JERASH, JORDAN, March 11, 2017 — Given all the turmoil and strife which has centered around and continues to focus upon the Middle East, it would be far from honest to hype a travel destination nestled squarely in the midst of that chaos.
On the other hand, the ruins of Jerash in Jordan serve as a powerful reminder that man’s quest for civilization has been a long and arduous task dating back many centuries before Christ.
Among the truly sad aspects of global terrorism has been the substantial loss of architecture, antiquities and other cultural treasures that could have provided contemporary researchers with greater insights into mankind’s legacy and his eternal search for greater understanding of the world from which we have evolved.
Today, Jerash is Jordan’s second largest tourist attraction. This archaeological masterpiece has been hailed by some as the best preserved Roman provincial city in the Middle East.
Jerash, or Gerasa as it was known in ancient days, is framed by the hill of Gilead approximately 30 miles north of Jordan’s capital city, Amman.
It was discovered in the 4th century A.D. by soldiers of Alexander the Great, and thrived as a cosmopolitan city deriving revenue from agriculture, mining and the caravan trade. By the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., Jerash had reached the peak of its prosperity featuring an array of no less than 15 impressive churches.
Some analysts like to call Jerash “the Pompeii of the Middle East” but that is actually a misnomer since the city was never destroyed by some cataclysmic event. As a consequence, Jerash can justifiably lay claim to the title of being one of the best preserved and most important Roman Cities in the Near East.
Since the 1920s, Jerash has been under near-continuous excavation and restoration. As recently at August of 2015, two human skulls dating to the Neolithic period were discovered, which provide strong evidence that Jordan was inhabited in that period. The significance of the find lies in the rarity of the skulls, with archaeologists estimating that only 12 sites throughout the world might contain similar human remains.
As with Pompeii, Jerash covers a large expanse of land. For that reason, the number of significant ruins and treasures that have been unearthed there to date are in effect a living museum of the region.
Remains in the Greco-Roman Jerash include:
• Numerous Corinthian columns
• Hadrian’s Arch
• The circus/hippodrome
• The two large temples (dedicated to Zeus and Artemis)
• The nearly unique oval Forum, which is surrounded by a fine colonnade,
• The long colonnaded street or cardo
• Two theatres (the Large South Theatre and smaller North Theatre)
• Two communal baths, and a scattering of small temples
• A large Nymphaeum fed by an aqueduct
• An almost complete circuit of city walls
• A water powered saw mill for cutting stone
• Two large bridges across the nearby river
Over the past hundred years, Jerash has continued to grow with the western side of the city being constantly supervised and carefully preserved to avoid encroachment from the modern community that sprawls to the east of the river. In antiquity the river once divided the city.
Modern day Jerash, has annexed numerous other small communities as part of its expansion program, but private funding from donations by many of the city’ wealthiest families has greatly aided and maintained the preservation process. One notable preserved site is a synagogue, whose especially superb mosaics tell the story of Noah in vivid detail.
To witness the pure magic of Jerash, the best time to visit is in July or August when the city becomes a pageant of festivals, music, culture, drama and other outdoor performances.
True, it may be the Middle East, but the venue will stun you and encapsulate you into a time and place that once only belonged to the ages.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. Bob’s goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club
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