Visiting the Ruins of Jerash

by | Asia, Destinations | 1 comment

Petra? Of course. Wadi Rum? Absolutely! The Dead Sea? Yes, please! The Ruins of Jerash? Err, what are they?

Most people planning a visit to Jordan will have Petra high on the list of places to visit, along with Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea. But what about the Ruins of Jerash? I must admit that I was unaware of Jerash until I started researching the possibility of visiting Jordan and yet, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Having now visited this fabulous archeological site, I can understand why. It is definitely worth visiting the ruins of Jerash!

View over the plaza in the ruins of Jerash

What is Jerash?

Jerash is a city in northern Jordan. It is a thriving, modern city. Within its bounds, however, are the ruins of the ancient city of Jerash, known as Gerasa, once also a thriving metropolis. Jerash is the best preserved Roman City outside of Italy and for this reason, some guides have referred to it as “Pompeii of the East”. Wandering down the colonnaded street with the paving stones and the drainage system, I was indeed reminded of Pompeii.

However, the ruins of Jerash are not just Roman. Evidence of human settlement here dates back 6,500 years and the ruins feature Umayyad and Byzantine architecture as well as Roman. The ruins of this ancient city cover a vast area, but some of the modern city has also been built upon the old city. In its hey day, the ancient city was even more extensive than it is now. Many artifacts from the ancient city of Jerash have been unearthed in the modern city, including statues of Zeus and Aphrodite. These are now on display in the museum, which is located in the historic site.

Inside the Ruins of Jerash

The Arch of Hadrian

There is much to see inside the ruins of Jerash and several hours are needed to explore it properly. There are many highlights, the first of which is the Arch of Hadrian, built in honour of the Roman Emperor. It served as an approach to the city.

Arch of Hadrain at the start of the ruins of Jerash

Arch of Hadrian in the ruins of Jerash

After walking through the Arch of Hadrian, the next notable feature is the hippodrome. This large open-air arena was the site of entertainments such as chariot racing for the inhabitants of Gerasa.

View over the hippodrome in Jeerash

The South Gate

The South Gate is the entrance to the city proper. The noisy hippodrome is actually situated outside the city boundary for understandable reasons. The gate is quite a feature!

The decorative stone gate marking the entrance to the ruins of Jerash

The Oval Plaza

Wandering further into the city, we find the oval plaza, a large area surrounded by colonnades. This was a gathering place for the inhabitants of the ancient city and hosted a variety of events.

Columns around the oval plaza within the ruins of Jerash

Inside the oval plaza surrounded by columns

People sitting in the oval plaza inside Jerash

The Colonnaded Street

Leaving the Oval Plaza, we walked down the remarkably well preserved main street of Jerash.

View down the colonnaded street

The Nymphaeum

This beautiful structure was once an ornamental fountain, dedicated to the water nymphs and part of the elaborate water system of Jerash. It dates back to around 191 AD.

Elaborate stone building which once served as a public fountain

The Theatres

Other highlights of Jerash are the two theatres. The smaller South Theatre has seating for 3000 people and the larger North Theatre can seat 6000 people. The theatres are still used today for special performances. The accoustics are amazing!

The amphitheatre with stone seating inside Jerash

The South Theatre Seating

The south theatre with stone seating looking down on to stage

The South Theatre stage

Strangely there was a sort of busking performance of bagpipes (yes, really!) when we were in the North Theatre and we could hear them perfectly at the back. Thinking about it though, perhaps bagpipes are not the best test: they cut through everything!

The North Theatre from the back looking down to the stage

The North Theatre from the back. If you look carefully, you can see the musicians performing below the raised stage!

The Temple of Artemis

The temple of Artemis is also a highlight in Jerash. The stone columns with intricate carvings stand high above the ground.

The Temple of Artemis in the ruins of Jerash

Intricate stone detail at the top of the columns in the Temple of Artemis

Our guide warned us not to get too close to one precarious looking pillar. Apparently some unscrupulous guides stick spoons, or similar, into a crack in this column and make it rock. Unbelievable – except we actually saw this happening.

Where are the Ruins of Jerash?

Jerash is 48 km north of Amman, the capital of Jordan.

Final thoughts on visiting the ruins of Jerash

We knew nothing about the ruins of Jerash before visiting Jordan, but it would have been a mistake to have missed this historic site. It is remarkably well preserved and has so many interesting features that several hours are needed to explore. Is Jerash better than Petra? No. Jerash is certainly worth visiting, but Petra is phenomenal. Fortunately, we visited Jerash a few days before we visited Petra and I think this is the correct order for these visits.

Unlike Petra, Jerash is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In many ways it deserves to be as it is of huge historical significance. However, according to our guide, some of the techniques used in restoring the ruins do not meet with UNESCO criteria.  Consequently, whilst it is still on the list for consideration, it has not been approved.

The day we visited Jerash was quite hot, which is not unusual.  Our guide had warned us there was very little shade in the whole area and he was right: hats and sun screen are essential. Peter forgot his hat so ended up buying a head scarf!

Peter sitting, wearing headscarf in Jerash


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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing. The ruins of Jerash look like an interesting historic place to visit.


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