Jordan is not a very large country. I got perspective by superimposing it over my home state of Utah. Utah comprises 84,899 square miles to Jordan's 35,637, which means Utah is almost 2 1/2 times bigger than Jordan. Utah is surrounded by friendly neighbor states, but Jordan has Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south, and the not-always-friendly Israel to the west. Wow! How does it survive?this website about travel safety in Jordan, which primarily focuses on their issues with Syria.
We were actually closer to Syria when we were traveling in Tel Dan National Park in the Golan Heights area.
In any case, Jerash may have been the place where we felt the most loved and wanted on this trip. Part of that was because of the teenage crowd there who treated us like celebrities. (More on them later.) In addition, it was clear that Jordanian merchants were anxious for tourists to come back. Of course, that was true everywhere we went.
|The familiar shopping gauntlet. One preceded the entrance to just about every tourist venue we visited.|
These days Jerash is considered one of the largest and best-preserved Roman cities in the Near East. It was spectacular, one of the best if not THE best Roman ruins we have visited.
Greek inscriptions which once adorned the facade facing the city are now lying on the ground:
A very large earthquake, probably 7.0 or 7.5 on the Richter scale, occurred in 749 AD:
Most of what is standing today has to have been reconstructed.
Looking at the Arch of Hadrian from the other side and towards the modern city of Jerash:
Too bad we missed The*Roman*Army*And*Chariot*Experience:
The Gate of Hadrian, Church of Bishop Marianos, and hippodrome are quite a ways from the rest of the old city, an indication that at one time there were plans to expand the city to that far point. A long road connects the distant structures to the main part of the city:
View of the South Gate from the other side:
An oil press has survived more or less intact for almost 1,800 years. That's a lot longer than any of MY kitchen equipment is going to be around.
|Oil press, circa 220 AD|
Our guide Isam Afaneh told us that Jerash (the modern city, population 120,000) is still known for its olive oil. He buys his annual supply of 60 liters (!) here directly from an oil press.
This mysterious stairway leads down to what I think was the oil mill:
This mysterious stairway leads down to what I think was the oil mill:
They were originally built by the Romans, but then expanded during the Byzantine era:
The Oval Forum was built in the 1st century AD and is lined with 160 ionic columns:
A colonnaded street, the "Cardo Maximus," stretches out from the Oval Forum and traverses Jerash:
A view of the Oval Forum and the Cardo Maximus with the modern city of Jerash in the background:
The Temple of Zeus, one of two temples in Jerash, was built in about 160 AD. It is set on a hill, meant to be seen:
Some of the best views of the ancient city are provided by the Temple of Zeus, where we got a good look at the layout of Jerash:
We were fortunate to be in Jerash on a day when the sky was a deep Persian blue, a perfect backdrop for the amber stone of the ruins:
Built between 90-92 AD during the reign of Emperor Dormition, this theater is still used for special events and can seat 3,000 on its 32 rows of seats:
What is it with these Jordanian boys and heights? You'd think they were Nepalese. They appeared to be here on a field trip with their school. I would say the teachers had lost control:
The amphitheater has phenomenal acoustics, especially for an open air structure. Isam had one of our group kneel by this open circle on one side of the stage, and another whisper into a similar circle on the other side of the stage. The person at this spot could hear what the other person was saying.
We had one major surprise at the South Theater. This may be the best video I've ever taken. Bagpipes in Jordan? "Amazing Grace?" "Yankee Doodle?" And don't miss the conga line that starts at about 1:40. Magical, magical:
Bagpipe players are a staple feature at the South Theater of Jerash. I see them in everyone's pictures when I do a cursory search online. We, however, had no idea we would have this experience. The surprise of it all made it one of the highlights of our trip for me. Apparently Jordanians love bagpipe music. The bagpipe is the official instrument of the Jordanian army and is often played at weddings and other celebrations.
Next up: Church of St. Theodore, built in 496 AD:
That is the Church of St. Theodore to the left of the amphitheater:
I was intrigued by this water wheel, an obvious reproduction. I haven't been able to figure out much about it, however.
|Diagram from a sign at the site|
The gateway to the Temple of Artemis, the Propylaeum, speaks of the site's importance:
The panoramic view from the Temple of Artemis includes the "Northern Tetrapylon" (that square building on the right) and modern Jerash:
What I find interesting about the picture below is the way the homes on the hill are creeping up on the amphitheater. According to archaeologists, only a fourth of the city has been excavated. Imagine the dig possibilities underneath those foundations!
There are no ADA Standards for Accessible Design here:
Bob is exiting stage right:
Onward, ever onward, never tiring of the beauty of this wild, ancient place, the grounds deceptively green and youthful:
The final major structure we stopped to examine was the Nymphaeum, an ornate public fountain built in 191 AD and dedicated to nymphs, the beautiful maidens who lived in the seas, rivers, mountains, meadows, and forests and attended the gods. This fountain particularly focused on water nymphs, and water sprayed from seven lions' heads into a basin in the floor. A half-dome roof used to sit on top of those supports:
A drainage basin on the walkway:
The eyes of the two fish appear to be the drains:
This massive granite basin in front of the Nymphaeum is not original to the site but was added during the Byzantine era:
|The paparazzi await our approach|
The Cardo Maximus runs through the Northern Tetrapylon and ends at the North Gate, which appears to be a small structure in the distance:
During its "Golden Age," Jerash may have had a population as high as 20,000 people. The modern city of Jerash has a population of about 42,000.
The Arab Spring of 2011 was hard not just on Egyptian tourism, but on Jordanian tourism as well, and coupled with the more recent emergence of ISIS, the number of visitors to Jordan continues to fall. In just the past year, according to this New York Times article, visits to Jerash are off 35% from last year's already low numbers, which were much lower than previous years. (We seemed to be the only foreigners in Jerash on the day we visited. In 2014, Americans were the largest group of foreign tourists to visit the country of Jordan, and there were only 75,000 Americans TOTAL) That's really a shame as this site rivals the better known Roman ruins in Rome and Ephesus.
Since 2004, Jerash has been on a tentative list of places being considered for designation as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Frankly, I'm stunned it isn't already part of the list, which just a few months ago added the Baptism Site we had visited a few days prior and which doesn't hold a candle to Jerash. Being named a WHS would give Jerash some additional money for restoration and certainly bring in a few more foreign tourists.
Only 30 miles from Amman, Jerash is absolutely worth the detour.