“Roman” Around the Archaeological Site of Jerash

Gary Greer 4/26/2020
Arab Culture

One of the places you absolutely must visit during your stay in Jordan is Jerash. It here in this ancient city where you can see the best preserved Roman ruins in Jordan. Dare we say, outside of Rome and Greece, Jerash is perhaps one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities in the world. You’ll find well preserved columns, arches, and temples. Their characteristic architecture is a reminder of the influential and authoritative empire that once ruled the land. Touring the “Pompeii of the East” today will, indeed, transport you back to an ancient time. It will serve up a one-of-a-kind historic experience. But first, here’s everything you’ll want to know before you go.

Jerash Facts

Located 48 kilometers north of the capital city of Amman, Jerash, Jordan is the administrative center of the Jerash Governorate. Currently, it has a population of close to 51,000 people. It is best known for the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as “Antioch on the Golden River” and the “Pompeii of the East”. Although it was never covered by volcanic ash.

During the 3rd century B.C., Jerash became an urban center and was a member of the Greek Decapolis (“ten cities” in Greek). Because of its location on the route of incense and spice trade route, the city prospered during the 1st century B.C. During this time, Hadrian, the Roman emperor, favored the city. Thus, it continued to prosper both financially and socially, reaching its pinnacle in 130 A.D. However, that didn’t last long. The city was already in decline in the 3rd century, when it feel under the empire of the Christian Byzantines. 400 later, in 635 A.D., the Muslims took over the city and reigned for over 500 years until, during the Crusades in 1112 A.D., Baldwin II dealt Jerash its final blow. Jerash was then deserted until it reappeared by the beginning of the Ottoman rule in the early 16th century.

Jerash in modern times

To the east of the ruins left behind today, and sharing the same city wall but little else, is the sprawling, modern city of Jerash. Thankfully, the ruins have been spared from encroachment and carefully preserved. It attracted approximately 330,000 visitors in 2018. This makes it one of the most visited sites in Jordan, second only to Petra.

Since 1981, the old city of Jerash has hosted the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts. It is a three-week-long celebration of Arabic and international culture during the summer months. The program includes dance, music, poetry recitals and theatrical performances. The festival is often attended by Jordan’s royal family members and is renowned for being one of the largest cultural activities in the region. In 2008, the Jerash Festival fell under the tent of the Jordan Festival. The authorities launched the festival that year to promote a nation-wide theme-oriented event. Soon after, however, government authorities revived the stand-alone Jerash festival. The Jordan Festival proved not to meet the message intended for the festival.

How to Visit

Looking at a Jerash map, you’ll see that getting there on your own is actually very easy and low cost. For only 2JDs (around $1.40), you can go to Jerash and back from the Tabarbour Bus Station in Amman. From downtown Amman, head to the Raghadan Al Seyaha station next to the Roman Theater to catch the #6 Service taxi to Tabarbour bus station. It’s the last stop for the service taxi.

For getting back to Amman, the minibuses to Amman leave from a junction by the Handicraft Building. It is located at a 10-minute walk south from the Visitor’s Center. When coming back to downtown from Tabarbour station tell the taxi driver you are going to Raghadan Al Seyaha. There is another Raghadan station in Amman that is a few kilometers from downtown so the last stop may be that one!

Additionally, you can get there by taxi, ridesharing, or private tour packages.

Once you’re there and inside the archaeological park, you will find various signs. They describe the history of each set of ruins. You can pick up a map to orient yourself at the Visitor Center at the South Gate of the park. You can exit at the North Gate, which is across from the bus station.

Although the ruins are extensive compared to many other sites, it’s not hard to see everything in a couple of hours. The Temple of Artemis and the temple right after the entrance overlooking the Oval Plaza have hidden staircases in their walls, which allow you to climb up the ruins, giving you a great view of the surrounding area; be careful, however, as there is no barrier at the top to prevent you falling off the ancient buildings. 

When to Visit

You can avoid most of the tour groups arriving from Amman if you go first thing in the morning. 

The Jerash Ruins archaeological park is open in the summer from 07:30-19:00 and in the winter from 08:00-17:00. 

Additionally, there is sound and light show at night that illuminates the ancient sites of Jerash in different colors. 

If you want to see the Roman Army and Chariot Experience, there are two daily shows for a fee – one at 11:30 and one at 14:30 in the hippodrome (circus). The shows include Roman Legion tactics, mock gladiator fights, and chariot exhibitions and as a special treat, if you just ask, you will be allowed to go on a chariot ride after the show. 

If you’d like to visit Jerash, and maybe learn a little bit of Levantine Arabic along the way, the best way to learn Arabic is through the use of Arabic learning apps like the Kaleela Arabic learning app. Visit our website and find out how you can start to learn to speak Arabic or many of the Arabic dialects spoken throughout the region by downloading the Kaleela Arabic learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device today.