Just an hour’s drive away from Amman-48 kilometres away from it, to be precise-is a site of great interest to scholars and enthusiasts of antiquity, particularly Ancient Roman culture. The ruins of the ancient city of Gerasa, now known as modern-day Jerash, have always drawn in tourists in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and for good reason: these are among the best-preserved of all ruins in the area, perhaps rivalled only by Petra in that regard. For that reason, they are definitely worth a day’s detour if you are in the Jordanian capital.
To be clear, there are actually two parts to Jerash now, or what some call the old city and the modern one. The urbanised and thriving city is the latter, and it is right next to the ruins, which represent old Jerash, or Gerasa. Gerasa was visited by the Emperor Hadrian at some point, and it is in honour of this visit that the attraction known as Hadrian’s Arch was built. The 2nd century CE construction still stands today, and in remarkably good condition. Like many of the other parts of Gerasa, this has undergone restoration in recent years.
The archaeological site also boasts a hippodrome. It is rather small as hippodromes go (at 245×52 metres), but it can be fairly exciting as shows are staged here regularly. One of the shows that is very popular with visitors would be the exhibition patterned after the Imperial Roman circenses (games put on for public amusement), which comes complete with bigae (the traditional horse-drawn chariots of the period), gladiators, and Roman legionaries performing the most popular Roman military formations. No need to worry about bloodshed, though: the exhibitions are pretty safe for family viewing, and no gladiators actually draw blood.
Besides these places, there are definitely many more things to see here. Note the Forum, for instance, which was constructed in the 1st century CE and whose claim to fame among Ancient Roman architectural enthusiasts is in the long colonnade of Ionic columns running along its oval length. A great many of the columns are still here, with most of them being complete to their tops: well over a hundred of them, in fact. Then there is the nymphaeum, which is fairly similar to the one in Amman with the exception that it is in far better condition, its stage still being present. There is the Temple of Artemis too, which is again in better condition than its (arguable) counterpart in the Jordanian capital, the Temple of Hercules on Jabal al-Qal’a or Citadel Hill.
Indeed, this seems to be the general theme when you ask people what makes this archaeological park worth visiting: it is better preserved than most of the similar places in the area. There is a great deal of enjoyment to be had in walking its area, exploring fascinatingly detailed cornice sculptures and superb mouldings on temple walls, trying to fill in with your imagination the small gaps and cracks and lost roofs as well as pediments. Jerash is a dream for anyone who has ever fantasised about walking ancient ruins or being an archaeologist, and for the price of an hour’s ride from the capital and a few Jordanian dinars for entry to the complex and the museum within it, just about anyone can dreamwalk in it to his heart’s content for a day.