn’t until 63 BC that it became a part of the Roman empire where it prospered, so much so it was known as “Pompeii of the Middle East”.
It only took me 10 minutes walking from the Arch of Hadrian (which was completed in 129 AD) to the forum, one of the centre points of Jerash, that I realised just how big this city was; it stretches for as far as the eye can see, and despite spending half a day there I felt like there was still so much to discover.
For me, the one thing that set Jerash apart from other ancient Roman cities I’ve visited on my travels were the amphitheatres.
There are two amphitheatres at Jerash – one to the north (which had a capacity of 800 people) and one to the south (which had a capacity of 3,000 people) – and they are both incredible examples of what living in this city must’ve been like. You can almost imagine the conversation “What’s going on at the north theatre tonight?” “Oh, not too much, but loads of us are going to the south theatre for a comic play so you should join us!”
When you stand at the top of the two theatres looking down at the stage, every time there was a gust of wind it brought the peals of laughter or the tears of agony. The performances may be no more but the memories still linger on.
I spent hour after hour wandering from ruin to ruin and at times I genuinely had the place to myself – I couldn’t get over at how quiet it was.
When people come to Jordan, the first thing they want to see is Petra, one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Even when researching Jordan, the pictures you see are of the Treasury and the Monastery at Petra, not of Jerash.
Because of that, not many people make the journey here despite it being only an hour north of Amman.
I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not – obviously I loved being able to take my time exploring Jerash without the crowds of other people – but it is a site that definitely deserves more recognition, especially considering it is one of the finest examples of Roman ruins outside of Italy.
For me, I could’ve walked those stone streets forever thinking about how live once was, but then there was Petra to go to…
Things to take for Jerash:
- Dress sensibly and cover up – Jordan is a Muslim country so you should abide by their customs. This means no short shorts and revealing tops.
- Wear comfortable shoes – When I was at Jerash I clocked up a fair few kilometres over very rocky terrain, so it pays to have some comfortable shoes.
- Bring lots of water – Jerash is very exposed and out in the open meaning there’s not much shade so make sure you bring lots of water to keep hydrated. You can buy water inside Jerash but it is a lot more expensive.
My tour to Jerash was a part of the two-day, one-night Petra Tour with Abraham Tours. As always, all views and opinions are entirely my own and without bias.
Have you ever been to Jerash? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so let me know in the comment box below!
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