Jerash: last Roman out left the lights on

Walking the main street of Jerash
Walking the main street of Jerash

We made an unlikely connection with George, our driver for the day, when we discovered that his son is an actuary. George proved a mine of information about modern Jordan while driving us north to the ancient city of Jerash.


Jerash had its heyday about 100 A.D. when the Roman Emperor Hadrian liked to visit. Luckily that heyday came to a fairly abrupt end about 200 years later and the city sailed on through the ages, beautiful and deserted, a metropolis-sized Marie Celeste.

Now the Roman ruins of Jerash give a real insight into a sophisticated Roman city: From the hundreds of Corinthian columns lining the roads, to the lovely holes in those roads providing serendipitous views of the ancient plumbing. The city boasted, and retains, two theaters, several temples, lovely fountains, and hoards of mysterious buildings.

While not as awe-inspiring as our recent Egyptian ruins, the Roman ruins are more human-scaled. The Egyptian things we have seen were all built to impress, the Roman city was built to be used. There’s something moving and real about seeing seat numbers scrawled into the marble of the amphitheater.

Because we seemed to have the place almost entirely to ourselves we got to wander at will indulging our inner Indiana Joneses. Our most enjoyable moment came when a bit of scuffed dirt on a mud pathway revealed a mosaic surface underneath. We spent an entirely enjoyable time gently revealing a little more of it.

The boys got to do a great deal of clambering in, on and through things; together with a lot of theorizing about what those things are. Thanks to all of their history reading and watching they are proving a handy source of knowledge on these visits. It’s a lot more pleasant parenting hearing them discuss whether the Goddess Artemis only hunted evil things, while standing in her Temple, than arguing about whether Wolfman would beat Darth Vader in a fight.

For those who might come after: We had a good lunch of local fare in the Jerash rest house by the entrance. In particular the freshly made flat bread was wonderful. The coffee, not so much.

(Note no Roman ruins were harmed in the making of this blog post. Jerash is set up for exploring within reason.)

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