ultramarinus – beyond the sea

JERASH, near Amman, Jordan

2006.05.17.

After a rather heavy-hearted account of a brief stay in Syria, we move on to the next part of the Middle East journey: Jordan.  Although small and almost landlocked, Jordan is a country of a relatively high development with an “upper middle income” economy in the region.  It is also a major tourist destination, thanks to the ruined city of Petra, Dead Sea and Wadi Rum, the desert of Lawrence of Arabia.  After a little more than a week in Syria, my first impression of the Jordanian capital Amman was the reemergence of global businesses and commercialism.  We started our Jordanian route from the very north of the country at Jerash, one of the best preserved classical ruined cities in the world.

* * *

In the morning we took a minibus from Amman’s Abdali Bus Station (now closed) to Jerash, about 50km north of the capital.  Known as the City of Gerasa or Antioch on the Golden River in the Greco-Roman period, Jerash is now a major tourist attraction in Jordan.  Many have compared Jerash to Pompeii in terms of the extent and level of preservation.  To me, they are actually two very different archaeological sites.  Founded by Alexander the Great or by Seleucid King Antioch IV in 331 BC, Gerasa flourished in the Roman period as a trading hub.  The three of us entered the Arch of Hadrian, wandered around the site and visited the ruins of Temple of Artemis, saw many Corinthian columns, early churches, the Oval Piazza, and two theaters.  At the second theatre, a band of musicians, dressed in military uniforms, were playing ceremonial music on the stage and prompting us to stop for a while.  We exited the ruins through the north gate, and hired a taxi to the bus station.  At the station, we met an old man who claimed to be an experience tour guide.  He told us a bit about his journey to Hong Kong back in early 1970’s, and recommended a cheaper Amman bound bus to us.

Hadrian GateThe 22m high triple archway was erected in 130AD to commemorate the visit of Roman Emperor Hadrian.

oval squareThe Oval Forum and Cardo Maximus, the colonnaded road are the most recognizable features of Jerash.

06ME33-31 The Oval Forum is bounded by 56 Ionic columns.  The large square was probably used as a marketplace and a social gathering spot.

06ME33-18With the beautiful scaenae frons (stage backdrop) and proscenium (front face of the stage), the South Theatre is another popular attraction in Jerash.

06ME33-20Built between AD 81 and 96, the 5000-seat South Theatre is famous for its acoustics.

performers 1Just like many other tourists, we came across a band playing Jordanian Scottish bagpipe at the South Theatre of Jerash.

06ME33-21The Jordanian Scottish bagpipe is a legacy from Emirate of Transjordan, the years of British protectorate before 1946.

06ME33-34Artemis was the patron saint of Gerasa.  Built in the 2nd century AD, the Temple of Artemis was one of the most important building in the city, at least before the end of the 4th century when pagan cults were forbidden.

06ME33-37Temple of Artemis has several beautiful Corinthian columns.

06ME34-02Each column weighs over 20 tons and are 39 feet tall.

06ME34-04Built in AD 165, the North Theatre was used for government meetings in the Roman times. Many seats are inscribed with names of city council members.

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