So the minute someone mentions ruins in Jordan, you’d instantly think about Petra. And with good reason, Petra is amazing and most likely top of your Jordanian Bucket List.
While you are in the country, the Roman ruins of Jerash are an absolute treat for any ruin junkie. The city of Jerash is located approximately 50km (35miles) north of Jordan’s capital Amman and is certainly worth a trip out of the city.
There are a variety of ways to get to the ruins of Jerash from the city of Amman. It’s super easy to get to either via public bus or car.
Depending on how thorough you want to be, you could see the main highlights in a few hours, or spend a whole day there.
Pompeii of the East
On first impressions, the site reminded me a little of Pompeii in Italy and while eavesdropping into a group tour I was smugly amused to overhear one of the guides call the ruins of Jerash the ‘Pompeii of the East’. Kudos to me for knowing my history shit.
So, yes, Jerash is similar to Pompeii with its grand columns and beautiful cobbled streets, however, this site wasn’t decimated by a volcanic eruption, so no ashen ghostly figures to look at.
Entry to the ruins of Jerash is 10JD, you’ll also be given a fairly decent map of the archaeological site. There are a handful of information boards dotted about the main points of interest but you can hire a guide if you want more detailed information.
Guides are available to hire for a tour of the site if you are after these gritty details. There is also an information centre containing artefacts, maps, videos and further information about Jerash.
Main highlights at the ruins of Jerash
The main highlights and what everyone rushes to see are – The Oval Forum, Colonnaded Street, Temple of Artemis, and the Arch of Hadrian.
History of Jerash in a nutshell
- Historically known as Gerasa, the Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash are said to be founded by Alexander the Great.
- With the exception of Italy, Jerash is considered to be one of the most immense and well-preserved sites outside of Rome.
- The site is still undergoing excavation. Renovation projects started in the 1920s and are ongoing.
A day at the ruins of Jerash
Arrive early, the archaeological ruins of Jerash open at 8 am, leave it until 10 am and the place will be heaving with coachloads of tourists on large scale tours. It was blissful being at the site when it was near empty.
The site is large and fairly open, so take plenty of water and wear sunscreen, there is next to no shade at the site. Wear decent shoes too, it’s quite amusing watching (in particular) fashionistas arriving in their ridiculous heels. The ground is uneven and cobbled so just leave the strappy sandals, stilettos and flip flops at home. I wore tennis shoes – I was fine in this. But please, don’t be that idiot with regards to footwear.
With the minimal bit of signage and information on the boards at main points of interest, twinned with the map you are given on entry it’s pretty easy to navigate yourself around the site and work out what you are looking at.
Hadrian's Arch or the Triumphal Arch & Hippodrome
Hadrian’s Arch dates to 129AD and was built to commemorate a visit from Emperor Hadrian. This and the nearby Hippodrome are the first things you’ll see. The Hippodrome hosted chariot racing in front of an audience of 15,000 – they do re-enactments here which can be booked via Jordan official website.
The Colonnade Forum
Follow the old City walls along to the main archaeological site. Just before you get to the arch and on the right-hand side is the visitor centre. Enter the arch and walk up to the iconic Colonnade Forum.
This forum was one of my highlights when I visited the ruins of Jerash. Here you’ll find 56 columns surrounding the open oval forum. It’s huge, approx 90m x 80m the limestone cobbles link to the Cardo Maximus. Getting to Jerash early in the day meant I had the place pretty much to myself, later in the day the forum is filled with tour groups. It’s certainly didn’t have the same feel, sharing it with hundreds of people.
Cardo Maximus or the Colonnaded Street
Head out of the Colonnaded Forum and follow the cobbled stones to the Cardo Maximus or the Colonnaded Street. This 800m stretch of road links the North Gate to the Colonnade Forum. It’s still paved with the original stones, so yes it’s uneven but it’s pretty cool to see the wear and tear from the centuries of use – check out the gentle grooves where chariots would once have ridden.
Although not much in terms of water here anymore, you can still make out the foundations of where the water for the city would have come from.
You can’t miss this, the Propylaeum is a massive decorative gateway and staircase leading up to the Temple of Artemis. The size of this Propylaeum defines how important the Temple of Artemis would have been at the time. It’s big!
Temple of Artemis
Although what remains doesn’t resemble much of a temple, what stood here in its heyday would have been something impressive! The Temple of Artemis is situated at the top of The Propylaeum and looks down on the ruins of Jerash.
Artemis was the patron goddess of the city, and this temple was dedicated to her. Not much remains of it, which is due to its dismantling in subsequent centuries for building materials in 386AD for new churches.
What the North Theatre lacks in size compared to the South Theatre, it certainly makes up for it in charm. I actually preferred this theatre with its pretty doorways and coloured tiled floor. There are also lots of cute carvings on the walls and seating if you look carefully. Originally built in 165AD and fully restored, this was one of my favourite spots in Jerash.
Temple of Zeus
Although not much remains of this temple (build about 162AD), the Temple of Zeus suffered the same fate as the Temple of Artemis – building materials for subsequent structures! However, standing on top of this ruin, it’s prominent position on the hillside does provide some great lookout point on the city below. Another decent photo spot.
Built in the 1st century, restored and still in use today with seating for 5000 spectators, the South Theatre sits on a hillside looking down over the rest of the archaeological site. It sits next to the Temple of Zeus.
Like with the Temple of Zeus, climbing up to the upper level of the Colosseum you can get some awesome panoramic shots of the archaeological site, particularly of the Colonnaded Forum.
There are frequent performers milling about this area. On the day I visited there was a guy playing the bagpipes and a drummer. I still stand by my argument that on a bagpipe, any tune, in any country of the world sounds exactly the same. It was no different here at the ruins of Jerash.
Of course, there is a lot more to see at Jerash, with tons more ruins to explore. and enough to keep any temple junkie amused for hours.
The ruins of Jerash are certainly up there with some of the best ruins I’ve visited. It’s an easy and worthwhile trip out of the city of Amman. If you are in Amman and you like ruins then you should also check out the Colosseum and Citadel.
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