The Romans never cease to amaze me, here I am writing about Jordan and the Middle East yet the Romans have yet again inserted themselves into the history of the region. I shouldn´t be surprised considering that they were one of the largest empires in the ancient world. I guess it says more about my poor grasp of history than the Romans that Ididn´t realize they conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond. Yet I was shocked to find one of the most important and well preserved cities of the Roman empire in modern day Jordan.
The imposing Hadrian´s Gate sets the tone for your visit to the impressive ruins of Jerash. Passing under the enormous arch of the Gate I was even more blown away by the Romans. Not only had they stretched their empire farther East than I had thought, but I was dwarfed by the stunning architecture, collonaded streets and towering temples that made up the ancient city of Jerash.
While Petra gets all the attention Jerash should not be missed, a far less crowded visit allows for a close-up look at the splendour of the ancient Roman empire. If you time your visit right, which seems to be more luck than anything, you can enjoy the site void of any other visitors. Without the crowds I found a new appreciation for the worn cobblestones of the Cardo, where if you look closely you can see the chariot tracks and begin to imagine the city´s major buildings, shops and residences that lined the road.
The Nymphaeum set my imagination in motion once again as I tried to picture the grandeur of the fountain in it’s prime, decorated with lion heads and etched with detailed carvings. Somehow without any modern day reminders transforming the sights of ancient Jerash to their original glory, in my mind, was easier. The luxury of seeing the city without a throng of tourists gave me a new appreciation for the Romans and their amazing ancient cities.
The Romans were never ones to overlook entertainment as is evident with the 3,000 seat theater in Jerash. Occassionaly used today for performances, it’s amazing how the stone steps and massive stage have stood the test of time. Without a performace in the amphittheater it was still an incredible testament to the Romans architectural expertise.
While I sincerely hope your historical knowledge is better than mine, if you let the world be your classroom you can learn about the Roman empire in Jordan of all placews. The architecture will amaze you, sending you back in time to imagine what the ancient world was like in the Eastern reaches of one of the most powerful empires in the world.
WHEN YOU GO:
Get a taxi from Amman, we opted to navigate the confusing and difficult public transport system to make our way to Jerash only to find that a shared taxi home was much easier and almost the same price. Skip the hassle and get a cab
Come prepared, Jerash is huge and requires a fair amount of walking, wear comfortable shoes and bring lots of water
Plan for a half day at least, visiting the ancient ruins of Jerash requires a lengthy cab ride and lots of working so make sure you budget enough time.