The Oval Forum at Jerash of Jordan

Visit To Jerash | The Ancient Roman City In Jordan

The little-known ruins of Jerash, in Jordan, are one of the most well-preserved Roman sites outside of Italy, and, surprisingly, one of the best and largest in the world. If you’re into ancient ruins, this really is a must-see when in Jordan. The Archaeological Park is quite stunning, surrounded on all side by the sprawling metropolis of modern Jerash. And, if you visit early in the morning, or late afternoon, you’ll find very few other tourists here, having the place mostly to yourself. A rare treat. This post covers the top sites in Jerash, Jordan, how to get there, and the best time to visit.

Brief History Of Jerash, Jordan

Settled as far back as the 8th to 6th centuries, Greek inscriptions support the belief that the city was founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. After the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC, the city thrived as Gerasa. As a key trading post between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, it became one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities in the Near East. At its peak, the population was about 10,000-25,000.

Gerasa went on to become one of the “ten cities” or Decapolis, of the eastern front of the Roman Empire. Most of these cities were located in Jordan, but also in Israel and Syria.

This great city flourished until the Persians invaded in the 7th century and in the 8th it was mostly destroyed by earthquakes. It remained buried in sand for centuries, until it was discovered by a German traveler, Ulrich Jasper Seezten, in 1806.

Excavations attend in the 1920’s, and although much of this ancient city has been unearthed, much still remains to be discovered. In fact, I’ve read that it’s not unusual for citizens to find artifacts and remains under their homes. The following covers the highlights of the ruins you’ll see here.

Jerash was submitted to the list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2004.

The Main Sites of Jerash, or Gerasa, Jordan

Please see below for the top sites of Jerash, Jordan.

Map Of Gerasa

I think it’s very helpful to have a map of the site, so I’ve added one for you below. As you can see, the area is quite large.

Map of Gerasa |

Hadrian’s Arch

The impressive Arch of Hadrian is the first thing you’ll see as it sits before the visitor center. You walk through the arch to enter into the park.

It was built in honor of a visit by Roman Emporer Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. This monumental structure was originally 72’ (22 m), which is twice it’s current height, with three arched gateways, making it one of the largest known gates in the Roman Empire. Archeologists, who reconstructed it, believe it once had wooden doors.

Hadrians arch at Jerash of Jordan
Arch Of Hadrian

There’s a Greek inscription on the arch, which provides wished for the well-being of the emperor and his family and mentions the date of his visit to Gerasa.

This arch was originally planned to be a new city gate in an expansion towards Philadelphia (now Amman), but the city grew to the north instead.

The Hippodrome

This Hippodrome, which also sits before the visitor center, is the next site you’ll see. It was built for chariot races and other events, holding about 15,000 spectators. Some of the vaulted carceres, where the competing teams stood, were reconstructed, as well as some of the stands.

Today there are scheduled perfomances of the Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE), showcasing Roman Army legionnaire formations and battle tactics, chariot races, and gladiator fights. Check the schedule in the link for dates and times.

The Forum, Or Oval Plaza

After entering the park through the South Gate, you’ll see the Forum, or Oval Plaza, my favorite park of the Archeological Park. It’s quite breathtaking.

The Oval Forum at Jerash of Jordan
Oval Forum

The forum served as the main center of the city’s social and politely life, as well as its marketplace. The Forum is surrounded by 56, unfluted, Ionic columns and a broad sidewalk. It connects the main Cardo with the South Gate.

The column in the center was added in modern times for festivals.

The Temple Of Zeus

The Temple of Zeus, the King of gods, stands on a hilltop overlooking the Forum, making it a great place to get a better view, or photo of it.

Researchers think this may have been the first place of worship in the area, possibly in a cave dedicated to Zeus back in the 6th century BC. The Romans built the current temple here in the 2nd century BC, over the ruins of another.

The Cardo, Colonnaded Street

Cardo is the Latin name given to major north/south roads in Romans cities. This colonnaded Street is still lined with the original stones. Some still lined with chariot ruts. It’s even more amazing when you learn that a sewer system ran beneath the road.

The Cordo at Jerash of Jordan
The Cardo

This road, lined with 500 reconstructed columns, runs from the Roman Forum to the North Gate.

Nymphaeum Temple

This giant public fountain, located near the temple of Artemis, was for the daily water needs of citizens. Sitting two stories high, it was once covered in marble and had statues in the niches. Seven lion heads led the water from the fountain.

Temple Of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis, built for the Grecian goddess of hunting and the wilderness and twin sister of Apollo, is located in the heart of ancient Jerash. The temple, elevated above the city, has a stairway leading up to it.

The Temple Of Artemis at Jerash of Jordan
Temple Of Artemis

South and North Theaters

There are two theaters of Gerasa. The southern theater, the oldest and largest of the two, is located by the Temple of Zeus. This extensively restored theater hosts festivals and performances today, holding over 3,000.

The northern theater, up near the North Gate, is smaller, holding up to 1,500.

The Jerash Archeological Museum

The Jerash Archeological Museum is located northeast of the Oval Forum. It contains artifacts from various periods dating back to Neolithic times, including pottery, coins, statues, and jewelry.

Note that the Jerash visitor center also acts as a small museum with some artifacts.

How To Get To Jerash

Jerash is located located about about 30 miles (49 km) north of Amman, so relatively easy to get to. Options to get there include self-driving, a tour, hiring a driver, taking a taxi an hour from Amman, or taking the bus.

To self-drive, you will need an International Driving Permit, which you should get from your home country before you arrive. Jordanians drove in the right-hand side of the road and driving is relatively safe here. The drive will take 45-minutes to an hour.

Hiring a private driver is the most expensive option, but also the easiest. Ask at your accommodation about local drivers and costs,

Uber does run in Jordan. As of February 2023, they are offering taxi rides from Amman to the Jerash visitor center for 15-24 JOD, or $21-34 USD one way. This is convenient as then you do not need to pay them to wait for you.

The most economical way to visit is to take the bus from the North Terminal Bus Station in Amman for 1 JD (about $1.5 USD). You may need to take a short taxi ride to get there, depending on where you are staying. Unfortunately, the bus has no set schedule, it leaves when full. This means it’s difficult to determine how long it will take each way. Avoid taking the bus on Fridays, as services are limited.

Tours are plentiful. Check Viator, Trip Advisor, and Get Your Guide for details.

How Much Time To Spend In Jerash

The archeologcla park is large, very beautiful, and quite fascinating, so expect to spend 3-4 hours here. Especially if you plan to see one of the RACE shows at the Hippodrome.

Best Time To Visit Jerash

The best time to visit Jordan is spring, March to May, or Fall, September to November, to avoid excessive heat.

To avoid tour bus groups, it’s best to visit early morning or late afternoon. I arrived late afternoon and the lighting was spectacular, giving the ruins a golden glow. There was also almost no one else here, so I had the place mostly to myself. Of course, if you want to visit one of the shows at the Hippodrome, they are mostly late morning to early afternoon. Check the schedule above for detials.

Other Top Sites In Jordan

In addition to the Archeological site of Jerash, Jordan is full of amazing sites and warm and welcoming people. The highlight of Jordan, and top visited site, is definitely the Petra Archeological Park. This ancient city was the Nabatean capital around the 4th century BC.

A labyrinth of ancient red-rose sandstone carved facades, tombs, and temples, it’s as mysterious as it beautiful. And as the descendants of the ancient Nabateans that built this place work here, and some still living and working in the caves here, a fascinating glimpse into their culture.

In southern Jordan, there’s spectacular Wadi Rum, a stunning protected desert known for its red, lunar landscape, granite mountains, and natural arches. There are also many ancient petroglyphs and interesting history with Lawrence of Arabia.

Amman also has a lot to offer, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, offering ancient Roman and Umayyad ruins. Amman also makes a great base for day trips to the Dead Sea, Madaba, and Mount Nebo.

To help plan your trip to a Jordan, see my Jordan Travel Guide, which highlights all the top destinations, how to get around, logistics, safety, scams to be aware of, and more.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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