Jerash: Jordan's hidden treasure
When most people think of Jordan, they picture Petra. Petra is indeed a simply stunning site, but most tourists who visit, tread the same well-worn route. Our approach to exploring the treasures of Jordan is a little different from others.
For the engaged visitor, Jordan is definitely not just Petra. Jerash in Jordan is a hidden gem, well worth exploring. If you are thinking ‘what is Jerash’ then you are in good company – most people have never even heard of Jerash. Yet Jerash, often over-shadowed by Petra, is itself a site of major importance and in its own way has just as much ‘wow factor’ as the Nabatean rose city to its South.
Jerash is a gob-smackingly impressive ruined Roman city. Anyone who is interested in the classical world really owes it to themselves to come visit this ancient city.
In fact, Jerash is commonly believed by experts to be one of the best examples of a complete Roman city anywhere outside of Italy.
I found the site remarkable both because of the quality of the remains and because of its scale, which induce the ‘time-machine’ feeling of being taken back thousands of years. Highlights include two theatres – one with original marble flooring and the other seating 3,000 people; two temples – the temple to Zeus being most impressive; a huge fountain; and of course, the Cardo itself.
Jerash is a large site, which requires quite a bit of walking – but our efforts were well rewarded with a hearty and delicious lunch at an utterly charming and totally delightful restaurant just nearby called the Lebanese House.
Lastly, getting to Jerash couldn’t be easier, as it lies just 45 minutes north of Amman.
PARTICULAR ABOUT PETRA
Named one of the new wonders of the world, Petra is a wonder and a half.
The site of Petra was the crown and glory of the ancient Nabatean empire, with huge monuments carved into the rose-coloured rocks of the desert. Most tourists who visit come to see the Siq, the Treasury and perhaps the Monastery, a tick list collection of wonders. We love Petra for all this but much more too, and particularly for its outstanding hiking opportunities combined with historical wonders.
We hiked from Little Petra to Petra itself, entering by the back way so that after an hour of walking through stunning desert scenery it was as if we just happened to stumble across the magnificent site of the Monastery.
Other highlights included a long hike up so that we could view the iconic Treasury from an altogether different angle – from the 'high place'. Luckily there are camels and donkeys galore in case your legs begin to feel fatigued, or if some members of your party are stronger hikers than others.
One very special Petra experience that we recommend for those seeking something special, is an extraordinary private dinner at Little Petra. When I last visited, I was with my husband and we happened to be celebrating his birthday, so we wanted to do something special. The entire site of Little Petra was closed for us one evening, candles were lit to form a pathway up to the site, and to illuminate the archaeological wonders. A table was laid for us, and local musicians provided background music. We enjoyed what turned out to be one of the most magical, romantic dinner ever!
In short, Jordan has so much to offer, including, but not limited to, the de rigueur Petra sites.
* Hannah is an Oxford-educated, travel obsessed, former investment banker from London, who happened upon the fortune of marrying into the Middle East. She fell in love with the region and founded Pomegranate Travel, a luxury travel company, which focuses on deep content