Time to put on your archaeologist hat and journey north to the ruin cities Umm Qais, Jerash & Ajlun. On this trip you will be able to witness relics from as far back as the Stone Age. We first visit Umm Qais, the ancient cultural hub of the Middle East and coined the “new Athens” by one of its many resident poets. Here you can take in the incredible expansive views of the Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights and the Yarmuk Valley.
Hidden for centuries under the sand, Jerash has stood the test of time and contains the most well-preserved Roman settlement in all of the Middle East. The city is an incredible model of grand Roman urbanism and includes colonnaded paved streets; hilltop temples; amphitheaters; public plazas and squares; fountains and baths; and city walls sporting immense towers and gates.
Not to forget the spectacular site, Ajloun Castle.
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You will meet our driver at the hotel lobby between 7 a.m. – 9 a.m (your exact timing will be provided by the support team, one day before the tour) after the entail greetings, you start your journey toward northern Jordan about 2hrs drive.
Umm Qais (meaning ‘Mother of Qais’), or as it was known in ancient times ‘Gadara’, is a cultural centre and home to several philosophers and classical poets including founder of the rhetorical school, Theodourus; and the esteemed Hellenistic Greek poet, Meleager. By the third century BC, the town was a cultural hub and was referred to as “a new Athens” by one poet, with its colonnaded streets, theaters, and terraces.
It is perched upon a splendid hilltop overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley at the borders of Jordan, Israel, and Syria. Since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, Palestinians that have left their hometown frequently visit Umm Qais as it provides breath-taking views over the Sea of Galilee.
The city was often under attack and it wasn’t until the Roman takeover of Syria in 63 BC that Umm Qais found some stability. It became one of the cities to make up the Decapolis and large public buildings were constructed to support its cultural lifestyle.
Following the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, Gadara came under Muslim rule and its name changed to current Umm Qais. Shortly after the city suffered from a series of earthquakes that led to its abandonment. Small villages sprouted from the ruins and are still there today.
The original castle was built by the nephew of the great military leader Salah ad-Din al Ayyubi in 1184–85 as a military fortress to defend against Crusaders, as well as to protect valuable trade routes between Jordan and Syria.
The castle is an excellent example of medieval Arab-Islamic military architecture. The first thing you will notice as you are approaching Ajloun Castle are the massive walls and the five looming towers.
The castle was originally constructed with four towers, and in 1215 AD extended to include a fifth tower and a drawbridge.
You will cross over this medieval bridge, which allows you access across the moat and into the castle. Once inside you will find a maze of curved passageways; winding staircases; long ramps; huge rooms that functioned as dining halls; residences; and castle stables. From the top of the castle, you will enjoy panoramic views of the hilltops along the Jordan Valley.
The city of Jerash contains the most well-preserved Roman site in all of the Middle East and you will get a chance to gaze upon this special place that has survived for thousands of years.
Overview of Sites for Ancient Jerash City:
Hadrian’s Arch: you will enter the ancient Roman city through this oval arch. Built in 129 AD to mark Emperor Hadrian’s visit, this stunning piece of architecture is considered as magnificent as the arch in the forum in Rome.
Hippodrome: as you pass through the arch, to your left you will find the hippodrome or ‘circus.’ The hippodrome, a stadium-like structure was used for horse and chariot races by the ancient Greeks and Romans. There is currently a show (The Roman Army and Chariot Experience) that replicates the events that took place here centuries ago. Guests interested in experiencing the show can find more information below.
Forum (Oval Plaza): an asymmetrical plaza at the beginning of the column-laden street that runs the length of the city. It was once lined with the city’s major buildings, shops, and residences.
Agora: this was the city’s main food market. Here you will see the nymphaeum (or central fountain).
Nymphaeum: an ornate public fountain that was decorated with lions’ head motifs and dedicated to the nymphs—mythological female deities of nature.
Temple of Artemis: these impressive ruins are all that’s left of the temple dedicated to the patron goddess of the city, Artemis.
South Theatre: one of the only two theaters in Jerash to survive, the South Theater is the largest. Here you will see a 1st century amphitheater that seats up to 3,000. If you’re lucky, you may catch the Jordanian military band playing there.
Jerash Archaeological Museum: Jerash was a city hidden under centuries of sand that has only begun to be excavated in the last 70 years. The museum features a collection of artifacts found during these various excavations including coins, statues and sarcophagi.
Things to consider while in Jerash: The Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE):
The epic hippodrome race can now be seen for the first time in over a thousand years. Guests will enjoy the authentic replicas of Roman chariots racing in the stadium.
LIVE THE EXPERIENCE!
Wednesday – Thursday at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm
Fridays – one show only at 10 :00 am
The performances last approximately 45 minutes.
After almost half day exploring north of Jordan, time to return back to Amman, the drive will be around 45min.