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Jordan: Ajlun, Amman, Aqaba, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Dead Sea, Jerash, Karak, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Pella & Umm Qays, Petra, Wadi Rum
Jerash, Jordan: Inspiration to modern cities
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. The city’s golden age came under Roman rule and the site is known to be the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Excellent climatic condition and availability of water were the prime forces that attracted settlements.
Jerash is only a 45 minute drive from Amman. After a hearty breakfast at Le Meridian, our hotel for the night, we left for Jerash at about 9AM. On our way we took a brief stop to picture the massive Palestine refugee camp. The view from the edge of the mountain gave us a clear idea about the camp’s massiveness. Over 200,000 refugees live in there. I was told, these refugees are allowed to work in Jordan to earn a living. Most of them are pretty affluent and own luxury cars! However, they are quite happy to stay cuddled in the congested neighbourhood.
Most of the sites in Jordan attract entry fees, which are definitely not cheap. Since we prepaid as a group with sightseeing included, I am not sure about the exact gate tickets. Our guide Mueen took care of all that. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal, provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, hilltop temples, gigantic theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.
The ruins are extensive and impressive. Highlights include Hadrian’s Arch, Forum, Hippodrome, Colonnaded Street, Cathedral, North Theatre, South Theatre and the Zeus temple atop a hill slope. While the pictures would show you the grandeur, let me sum up with a few words for the wonders that they are.
The Hadrian Arch also known as the South Gate was built in 150AD and was financed by Hadrian. It’s 11 meters tall and 5 meters wide.
Forum is a massive, oval shaped public square that worked as a supermarket. It is also the base of the temple. From Forum paved streets lead on to the city up to the North Gate. Talking of streets, it’s good to know the basic difference between a Roman and a Greek city. Roman streets are simple with two streets crossing each other. Whilst Greek streets are built in blocks – mesh of streets… visitors to New York city will know what I mean.
The Hippodrome today is the location for daily ticketed performances of the Roman Army and Chariot Experience. The show runs twice daily and features 45 legionaries in full armour in a display of Roman army drill and battle tactics; 10 gladiators fighting ‘to the death’ and several Roman chariots competing in a 7-lap race. Unfortunately, we had to miss the show as we had a rather long day ahead of us.
The North Theatre can hold 3000 audience. First it worked as a parliament and then as a theatre. The acoustics are very well planned such that every seat can hear the voice of the performers clearly… without the use of microphones of course.
There are 3 churches adjacent to each other. The mosaics are well protected and give a hint as to how the life must be lived. The 3 churches are associated with Cosmos & Damin; St. John and St. George respectively.
The Zeus Temple offers a panoramic view of Jerash. Zeus is God of Heaven & Earth… equivalent to Jupiter.
Beneath its external Graeco-Roman veneer, Jerash preserves a subtle blend of east and west – the world of Mediterranean basin and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.
After walking around for a couple of hours, we took a lunch break in a restaurant quite within the complex. As expected, lunch consisted of vegetable salad, hummus, eggplant and piping hot pita bread… straight from the oven. It’s a buffet for just JOD7. Meat eaters would pay about JOD10. Value for money I would say.
A small market at the exit gate would intrigue many. My fancy was the sand bottle artist. He did a great job of painting within the bottle using a long brush. The bottled was then filled with coloured sand and sealed from the top. At JOD1 it’s a great souvenir.
30 minutes away from Jerash is Ajlun – home to Ajlun Castle. The castle was built by Saladin’s general Osama in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajlun and to counter the progress of the Crusaders by dominating the three main routes leading to the Jordan Valley and protecting the communication routes between Jordan and Syria. The castle was home to over 2000 soldiers and aided in the defeat of the Crusaders some eight centuries ago.
We returned to our hotel in Amman and that evening we walked around the neighbourhood which was lively with many restaurants, bars and stores. After dinner in one of the Lebanese restaurant, we took a taxi to return to our hotel. Taxis are available in plenty and are not expensive to use. We just paid JOD1 for our trip back to the hotel.
Jerash Image Gallery Photo viewer
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