Jerash is a city located 48 km north of Amman in a valley among the mountains of Gilead. The city of Jerash is a very impressive place and has all the grandeur of ancient Rome. It is the capital and the largest city in the Jerash Governorate. The population of the city is 31,650 as per the 2004 census and it has the second highest density of population. It has a diverse population, with the majority being Arabs. Muslims make up the majority of the population, followed by Christians.
The first reference to Jerash goes back to the 1st century B.C. It was said that Theodorus, the tyrant of Philadelphia removed his treasure for safe-keeping in the Temple of Zeus. Later when Rome took control of Syria, Emperor Pompey described Jerash as one of the greatest cities. Jerash is well known for the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa which is also referred to as ‘Antioch on the Golden River’. It is also referred to as Pompeii of the Middle East and it is said that Jerash is one of the best-preserved Roman cities.
Recent excavations have shown us that Jerash was inhabited since the Bronze Age. Jerash and the surrounding lands were annexed by the Roman province of Syria. The Romans ensured peace and security in the area. The city achieved great prosperity, roads were constructed throughout the area, and the trade in the province improved.
The strategic location of Jerash in the heart of Jordan and the booming tourism industry here has helped in the rapid development of the city. It is the second most important and popular tourist attraction in Jordan. Extreme care has been taken to preserve the ruins from destruction and encroachment by the city’s expansion. The city of Jerash has been expanded and it now includes the surrounding villages.
Jerash is an important and mesmerizing archeological site which attracts all visitors who would like to explore the ruins. The prominent things to be seen here are: Hadrian’s Arch which was built to commemorate the visit of Emperor Hadrian to Jerash. The Hippodrome is a massive arena which could seat 15,000 spectators. The arena was used for chariot races and other sports. The Oval Plaza is a spacious plaza alongside which you will find a broad side walk. You can see the Colonnaded Street or Cardo Maximus which is still paved with the original stones. You can also see the ruts of the chariot wheels. The Cardo Maximus was the main Roman road in Jerash. The Cardo had broad side walks and it was lined with shops. It had an efficient underground sewage system that ran through the entire street, and rain water was drained off the streets through small holes on the sides of the streets. If you go up the Cardo Maximus, you will find the Roman Temple of Dionysus and also the Temple of Zeus. The Nymphaeum is an ornamental fountain that was constructed and dedicated to the Nymphs. You will also see a North Theatre and South Theatre. Visit the Jerash Archeological Museum which is dedicated solely to the discoveries of the Jerash region.
The Jerash Festival is held here very year in the month of July. The festival presents folklore dances, ballets, concerts, plays, and operas by well known artists. A lot of traditional handicrafts are put up as exhibits. Do not miss the festival!