Jerash – Jordan’s best kept secret.
Overshadowed by the magnificent Petra, the reason most tourists come to Jordan. Yet ironically, Jerash is the second most visited site once tourists arrive in Jordan. An hour from Amman, the city can easily be toured as a day trip. Early morning is best – to avoid the heat.
The ancient city is one of the largest collections of well preserved Roman ruins. They are impressive in scale, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, magnificent theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
On entering the site, you are greeted with the imposing Hadrian’s Arch (this guy got around – there seems to be some sort of monument to him all over Europe and the Middle East – a wall, some arches….) This particular arch was built in 129 AD to mark the Emperor’s visit, and was intended to become the new southern gate of the city.
Next comes the Hippodrome, – a partially restored Roman-era stadium, where for a few Jordanian Dinar you can see a rousing, if somewhat camp reinactment of gladiatorial battles and chariot races. At only 245m long and 52m wide, it was the smallest hippodrome in the Roman Empire.
One of the most spectacular sites is the Roman Theatre. The theatre highlights the Roman skill of acoustic design. Drop a coin in the centre of the stage and every person in the 3000 seat theatre would hear it clearly. The view across the Forum and Cardo from the theatre is worth the climb.
The main road through the site, the Cardo starts at the impressive forum, with it’s cobblestone pavement and Ionic Colonnade, and runs north – south through the city. In the first century it was the city’s backbone and all major and impressive buildings and monuments lined the road, to show off the the city’s wealth.
High on the hill, overlooking the ancient city ruins, and indeed, the modern city of Jerash, sits the Temple of Artemis, with its impressive columns soaring skyward. The temple was a place of sacrifice and worship to the patron goddess of Jerash.
Walking down the colonnaded streets through the remains of this once great city, you can feel the ghosts of centuries past, brushing past, about their daily business. In the still visible tracks you can see the wheels of the chariots turning as they race by. Standing in the hippodrome, you can hear the ringing of steel upon steel…the sound fading away on the hot breeze, blowing across the gravel.
Jerash is a city of wonder that brings back to life, the might of the Roman Empire.