The next morning, I meet up with my tour group. It’s not the type of group I am used to; it’s mostly people traveling together and not really wanting to interact and make friends with others. This is a challenge since I’m traveling alone. But luckily, there is a solo guy from the UK named Ian and he becomes my buddy for the rest of my time in Jordan…whether he wanted a buddy or not!! Haha. And now we head out to Jerash (also known as Gerasa), a city in northern Jordan known for it’s massive and well-preserved Greco-Roman city. I am super excited because I love exploring ruins! There’s something about wandering around the remains of buildings that once were, imagining what these places would have been like back then. Walking up to the stunning Hadrian’s Arch makes me feel so lucky to be here exploring this amazing site.
It was built to honor the visit of Hadrian back in 130 AD. It is a ways from the entrance to the city walls so historians figure there were plans to expand Gerasa. Through the gate, the first stop is the hippodrome, also located outside of city walls. There are some gladiators roaming around, making it feel like I’ve stepped back in time and I’m almost expecting to see some chariots fly by.
And now through the city walls – we stand in the spacious oval forum, where meetings and gatherings were held, where market stalls were set up around the columns.
Our tour guide Khalid continues on with his talks about the history of Jerash. As much as I appreciate this, I am also finding it hard to concentrate and really take in what he’s saying. Next, we walk down the massive Colonnaded street, feeling so dwarfed by these giant columns.
The large chunky stones that make up the walkway are not the easiest to walk on, unchanged since it’s initial construction.
It is super hot today, so trying to find shade becomes a fun challenge. I stop to explore the area around the nymphaeum, a main source of water to the smaller public fountains.
Monumental and gorgeous. At the end of the colonnaded street there is the large North Theatre; we enter through the top and it is super steep…I decide not to take the steps to the bottom. The view is nice from up here anyways!
Next stop is the beautiful Temple of Artemis, built on one of the highest points to dominate the entire city. 11 of the 12 columns are still standing today, which is an amazing feat.
Dedicated to the patron goddess of the city, it was the most beautiful and important temple here in Gerasa. Khalid finally lets us go for some free time (although I did sneak off a few times to take some pics). My next stop is the equally beautiful temple of Jupiter (Zeus). I have a quick look at the outside, not wanting to trek up to the top of that hill to the entrance.
Plus, some local guys are yelling “Hey Barbie” at me and I don’t feel like dealing with them. Haha. Just a bit further past the temple is the South Theatre, so I duck inside to have a look.
It’s bigger than the other one, and there are some guys playing bagpipes (my least favorite instrument). This theatre seats 350, and has been restored to host festivals and performances today.
Now it’s time to meet with the group and go for lunch. A disadvantage of traveling in a large tour group is the limited lunch options. Instead of going somewhere where there are a few options to choose from, they take us to a large place called Green Valley that caters to tour groups. I’m stuck having a set lunch, but it turns out to be pretty delicious. They make fresh pita breads in their ovens, and it’s served with chicken skewers, rice, tzatziki, hummus and tabbouleh.
Unfortunately, Ian is a vegetarian so this isn’t a great option for him so he leaves me alone with the rest of the group to go find somewhere else to eat. I try to make conversation with the other group members but I get very short responses and no one seems interested in talking to anyone else but who they came with. This is going to be a fun week! Again, I say thank god for Ian! And after lunch we head into downtown Amman for more exploration. You can read more about this in my Amman Day 1 & 2 blog!