Since visiting the Pyramids of Giza, I have always been fascinated by ancient ruins and the stories they tell of past civilizations. And when I was visiting Amman, the capital city of Jordan, I knew I had to visit the Ancient Roman and Greek Ruins of Jerash.
It was honestly one of the most intriguing sites of the ancient world that I have visited. And to think I almost skipped it!
The Jerash ruins are located just 51.9 kilometres from Amman and are a testament to the legacy of the Roman Empire in the Middle East. In this blog post, I will take you on a journey through the history and highlights of the Jerash ruins. As well as offer travel tips on how to make the most of your visit to Jerash.
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History Of Jerash Ruins
The Founder Of Jerash
The history of Jerash dates back to the Bronze Age. It was originally founded during the Neolithic period, around 7500 BC. The city was initially settled by Semitic people and was later ruled by the Assyrians, the Persians, and the Greeks.
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However, it was under the Roman rule that Jerash truly flourished, thanks to its strategic location on the caravan routes that linked Syria and Palestine with Arabia and the Persian Gulf.
During this time, the city was ruled by Emperor Trajan, and he greatly improved the city’s infrastructure. Emperor Trajan constructed a new road system, a massive amphitheatre, and a grand temple dedicated to Hercules.
Fun Fact: During the Roman rule, Jerash was known as Gerasa. Be sure to impress your tour guide with this little titbit.
Jerash became one of the ten cities of the Decapolis, a group of cities that were centres of Roman culture and commerce in the Middle East.
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However, as the Roman Empire began to decline in the 3rd century, Jerash fell into decline too. The city was hit hard by a devastating earthquake in 749 AD, and it was abandoned for centuries. On a positive note, as the city was destroyed by an earthquake and not war, a lot of the ruins are well-preserved.
Rediscovery of Jerash Ruins
In the late 19th century, European explorers rediscovered Jerash. And in the 20th century, it began to attract tourists as one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world.
Today, when visiting Jerash, visitors can explore the ruins and get a glimpse of what life was like in the Roman Empire.
FAQ – The Jerash Ruins In Jordan
Is Jerash Worth Visiting
One of the most frequently asked questions I get, is Jerash worth visiting? And the answer is 100% yes, Jerash is absolutely worth a visit! Jerash is one of, if not the best, well-preserved Ancient Roman sites outside of Italy.
If you are a traveller with an appreciation for ancient history or a straight-up history buff, then Jerash is worth visiting. Also, if you have visited Pompeii, then you will also enjoy a visit to Jerash. And of course, it goes without saying, if you love Ancient Roman or Greek history, then Jerash is worth visiting.
Fun Fact: The ruins of Jerash are known as the Pompeii of the East. Even without knowing that fact, I had already begun to compare the two and I’m sure you will too.
Is Jerash Included In The Jordan Pass
Yes, the entrance to Jerash is included in your Jordan Pass, which covers over 40 attractions. This includes other tourist attractions such as Petra and Wadi Rum. However, you will have to pay extra for a guide, as only the entrance to Jerash is covered by the Jordan Pass.
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How Long Do I need To Explore Jerash
When visiting the Jerash ruins, you can expect to spend several hours exploring the various sites and attractions. The site is quite large, so comfortable walking shoes are a must. The ruins are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and I recommend arriving early to avoid the crowds.
There are numerous walking paths and trails throughout the site, and you are free to explore at your own pace. Audio guides and guided tours are also available for an additional fee. And of course depending on which route you choose, the time will differ.
I found that having a guide was a great way to learn more about the history and significance of each site. Not only were we able to interact and ask questions, but he was able to share his family’s personal history to the area, making it that much more relatable for us. This is something that you won’t get from an audio guide, nor by exploring on your own.
What Are The Best Jerash Day Tours
If you have a day or more in Amman, I recommend combining a couple of stops on your Jerash day trip.
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Some of the most popular options are:
- From Amman: Amman, Jerash and Dead Sea Day Tour
- Private North Tour to Jerash, Ajloun & Umm Qais from Amman
- From Amman: Jerash, Umm Qais and Jesus’ Cave Private Trip
- Private Half Day Tour to Jerash from Amman
Tips For Exploring The Jerash Ruins
To make the most of your visit to the Jerash ruins, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Bring sunscreen and plenty of water, as the site can get quite hot during the spring and summer months, and there’s very little shade.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing that is appropriate for the weather.
- Arrive early to avoid the crowds and take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures.
- Don’t forget your camera! The Jerash ruins offer many great photo opportunities.
- Time your visit with the Zuhr prayer to hear the Adhan (call to prayer) as you’re exploring.
- Consider hiring a guide to learn more about the history and significance of each site.
9 Best Things To See And Do In Jerash
When most travellers refer to Jerash, this is what we mean, the archaeological city. Below are the main highlights and attractions that you shouldn’t miss when you visit Jerash.
1. Jerash Archaeological Museum
The Jerash Archaeological Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of this ancient city. The museum is home to an impressive collection of artefacts and exhibits, including pottery, statues, and coins, that provide insight into the daily lives of the people who once lived in Jerash.
One of the most interesting exhibits in the museum is the collection of mosaics that have been unearthed from the ruins of the city. These beautifully preserved works of art depict scenes from everyday life, as well as mythological figures and scenes from ancient literature.
2. Hadrian’s Arch
Hadrian’s Arch is one of the most iconic landmarks in Jerash, and it’s easy to see why. This impressive structure was built in honour of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who visited the city in the 2nd century AD.
The arch is located at the entrance to the ancient city, and it’s a great place to take photos and get a sense of the scale and grandeur of the city.
Photography Tip: Whilst everyone will be trying to get a picture directly in front of the arch, I suggest standing slightly to the side. From here you’ll get the arch and you’ll be able to angle out the hoards of tour groups.
3. Oval Plaza
The Oval Plaza is one of the largest open spaces in Jerash, and it was once the centre of public life in the city. The plaza is surrounded by impressive colonnades, and it’s a great place to pause, people watch and take in the sights and sounds of the city.
If you visit the plaza in the evening, you’ll be treated to a spectacular light show that highlights the beauty of the ruins.
Top Tip: Look out for the police on horseback as they circle the plaza. They are very friendly and do occasionally stop for pictures. Just be sure to not launch yourself in their way!
4. Cardo Maximus / Colonnaded Street
The Cardo Maximus, or Colonnaded Street, is one of the most impressive examples of Roman urban planning in the world. This long, straight street is lined with impressive columns and arches, and it was once the main thoroughfare of the ancient city. This is where the VIPs and victors would walk along.
Today, walking along the street is like stepping back in time, and it’s easy to imagine what life was like in Jerash during the height of the Roman Empire.
5. Temple of Dionysus / Cathedral
The Temple of Dionysus, also known as the Cathedral, is one of the most impressive buildings in Jerash. This massive structure was built in the 3rd century AD, and it’s a great example of the architectural style of the time.
As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
6. North & South Theatre
The North and South amphitheatres are two of the most impressive structures in Jerash, and they’re a testament to the importance of theatre in ancient Roman culture.
The North Theatre is the larger of the two, and it could seat up to 3,000 people. The South Theatre is smaller, but it’s still an impressive sight, with its rows of stone seats and stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Top Tip: If you choose to not opt for a guide, look out for the spot that all the guides end their tour on. Go and stand on the exact spot once they have moved and speak in a normal tone. You’ll hear your voice amplified, but no one else will!
The Nymphaeum is a beautiful fountain that was built in the 2nd century AD. The fountain is located in the heart of the ancient city, and it’s a great spot to enjoy the beauty of the ruins. Much like the Trevi fountain in Rome, the Nymphaeum is the focal point of Jerash city.
The fountain is decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures, and it’s a great example of the skill and craftsmanship of the ancient Romans. In its heyday, water would cascade down through the seven lion heads and into the small basin on the pavement.
8. Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis is one of the most impressive religious buildings in Jerash. This massive structure was built in the 2nd century AD, and it’s dedicated to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt.
The Hippodrome is a massive arena that was once used for chariot races and other public events. The arena could seat up to 15,000 people, and it’s a great place to imagine what life was like in Jerash during the Roman period.
It’s located just outside the ancient city and if you time your visit correctly, you can even catch a re-enactment by the Roman Army and Chariot Experience.
Book your Roman Army and Chariot Experience here.
Attractions Near Jerash
While the Jerash ruins are the main attraction in the area, there are several other sites worth visiting. One of the most popular is Ajloun Castle. It was built by the nephew of the Muslim leader Saladin between 1184 and 1188. The castle offers stunning views of the surrounding area and is a great place to learn more about the history of the region.
Another nearby attraction is the Aljun Forest Reserve, a protected area that is home to a variety of plant and animal species. Here you’ll be able to hike through the forest and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
How To Get To Jerash
The Jerash ruins are located just 48 kilometres north of Amman, making them easily accessible by car or public transportation. If you are travelling by car, there is ample parking available on site. If you prefer public transportation, there are several buses that run from Amman to Jerash throughout the day.
Amman to Jerash by car: The journey from Amman to Jerash takes approximately 45 minutes by car. You can take the Jerash-Ajiloun road that connects Amman to Jerash.
Amman to Jerash by private tour: Although you can hire a car and drive yourself, the best and easiest option is to arrange for a private tour.
Accommodations Near Jerash
There are several hotels and guest houses near the Jerash ruins that offer comfortable accommodations for visitors. Whilst these are near the ruins, if you’re looking for a more luxury option or want to be close to downtown Amman, I recommend staying in Amman.
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In conclusion, the Jerash ruins are a fascinating glimpse into the history and legacy of the Roman Empire in the Middle East. With well-preserved sites and impressive architecture, the Jerash ruins are a must-see for history buffs and travellers alike.
Whether you choose to explore on your own or with a guided tour, the Jerash ruins offer a unique and unforgettable experience. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to discover the hidden treasures of Jordan.