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Full Day Tour of Jerash, Umm Qais & Ajloun

Full Day Tour of Jerash, Umm Qais & Ajloun, Jordan

Located about an hour outside of Amman, Jerash is one of the real highlights of a trip to Jordan. It is one of the best-preserved Graeco-Roman cities in the Middle East, although it traces its origins right back to Neolithic times. As a member of the Decapolis, a Byzantine trading federation of ten cities, Jerash became a prosperous place, and many grand public works were undertaken. Today, amazing ruins remain of temples, agora, and colonnaded streets.

The most impressive ruins are those of the main street, where colonnaded facades line the cobbled road, under which runs a large drainage duct, almost completely intact. At key points are decorative nymphaeum (public fountains), whilst behind the facades the storage areas of old shops can be seen.

Of the temples, that of Artemis is the most impressive, and has a small forest of beautiful columns in front of it, topped with perfect Corinthian capitals. Off to the side of the main heart of the city are a couple of Byzantine churches, in which are some excellent mosaics that have weathered remarkably well.

There is the possibility of attending a Gladiator Show at Jerash, which boldly recreates the atmosphere the theaters once had. The shows last 45 minutes, and visitors have to take their seats a quarter of an hour beforehand. Should you wish to buy tickets (15JD) for this event, your guide will take you across for the performance in plenty of time.

Known as Gadara in Classical times, Umm Qais is another former Decapolis city, but also features more recent Ottoman buildings and architecture. Beyond these however, the most impressive feature of the city is actually its location. It sits on a ridge overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights and the River Jordan, a magnificent and historic vista. Much of the Classical city was built in black basalt, which makes for impressive ruins - amongst the best of them are the theater and a basilica courtyard dotted with black sarcophagi.

Ottoman Umm Qais is on the summit of the high ground, and a wander through the crumbling houses is an atmospheric experience. Ottoman architecture is attractive and at Umm Qais this is complemented by the use of stones from the ancient town in the construction.

There are a great many fantastic castles to visit in the Levant, and nearly all of them were built by the Crusaders during the time they occupied much of the region. Ajloun is a notable exception - although it dates from the same period it was actually built by one of the Islamic governors under Saladin, and was used as one of the principal bases in the expulsion of the crusading armies. The excellent state of preservation makes Ajloun arguably the best example of Islamic military architecture from the crusading era. The castle enjoys a great location with pretty rural views, as well as having towers, staircases, and myriad different chambers to explore.

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Audley Travel specialist Paula

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Other experiences in Amman

These activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences around where you're staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident's eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can suggest tours and activities, such as cooking classes, that will introduce you to the local ways of life.

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    Half day private tour of Amman

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