Sunday, June 29, 2008


With hubby safely ensconsed in a meeting, my son and I were free to roam around as we pleased. While hubby is a very knowledgeable history buff, and, loves to see places, he hates sweating and he hates being dragged all over the country side in the heat. He agreed to make only two exceptions to this - Petra and the Dead Sea!

So the first day, decided to cover Jerash, Aijloun and Um Qyyas. Jerash, I was very keen to see, cos this is the location of the well known Jerash festival, when once every year, the stars of the Arab world descend on Jerash, and then follows a week of sound, music and dance..I had seen clips of this and the setting for this seemed so romantic that I was very keen to go see the place.

My desire was also fueled by the knowledge that Jerash was one of the key cities comprising the Greek Decapolis (federation of 10 cities) and is considered to be one of the best preserved out of these 10 in the current day. Plus on the flight into Amman, I had read about a show (RACE) that tried to recreate the Roman era, that was held at the hippodrome at Jerash everyday. I was very keen that my son watch this.

Jerash is a mere one and a half hours away from Amman, and, the drive very pleasant. Our driver, Badran, explained that Jordan was very well known for olive farming, and we would see acres after acres populated by olive trees as we drove, especially to Aijloun. Made a mental note to buy at least one bottle of Jordanian Olive Oil and try it out!

Hadn't bargained for hilly terrain so did not feed my son dramamine, so had to take a couple of pit stops while he threw up. Other than that, the journey was uneventful. As you drive in to the Jerash complex, you can see the hippodrome from far where the show is staged. Entrance tickets to the site are priced at JD 8 per head, though the ticket guy refused to give me a ticket for my son - ebn free!

You walk in through the Hadrian's Arch to enter the site. Hadrian was a Roman emperor, whose visit to Jerash was commemorated by building this arch. Its a beautiful Triumph Arch, currently under repair.

Found myself a guide, who as guides are wont to, when they see a single expat woman, decided to flirt with me. Normally I would have laughed it off, but the scorching heat robbed me of my sense of humour I think, lol! Cursed him under my breath in Hindi, when to my utter shock, he turned around and replied in Hindi. He had spent years in Pakistan studying and knew Urdu and hence understood Hindi. While I was mortified that he understood what I had said, it ensured that he was polite and straight forward for the rest of the tour!!

As you walk into the site, the majestic panorama makes you grasp for breath. They were not kiddng when they say its a really well preserved site. Sand covered the remains of Jerash and preserved it until its rediscovery in 1806. Because they lay buried so long, the ruins at Jerash are among the best preserved from the Roman era.
As you walk throughthe main colonnaded pathway called the Cardo Maximus, you can actually see the grooves made by the charriots as they thundered down the pathway.

There is a beautiful Temple of Zeus, whic dates back to around 100 AD and is still beautifully preserved. You can climb up from the Oval Plaza and view from the temple is really panoramic.

Next to the temple, is the South Theatre. Built during the reign of Emperor Domitian, between 90-92 AD, it seats more than 3000 spectators and serves today as the primary venue for the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts. I beleive the place has remarkable acoustics which allow a speaker at the center of the orchestra floor to be heard by the entire auditorium without raising his/her voice!!

Finally, the Temple of Artemis - Artemis, daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo, was the patron goddess of Jerash. This Temple was a place of sacrifice dedicated to Artemis and built in 150 AD. Although small, the temple's Corinthian columns soar impressively making the temple look very imposing on the hilltop. 11 of the 12 front columns are still standing.

The Temple is also known as the Temple of Shaking Pilars. The columns rest on a base and when pushed actually sway! Even though they sawy, they've stood upright for centuries. If you place a key in the space between the column and the base and push the columns, you can see the key move!! Thsi is on account of the concave and convex structure of the pillars and the base which enables the movement while keeping the pillars erect.

And finally the Roman Army & Chariot Expereince (RACE). Will write about it in a separate post!

By the way, for those only hung up on Petra (as I haughtily told my husband) Jerash is the second most visited tourist location after Petra in Jordan. Nah, don't visit it for that reason, visit it for the sheer magnificance and the wonderful state of preservation it is in. You can actually imagine what the city must have looked like in its heydays!!

History of Jerash

The town was at one time cal]ed "Antioch on the Chrysorrhoas," the latter, meaning "Golden River," being the somewhat grandiose name of the little stream which still separates the eastern from the western section. But the name "Antioch" is significant, and strongly suggests that it was one of the Seleucid Kings with the name Antiochus who was responsible for raising the little village to the status of great town, probably Antiochus IV in the early second century B.C. Inscriptions found in the ruins, however, show that there were many traditions current as to the founding of the city, some attributing it to Alexander the Great, some to the general Perdiccas in the fourth century B.C. It could also have been accomplished by Ptolemy II (285 - 246 B. C.) when he changed Amman into the Hellenistic city of Philadelphia. It is possible and probable that each and every one of these had a finger in the pie, and that the emergence of Jerash from the chrysalis village of mud huts to the brightly coloured butterfly of an Hellenistic town was due rather to the increasing general prosperity and security than to the efforts of any one ruler.

In the year 63 B.C., Pompey, having overrun the Near East, divided it up into provinces, and Jerash and its lands were attached to the province of Syria.
This was the great turning-point in the history of the town, and was recognised as such in its calendar to the very end of its life as an outpost of Western civilisation, for all its dates are given in the Pompeian era. The Hellenistic cities had enjoyed certain rights of self-government, and these rights were continued under the Pompeian arrangements, Jerash enjoyed these rights, and early in the Roman period of its history it joined the league of free cities known as the Decapalis. From now until the middle of the first century A.D, Jerash seems to have had a quiet and peaceful time.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Looked up the Jerash festival after reading this...Sounds like a wonderful experience, must do it sometime..imagine sitting in the ancient theatre and watching people perform