Jerash is city north of Amman, and casually sitting in the middle of its narrow bustling streets is an ancient Roman city, vast and magnificent, with ruins coursing up and down hill tops and mini valleys.
During spring the terrain across the ruins ranges from dusty tracks to meadows. The yellow stones of the temples, theatres, baths and hippodrome melt into the yellow background, without losing any grandeur. In fact, the architecture is so in sync with its surroundings that the line is blurred between what is natural and man-made, which is pretty in-keeping with beliefs of the time; that men could hold god-like abilities.
We arrived early to miss the peak hours, and were through the gates by 09:00. The school busses were beginning to arrive, but we were lucky to leave them far behind. Private transport isn’t a luxury most travellers have, but I really advise getting there early. Between 09:00 and 12:00 the temperature increased by over 10 degrees, and at 35, I was suffering.
We’re told that Ancient Greek inscriptions on the site indicate that it was founded by Alexander the Great in 331BC, but to be honest, there are also inscriptions that state that Ahmed Luvs Maha 4 Eva, so who knows what’s really true.
Yeah, there’s a bit of litter and graffiti on the walls which might be shocking if you’re new to Jordan, but most people get accustomed to these things pretty quickly, and they sort of fade into the the general dusty yellow hue of Jordan’s backdrop.
What did shock me was the wildlife. I’ve really missed nature due to living in the desert, and Jerash is northern, and the main site is protected, so you get to see all the creatures that take care of the city out of hours, and they’re beautiful.
The ‘new’ city of Jerash wraps round the ancient city, so that at some points you can be standing in the middle of a roman bath, or on the top of a colosseum, and see modern Jerash all around you, to the point where the residential zones that are split off from the main city by the ancient city, have local-only footpaths going straight through the ancient site. It’s odd, seeing un-rendered cinderblock apartments towering above ancient archways.
We took a pit stop in the government-run café, just outside the second gates. We were reluctant because usually on-site businesses are overpriced and not very good, but it looked so sweet with a fabric canopy and so cool under the shade. Actually the prices were totally normal, around 6 JD for a coffee, limonana, and two bottles of water, although the service stank.
We actually went directly home to avoid the traffic, which can get pretty bad from Zarqa, but the previous week we’d been to a wonderful restaurant called Lebanese House Restaurant, which I’ll rave about to anyone who’ll listen. It’s close to the ruins, has attentive staff, great food, and the best coffee I’ve ever had. And I don’t joke when it comes to coffee.
Prices: 10 JD for foreigners
Best time: Morning, before the heat and people get there
Where to eat: Lebanese House Restaurant
Travel time: 40 mins from Amman
Reminder: Take water, and be stoic with beggars. They are professional and tenacious.