We woke up once again to a chilly Amman morning. We’ve been on a quite adventure the previous days so our day’s itinerary is merely to experience the historic capital. Our friendly driver picked us up in Ibis Hotel, where we’re staying, from which we drove 48 kilometers north to reach our first destination.
The old city of Jerash dates back to 2000 BC. It was known as Garshu then, before becoming Gerasa during the Roman times. Together with Philadelphia (Amman), Jerash and 8 other cities form the Decapolis, the 10 Greco-Roman cities mentioned in the New Testament.
Strategically located between east and west, Jerash flourished with trade and commerce. The remnants we saw of its glorious past perfectly depict how beautiful of a city Jerash was. And thanks to its warm climate and low humidity, the remains were impressively preserved.
We met with our tour guide (included in the tour package we booked) who walked with us through some of the notable spots in Jerash Archaeological Park. Shame as it is, I don’t usually pay attention to the guide UNLESS there’s something that really, really interests me. :p
Upon ascending the steps that lead to a ruined temple, my eyes grew big at the sight of the oval Forum. The Ionic columns still stand so mighty like they were just built yesterday. The elevated Temple of Zeus is a really nice spot to admire the beauty of the entire town. From the forum, a colonnaded street continues on and off heading northeast.
We checked out the South Theater next – pretty huge that it can seat up to 3000 spectators. It is one of the three theaters in Jerash. Guys in local dress playing bagpipes linger on the stage, providing some sort of entertainment to everyone sitting on the balcony. Our guide showed us the excellent acoustics of the theater by asking us to stand in the middle of the orchestra and speak in a normal voice – and indeed, the sound resonated in the theater. Amazing!
It took us almost an hour trekking the entire stretch of the archaeological site. When we reached the Nymphaeum, a huge fountain that acted as a source of water for the entire Jerash, our guide left us so we can enjoy the rest of our visit to ourselves.
The pavement on the colonnaded street across the fountain bore carriage wheel tracks. It’s on these small details that we felt transported back in time. Also, on the other side of the street is a pile of columns, bases and friezes of what looked like a super beautiful building or temple. Gosh, if not for the massive earthquake that destroyed some parts of Jerash, it would be even more gorgeous!
Of all the stops we had, I loved the South Tetrapylon the most. It is where the Cardo, the long colonnaded street running towards north and South Decamanus, the second major street running east-west, intersect forming a nice circular space. It offers a good vantage point to admire the long avenues. In the middle of the plaza were four pedestals, but only columns were left standing there today.
A morning well spent in Jerash and we were downtown-bound next. We reached the gates to the Amman Citadel at high noon so imagine the discomfort, and not to mention the sunburn, we got from all the walking. The citadel, being located on top of a jabal or mountain, is bare without any shade to walk under, be it a tree or a structure.
From one of the steel parapets, we had this super wonderful view of the monochromatic beige and dirty white city below. I admired this fantastic scene with a squint because even with sunglasses on, the sun was so glaring! Suddenly, I was like, wait a sec, is that the Roman Theater blending so perfectly with its surroundings? What a really wonderful sight to behold!
We spent the next hour roaming around the fort, chancing upon Umayyad period buildings, a Byzantine Church, temple ruins, the small Jordan Archaeological Museum and a giant hand of some giant person, that they believed to be from a statue of Hercules. The blazing sun made the trip less exciting so I don’t have much to say about it, hehehe.
We drove to the Roman Theater after for a closer look. It was really hot that I couldn’t stand staying there for long.
When we spotted the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions on the left of the theater’s foot, we quickly ran inside to take refuge and cool ourselves down. It has a nice selection of traditional costumes and loads of beautiful mosaics, probably made in Madaba.
After a hot and tiring trip, we grabbed lunch in the nearest local restaurant in downtown. We finished quickly because everyone seemed to be smoking inside the eatery that we felt really uncomfortable. Apparently, it’s common in Jordan to smoke indoors.
Back to the hotel and took a rest. When we figured it’s time for dinner, we ventured outside again for a nice meal. There’s an incredibly delicious smoky barbecue smell coming from one of the huge walls along the street. We looked where it’s coming from and voila, welcome to Reem Al Bawadi.
It’s a nice family friendly restaurant and I think we were the only non-family guests that time. We devoured a humongous plate of mixed grill meats and freshly baked breads that they do in-house. Amazed at how we destroyed every single food served to us – must be the hunger and tiredness. What a wonderful way to cap the day!