We went to Jerash with friends and had a beautiful day out! We were exploring with kids, Brian being the eldest of our group, so we bought a guide book instead of hiring a tour guide and we just wandered. We didn't make it to even half of the site, but it was a good way to do it. We'd walk a little, look at relics, look at bugs, pick up rocks, walk some more, look at things, eat a snack... really laid back and relaxed. Eventually we may hire a guide and take a more formal tour, but with the kids, and the fact that this is a trip we can repeat, why rush through?
I guess I should start with a note that Jerash is only a short drive north of Amman - I can see many day trips in future! It is well signed and easy to find. Mostly. We left Amman, followed the signs toward Jerash, and right after the Jordan River Valley (not marked, I don't think, but it's the only river we saw) there was a sign noting that Jerash was straight ahead, with South Jerash as the first/next exit. We took South Jerash. Drove into town, and soon saw the first big archway on the left. Still looking for signs noting an official entrance, which we apparently missed, we passed it and ended up taking some wrong turns. We backtracked easily, and found the road to the entry directly in front of the first arch. There is a parking lot, rest house & restaurant, and bazaar/tourist information place at the front.
The guidebook (Jerash, by Prof. Dr. Safwan Kh. Tell, ISBN: 88-8029-727-9; a nice book we picked up at the info building for 5JD) states: "Jerash, the ancient city of Gerasa”, (aka. Antioch on the Golden River) “was one of the colonies developed by the Romans after their conquest of the Levant in the first century BC although it had previously been colonized by veterans of Alexander the Great in 332 BC." Because of the fertile land and water present, people have lived in the area since the Neolithic period. Archaeological remains trace back to the period of 2500-700BC, the Bronze and Iron ages. "The Jewish historian Josephus mentions Jerash as the town where the treasures of Amman (Philadelphia) were safely kept in the temple of Zeus." The years between (approx.) 270-570AD was a period of Christian/Byzantine growth and development. Buildings and churches decorated with marble and mosaic pavements were built near the Roman sites, which were readily plundered. Islam arrived in the 600s and many buildings, including a mosque, were added to the site. The Temple of Artemis was converted to a castle to repel crusaders, but the whole town was captured by Baldwin II, the crusader King of Jerusalem, (1118-1131). In the 1800's, the city was discovered by the German explorer Seetzen, and later still, became a refuge from the Ottomans for many Jordanians.
Our guidebook was copyrighted in 1997, and the photos in it, compared to what we saw and photographed, showed that amazing restoration work has been accomplished at the site in the past decade. As a matter of fact, as we wandered around and looked, we could tell that piles of blocks near certain structures appeared to be numbered, as if they were giant pieces of a puzzle just waiting to be reassembled. For the wiki page on Jerash, click here.
Now, my plan was to upload full-sized photos on Picasa, and link to them here with smaller versions, in order to allow the viewer to click for the original high resolution photo. Apparently, our web connection, or picasa, or ?? does not agree, so you get what you get, unless you send me a note (with your email) telling me that you LOVE a certain site photo, then I’ll try to email it to you. We took a bunch of good photos, so I’ll be making make several blog posts to share:
Brian welcomes you to Jerash! (He is standing at the North end of the Hippodrome)
The Triumphal Arch
This arch “was built by the citizens of Jerash in honour of the visit of the Emperor Hadrian to the city in the winter of 129-130(AD)”. This is one of the structures on which considerable reconstruction work has been accomplished – it was stunning! We visited part of Hadrian's Wall in the UK, and this site was just as awe-inspiring.
Inside, we found blocks bearing an inscription of the event – these were laying on the ground awaiting their turn at restoration:
Brad beside one of the carved blocks of the arch. In the background, behind Hadrian’s arch, we see Hadrian’s Hotel – a more modern site. Today’s city of Jerash is right across the street. The new built atop the old.
Not too far from the Arch, are the remains of a Byzantine Church. I believe it is the Marian Church, according to the map on the book. It was hard to get a good photo, but if you look close, you can see the mosaic flooring. I couldn’t find anything on the web about it, but I’ll add a link if someone knows of the history.
And here we are, with the arch and storerooms in the background.
A better photo showing the Triumphal Arch and the storerooms along the back of the Hippodrome. The small square structure on the left are the remains of the church. I think this picture gives an early hint of how massive this site actually is and why we are going to need more than one visit!
A view into the Hippodrome. “It was used by the Romans in ceremonies such as horse racing, athletics, and other entertainments…” It could seat about 15,000 spectators. There is a show, RACE - The Roman Army and Chariot Experience, that looks like a must see one of these days.
Along the sides of the Hippodrome, the children climbed about, explored in detail, and tried to find interesting ‘artifacts’ (plenty of modern beads and bits of glass to entice them). There were also plenty of bugs to follow around.
Some parts of the site were not marked in any way, not even ‘warning: drop off!’, and we took close looks to see what they might be. Eventually someone confirmed for us that these holes in the ground were tombs, but we do not know the details. Hopefully a story we’ll hear at a future visit.
This interesting bit was not marked either, but from it’s location to the South of the Hippodrome, it may be one of the ten animal stalls that the guide book mentions.
And, eventually, we made our way to the South Gate of the city… near this area is a Visitor’s Center and an Archaeological Museum, neither of which we’ve seen yet, as well as a Rest House & Restaurant where we had a nice meal after our exploring.
And that’s all for this installment. More later!