Upon arrival, visitors can immediately see that Jerash revolves around its rich past. The well-preserved Roman ruins here are considered some of the best in the country, and even in the entire region of the Middle East and the former Roman Empire.
No wonder this city, known as Gerasa in ancient times, is often referred to as the ‘Pompeii of the East’ or the ‘Pompeii of Jordan.’ Jerash has also leveraged its potential by enriching the visitor experience with heritage interpretation elements such as an archaeological museum and activities related to its glorious past. On this page, we will tell you what to see in Jerash and provide other useful information for your visit.
Jerash, the capital of the Jerash Governorate, is located in northern Jordan, approximately 50 km away from Amman and about 40 km from Irbid, the other major city in the region and the second most populous city in the country. The Syrian border is also about 40 km away by road, while the nearest border crossing with Israel is 75 km away.
Its climate, like the rest of northern Jordan, is generally more mild compared to the rest of the country, with more fertile terrain and green areas in the surrounding vicinity, largely due to higher precipitation levels. In fact, its climate is classified as typical Mediterranean. It’s no coincidence that this is the most densely populated area in Jordan. On average, the highest temperatures range around 31°C in July and August, and don’t drop below 4°C in winter.
In order to better understand what to see in Jerash, it is essential to review its rich history, as it has left abundant and spectacular remnants for the enjoyment of any traveler. It is known that as early as the Neolithic period, particularly during the Bronze Age (4th millennium BC-2nd millennium BC), this territory was already inhabited, which is not surprising considering that the Near East was the epicenter of those civilizations.
After interpreting some inscriptions discovered on the site, it is believed that Jerash was established as a city during the time of Alexander the Great, around 331 BC, when the great Hellenistic emperor was in the region, on his way to Mesopotamia after his passage through Egypt.
What is clear is that by the 1st century BC, Gerasa (as it was known in Antiquity) already existed, as it was conquered by Pompey (64 BC), a military general and strongman in the Roman Republic.
Shortly thereafter, it became part of what was known as the Decapolis: a network of city-states (probably more than 10) that marked the boundaries of the Roman Empire in the East, enjoying significant autonomy (coinage) but deeply Romanized, adopting their traditional urbanism and the cult of the emperor. Other cities of the Roman Decapolis in present-day Jordan were Philadelphia (Amman) and Gadara (Umm Qais). Jerash or Gerasa flourished thanks to its rich agriculture and iron mining, establishing trade relations with its surroundings, for example with the Nabateans of Petra.
From AD 106 onwards, it entered a new phase: it was expanded and reformed during the time of Emperor Trajan and, above all, Hadrian, who visited it personally. This was precisely the reason why the Arch of Hadrian was erected, with which the city welcomed the emperor triumphantly. In the early 3rd century, Gerasa reached its peak and is believed to have had 20,000 inhabitants.
In the 5th and 6th centuries, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city continued under the rule of its Byzantine successors, who erected religious temples, as visitors can see in Jerash today. In addition, there is evidence of Hebrew inscriptions in one of them, suggesting the existence of a small Jewish community at that time.
In the early 7th century, Jerash experienced a brief Persian conquest, but from around 640, Gerasa came under Muslim rule: the Umayyad Caliphate, with its capital in Damascus, which led to a new period of economic prosperity, as can be deduced from its remarkable local ceramic production.
This was interrupted by a devastating earthquake in the 8th century, which plunged the city into deep decline. In the 12th century, the Crusaders established a garrison in Jerash, reusing structures for military purposes, such as the Temple of Artemis. This was short-lived, as Muslim rule was restored shortly thereafter, with Ayyubids, Mamluks, and Ottomans successively.
Jerash experienced a certain revival in the late 19th century with the massive arrival of Circassian population displaced from Russia. A modern city parallel to the Roman ruins began to grow. Since then, awareness of the great value of the site has increased, with numerous archaeological projects initiated, and in the late 20th century, its integration into major tourist circuits.
As you can imagine, most of the monuments to see in Jerash are related to its Roman past, concentrated in a very unified and compact archaeological site, which greatly facilitates the visit. These are the main points of interest within the archaeological site:
In addition to all these monuments to see in Jerash, within the visitable enclosure there is a small Museum, where pieces recovered from the archaeological site are exhibited. In it you can see statues, mosaics, ceramics and a wide collection of objects, all identified with their time and other details of their context.
Of course at such a large and well-preserved archaeological site, you’ll have plenty to see in Jerash.. But if you want to add other activities to your visit, you have some options at your fingertips. Special mention deserves the Jerash Chariots: demonstrations at the hippodrome, with horses and royal chariots, in the form of biga races, gladiatorial fights and other typical shows of ancient Roman civilization. They are usually a classic at weddings, but can also be rented or arranged for other private purposes.
At the leisure and cultural level, the great annual event is the Jerash Arts and Culture Festival , which has been held in July or August since 1981 in one of the theaters of the archaeological site. It includes dramatic performances, concerts and other cultural expressions, for an audience that is largely tourist. Most of them arrive from Amman, for which buses are chartered with special schedules that are better adapted to the program.
Beyond this, leisure offers, especially at night, are limited. In the modern city you can find relatively simple restaurants and a modest commercial offer, because we must bear in mind that the city itself is not very large: about 50,000 inhabitants.
A last proposal that can be cited is about 15 km south of Jerash: the Royal Jordanian Botanical Garden in Tal al Rumman, recently established. It is located in the vicinity of the King Talal Dam and its main objective is to preserve and recreate the typical flora of Jordan, not only of this region but also of others: therefore, areas of pines, junipers, deciduous oaks, pistachio trees and other species have been planted. In addition, it has a herbarium to catalog the great variety of herbs in the country.
The most common is to get to Jerash as an excursion from Amman, dedicating half a day or a full day. However, those most passionate about Roman culture can spend more than a day studying and discovering the archaeological park, which will force them to spend the night in one of the few hotels in the city.
In both cases, the most comfortable option is the vehicle, whether it is a taxi, a rental car or a private vehicle with a driver. The distance from Amman is 40 km and the journey time is usually around 45 minutes. On the other hand, if you want to travel here from other points further away from Jordan, this is an indicative table of distances and durations:
A possible alternative is the bus, as the main company JETT has a direct route from Amman, in a tourist service that reaches Jerash also to Ajloun. However, departures are not daily, so it is advisable to inform yourself before this possibility. In any case, the bus station is located at the foot of the archaeological park. Minibuses also depart from Ajloun and Irbid in the direction of Jerash, although with irregular schedules.
The archaeological park of Jerash It has its own visitor center, where tickets are sold to access the site. It serves as a tourist information office, with brochures and maps.
In the center of Jerash You will find pharmacies and right next to the archaeological park is located the hospital of the city. At the entrance and in the surroundings of the visitable enclosure you will find police, who offer service and help to foreign visitors.