Exploring Jerash, Jordan, The Rome of the Middle East

As any reader of this blog knows, I absolutely adore history. But despite seeing Roman ruins like Palatine Hill in Rome and the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, I was never terribly interested in Ancient Rome.

Jerash, Jordan, changed that.

Jerash is the most impressive Roman ruin I’ve ever seen; a 2,000-year old Greco-Roman city complete with a chariot-racing track and an Artemis temple. What more could a history-obsessed girl ask for?

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

As soon as I stepped foot at Jerash, I realized why it’s Jordan’s second most-visited tourist site.

One, Jerash is enormous. The ancient city has an oval forum, cardo (colonnaded street), agora (marketplace), amphitheatre, hippodrome (horse-racing track), Roman bath and two temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis.

Two, you can touch the ruins. At Jerash there are no fences or barriers- nothing to prevent you from walking among the buildings as the Romans did.

And three, you often have Jerash all to yourself. On the day we visited in April we were some of the only tourists. Can you imagine being the only visitor at the Roman Forum?

We entered under the Arch of Hadrian, erected to honor the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

I was excited to recognize Hadrian’s name from Hadrian’s Wall, the barricade he built in Northern England to keep out the Scottish picts. (Which is exactly like The Wall in Game of Thrones. Um, moving on…)

The expanse of the Roman empire truly blows my mind- how could a civilization stretch all the way from Northern England to Jordan?

Roman ruins in Jerash, JordanThe oval forum with Ionic pillars.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Then we discovered why Jerash is called “The City of a Thousand Columns” as we strolled along the cardo maximus, or colonnaded street. Almost every Roman city had a cardo maximus as they were main streets that served as centers for the local economy.

Fun fact- did you know all cardo maximus run north to south?

Jerash_Jordan_Roman_Ruins_4

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Next we headed to the Roman market, or agora, where our guide pointed out where the butcher’s stand once stood. See the lamb carved into the rock below?

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While normally I’m not into guided tours, I love when guides point out little details like this- I would never have seen the lamb on my own.

Roman ruins in Jerash, JordanThe Roman amphitheatre.

As a Greek mythology aficionado, I especially loved seeing the Temple of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and patron goddess of Jerash. I was impressed by how intact the temple was, with 11 out of the 12 original pillars still standing.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

By the end of the day I was so grateful that we had visited Jordan in the spring- not only was the weather temperate, the fields were covered in purple and yellow wildflowers.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Jerash was one of my favorite places I visited in Jordan. By the end of our visit I was dreaming of all the Roman ruins I have yet to see- Leptis Magna in Libya, Pompeii in Naples and the famous aqueducts of Nîmes, France. My Roman obsession continued for the rest of the week in Jordan- I watched Gladiator not once, but twice on the flight home.

The most important thing I learned at Jerash was if you love Ancient Rome, don’t just go to Rome itself. The Roman empire was vast, and so are its ruins. So fellow history buffs- consider Jordan. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Are you a fan of Roman history too? Would you visit the Middle East to see Roman ruins?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

17 thoughts on “Exploring Jerash, Jordan, The Rome of the Middle East”

  1. Wow, your photos of Jerash are truly amazing, Ashley. Jordan has been on the list of places I really wanted to see since 2010 and originally I had intended to visit Jordan on a combined trip to Jordan and Syria which sadly is not possible anymore. I should have gone straight away but there were other places which were higher on my travel wishlist and where I have been to in the meantime. But especially after travelling along the chinese Silk Road countries like Jordan and Iran are now high on my list and I hope to get to at least one of these two countries in the near future. After visiting the ruined cities of Jiaohe and Gaochang in Turpan in Xinjiang Province in Northwest China I can imagine how it feels being the only visitor at a historical place. When I was there the main season had just finished and there were less than a handful visitors in Jiaohe. In Gaochang I was even the only visitor at all, at least at that time of the day. Like you I fortunately had a great local guide who told me a lot about the history and also pointed out all the little details.

    • I just googled Jiahoe and Gaochang and I now absolutely need to visit them! I’d love to travel the Silk Road someday, I just read a book called “On the Noodle Road” about traveling from China to Italy that you might enjoy :)

  2. Wow! Jordan in the springtime looks spectacular. I’m surprised at how empty it is, and that touching the ruins is allowed — and they’re in such great condition! (Then again, the only ruins I’ve seen are in Greece.)

  3. Great pics! This place looks amazing, can’t wait to see it for myself! I recently visited Hierapolis in Turkey and loved that there were also no barriers etc there – I felt so bad about touching anything it first because it seemed so wrong to me but everyone was cool with it and it was just too wonderful not too!

  4. The Roman Empire also stretched as far south as Morocco. If you are ever there, Volubilis is a must-see visit.

  5. I’ve never heard of Jerash but it looks like an amazing site to visit from a historical perspective. I’ve always been more fascinated by the Roman ruins that were outside of Rome-it just blows my mind to think of how far the Roman Empire stretched on a geographical scale. Those blue skies are fabulous and I love how beautifully preserved the ruins seem.

  6. I love me some Roman ruins and have seen quite a lot in the past few years, but these in Jordan look absolutely impressive! So many columns still standing, and it’s so cool that so much of the amphitheater’s original “grandstands” remain.

  7. Am I a fan of Roman history too? Absolutely! At one point, I flitted and flirted between studying classical history or archaelogy at university. I studied political science instead LOL!

    I love the Romans and my hometown of Manchester is Roman as is the county where I did my Masters – Chester. In fact, Germany (where I live), also has a Roman town called Trier. I was so chuffed when I discovered this 13 years ago. Not only that but Augusta Treverorum / Treveri or Trier was founded in the late 1st century and is considered to be the oldest city in Germany! Very fancy!

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