JORDAN Photo Gallery- The Ancient Roman Ruins of Jerash

Jerash-entrance-Jordan

The Entrance to Gerasa, a.k.a. Jerash

The Ancient Roman Ruins of Jerash

 

Originally known as Gerasa in antiquity, the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash are located near the mountains about 30 miles north of Amman. There are ancient Greek inscriptions establishing the city’s foundation by Alexander the Great, with human occupation of the region dating back over 6,500 years. But the city’s golden age came under Roman rule after it was conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, and it eventually became one of the ten great Roman cities of the Decapolis League.

 

Hadrian's Arch in Jerash, Jordan

Hadrian’s Arch

 

This massive welcoming gate, known as Hadrian’s Arch, was built to honor the visit of Roman Emperor Hadrian to Jerash in 129/130 AD. The Emperor is best-known for building Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain, but he also he famously rebuilt the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus. The central section allowed for huge chariots to pass through, while the sections on either side were meant for pedestrians (one for nobles, one for commoners). The recessed niches at the top once held statues.

 

Columns of the Oval Forum in Jerash, Jordan

The Ionic Columns of the Oval Forum

 

Having visited the ruins in Rome and Pompeii during my childhood made our day in Jerash seem all the more impressive. This entire immense city was hidden for centuries beneath the sand before archaeologists excavated and restored it over the last 70 years, and our guide Ali Abudayeh suggested that more than 50% of the city is still waiting for funding to be excavated! It was amazing to walk the cobblestone paths of the oval Forum (with its 56 ionic columns) where massive public gatherings were once held, and the Hippodrome, where up to 15,000 assembled to watch chariot races and fierce gladiatorial battles. You could almost feel the history in every step.

 

An Expansive View of Jerash, Jordan

A Hint of Jerash’s Immense Size

 

After Emperor Trajan built roads throughout the region to bring more trade Jerash’s way, the city achieved impressive prosperity. The remains of great temples (such as the Temple of Zeus, from where this shot was taken) practically reek of wealth, and the walled city ultimately expanded to a size of approximately 800,000 square meters. This photo, which shows the modern city of Jerash in the background, only hints at the massive size and scope of the ruins.

 

Intricate Details of the Jerash Ruins

Intricate Details of the Jerash Ruins

 

The area flourished for more than 500 years before the Persian invasion of 614 AD led Jerash into decline. But it was a major earthquakein 749 AD that caused devastating destruction of the city. Even today, nearly 1300 years later, rubble lies everywhere, and workers remain busy gradually putting Jerash back together, stone by stone. But even the ruins that hadn’t been re-assembled were impressive, showcasing an astonishing sense of artistry and attention to detail (especially when you consider the fact that they were made nearly 2000 years ago).

 

South Theater in Jerash, Jordan

Mary Inside Jerash’s South Theater

 

Located at the top of the hill above the Forum, Jerash’s South Theaterwas easily among the city’s most impressive sites, reminding me a little of the Roman Coliseum. Anywhere from 3000-5000 people would cram into the seating areas to watch performances of theatre and poetry, and you could feel that energy emanating from the stones. Ali demonstrated the innovative construction techniques that allowed sound to carry : If you stood to either side of the spot where you see the woman in the beige shirt and white hat, your voice sounded normal, but when you stood dead center you could hear every word echoing and reverberating as if you’d been trained at Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts!

 

Pipers Perform at Jerash's South Theater in Jordan

A Musical Performance for the Tourists

 

For the #2 attraction in Jordan, Jerash was impressively free of crowds when we visited. Ali said the tourism business has been hit hard ever since the Arab Spring shook neighboring countries like Syria and Egypt. But they certainly did their best to cater to foreign travelers, including a musical performance on bagpipes and drums that included “Amazing Grace.”  We’re still not sure about the connection between Jordan and the musical traditions of Scotland, but it was an entertaining diversion nonetheless.

 

Byzantine Mosaic Art in the Churches of Jerash

Byzantine Mosaic Art

 

We were surprised to learn about the prominence of Byzantine influence in Jordan, but apparently there was a significant Orthodox Christian community in Jerash starting around 350 AD. Among the city’s remarkable ruins are the remains of a 4th century cathedral, an ancient synagogue, and around a dozen churches. Mary and I are both huge fans of mosaic art, and the Byzantine mosaics we saw throughout the country were some of the most impressive we’ve ever seen. Though the colors were a bit washed-out in the scorching afternoon sun, this floor piece blew us away.

 

Artemis-Temple-Jerash-Jordan

The Artemis Temple

 

By the time we made our way to the ruins of the Artemis Temple, about 2/3 of the way to the North Gate of Jerash, severe fatigue had begun to set in. We were extremely jet-lagged after nearly 24 hours of travel the day before, our brains were boiling from the intense heat, and we were dehydrated (left our bottled water in the car, a mistake we wouldn’t make again!) and hungry. Fortunately, Ali was about to introduce us to what became our favorite Jordanian tradition.

 

Having Bedouin Tea at Jerash, Jordan

Serving Up Bedouin Tea

 

I come from the state of Georgia, where tea is as much a part of our cultural heritage as red clay and magnolia trees. Often called the “Table Wine of the South,” we like our tea served as sweet as molasses. So when we ascended the steps of the temple and saw this young man serving up Bedouin Tea (black tea with either fresh mint or sage), I was elated. It was sweet, minty and as welcomingly refreshing as the shade in which he stood. The fact that he was also selling bottled water was a bonus. The communal enjoyment of tea became a Jordanian ritual we would observe several times a day.

 

Jerash's North Theater

Jerash’s North Theater

 

As we explored Jerash’s North Theater, it began to sink in for Mary and I that this little dream of ours that had evolved into Green Global Travel had somehow led us to the other side of the world, to explore amazing sights we’d only dreamed of. It was very surreal and powerful to finally be in the Middle East after watching movies like Indiana Jones and Casablanca as kids. We took hundreds of pictures and videos and asked Ali tons of questions, but we also took time to just sit in the shade of the theater quietly and soak it all in.

 

Nymphaeum in Jerash, Jordan

The Nymphaeum

 

As we made our way back towards the entrance, we walked down the long colonnaded street known as the cardo, whose cobblestones were clearly etched with the tracks of chariots that must’ve ridden through by the hundreds. The heart of ancient cities, these roads would have been lined with shops and vendors, and we stopped to take in the majesty of  the Nymphaeum, which boasted elaborate lion-head fountains from which residents could draw water. We could only imagine what a monolithic spectacle such buildings were to behold in the city’s golden age.

 

Mary in Jerash's Oval Forum, Jordan

Tired Mary in the Oval Forum

 

As we left Jerash, we saw a huge busload of tourists entering. Though we usually hate crowds, we were delighted to see them, because a remarkable site like this deserves to be seen. Despite being hot, tired and hungry, we were also extremely humbled by the majesty of these archeological ruins, and left hoping that Jordan could increase tourism revenues to finance further excavation. In the meantime, we were also anxious for the next few days, which would find us exploring the country’s diverse Nature Reserves…  –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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  1. The size of this place is amazing. Jerash was a very important place at one time. Did you know Nichomacus came from here? I absolutly love the mosaic floors one finds in Roman and Greek ruins. Spectacular. I’m very happy you included a photo of some of it. Thanks for this!

  2. I’ve seen quite a few posts on Jordan, and one thing that strikes me is that this is a seriously photogenic destination – this post being no exception. I’ve got to visit!

    • Absolutely! They don’t have a lot of the clouds I know you love, but there are so many different ecosystems there and so many rich, earth-tone colors, it is definitely a photographer’s dream destination.

  3. We agree that Jerash looks and feels like Roman ruins with a little something extra thrown in. When we were in Jordan more than a decade ago we got invited to a black tie fund raising dinner being thrown by Queen Rania right in the remains of Jerash. We sat next to Buzz Aldrin. Talk about surreal….

    • Whoa, that’s crazy! Queen Rania seems like she’s really trying to do some great things for her country, much like Queen Noor (who had a big hand in developing the nation’s impressive nature reserves) before her. Don’t know about you, but I can’t wait ti see what Jerash will look like when they finally get it completely excavated.

  4. Thanks for another magnificent article. Where else could anybody get that kind of info in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

    • Thanks for the compliment! We try to use our words and photos to really immerse our readers in a place, to give them a sense of what it’s like to be there and to hopefully inspire them to make a trip of their own. Glad to hear it proved helpful for you.

    • Thanks, Brock! It was really amazing to walk through the city and see how much of it was still standing after all these years. I can’t even imagine how remarkable it will be when they finally get all of the archaeological ruins excavated.

    • Thanks, Adela! We took quite a few pictures of the mosaic art in various locations around Jordan. The intricacies of the artwork is really extraordinary. Later in our trip we got to go a place in Madaba where they still make mosaics today, hiring physically handicapped people under a program started by the Queen. More to come in future posts.

    • It is sad. If more people were to travel to different regions and get a taste of local culture and customs, I think there would be a LOT less misunderstandings and discrimination in the world.

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  6. Gorgeous pictures guys. There were so many amazing ruins in Jordan, and I really love how they all have that pinkish hue – makes for striking photography, especially when the sun is just right.

    • Yeah, we loved it as well. Sunrise/sunset in Wadi Rum was particularly impressive. Wish we could’ve caught Petra At Night, with all the candles lighting up the place, but they weren’t doing it the day we were in that area.

  7. As many times as I’ve read about Jordan on other blogs, I don’t think I’ve ever seen these ruins in photos! Your photos are gorgeous, and now I want to go to Jordan more than ever!

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  9. Gosh, imagine what the place would look like if they uncovered the other 50 per cent of it. It looks amazing enough already! From the photos, it reminds me of some of the ruins I saw in Turkey recently. I guess that’s no great surprise, seeing as there was so many influences being shared back during that era.

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  14. I returned to Jerash in September 2012 after a ten year absence and fell in love all over again. (apart from some of the retail prices in the restaurant that had been built since the last time I was there.)

    This time I didn’t take an organised tour, I had simply made my way from Madaba where I was staying, consequently I had a number of hours to wander through what is an amazing site.

    Your photograph with the performers playing the bagpipes made me laugh. When I was there I heard the sounds of the pipes playing and as a Scotsman I had to investigate. However hard I looked I could not find the source, it was a bit spooky, or perhaps I was just missing home.

    • Yeah, we found that a bit strange as well! I’m also a Scotsman, and loved the sound but found the setting more than a little unusual. The only thing we didn’t get to see in Jerash were the gladiatorial re-enactments, which seemed like they might be interesting. Other than that, we felt like we really got to explore the site in-depth.

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