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Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 | 0 comments

Playing hide and seek in Jerash – Jordan

The archaeological site lies right next to the modern city of Jerash

The archaeological site lies right next to the modern city of Jerash

After a long route driving to Umm Qais and Aljun castle we arrived at the Roman city of Jerash at about 4pm.

Our driver told us we’d need about 3 hours to look round properly.

Sunset was a long way off, so I suggested “OK, so it’s 4pm now – shall we meet at 7pm?”

“No, it closes at 5pm”

“…”

Hadrians Arch - the entrance to Jerash

Hadrians Arch – the entrance to Jerash

Not having much choice, we got a move on and met our guide at the gate. He seemed in no rush at all, so we sauntered through the impressive Hadrian’s Arch to arrive at the Circus Maximus. This chariot racing ring was larger than I’d imagined, although admittedly my only previous experience of chariot racing comes from having watched Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.

The view from the stands at the Circus maximus

The view from the stands at the Circus maximus

He didn’t have much to say about that, so we moved on to the amphitheatre. One of the problems with visiting Jordan is that many of the Roman cites are based on very similar designs, and understandably contain very similar buildings. Over the course of our time there we were asked to be amazed at the acoustics of the theatres, the carving of the bathing areas, the slenderness of the columns and the layout of the roads. The first time it is all very interesting. The fourth time it’s hard not to be easily distracted by just about anything, which is quite rude.

View from the cheap seats in the amphitheatre

View from the cheap seats in the amphitheatre

The only new aspect here was the demonstration of the acoustics involving an ancient pair of bagpipes, which resonated richly across every seat. Jordanian bagpipes have a deeper sound, avoiding that teeth-jarring screech that can come from a badly played Scottish version.

By the time the bagpipes finished it was nearly 5pm and a pair of guards politely suggested we make our way to the entrance.

The main plaza in Jerash

The main plaza in Jerash

Outside the amphitheatre a sizable colonnaded plaza narrowed into a colonnaded street which led away from the entrance towards the cathedral. Our guide hustled us along this street, away from the line of sight of the guards.

The collonaded avenue through Jerash

The collonaded avenue through Jerash

This whole section had been hidden by sand before being excavated and restored over the last 70 years. This has left it one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world.

Reaching the cathedral he again dragged us round a corner away from the roving guards whilst giving his commentary in a hushed whisper. This continued along another street to the bathing area and all the way back along the colonnaded avenue to the entrance.

Standing by the entrance we were settling up with the guide as the guards sidled over. They looked pointedly at their watch, the guide handed over a little of his tip by way of compensation. The guards were happy, the guide was happy and we felt a little less guilty about what was surely a well-practiced daily charade.

Looking over the site from the ampitheatre

Looking over the site from the ampitheatre as the sun sets

Visiting Jerash

I’d not heard of the Roman city of Jerash before we arrived, but it was one of the many highlights in Jordan – just arrive a little earlier than we did. There’s quite a bit of walking so the close of the day is ideal for a mix of cooler weather and beautiful light.

The site costs JD8 to visit and is open from 7am until the guide lets you leave.

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