Monday July 9, 2012
Once more on our bus and prepared with many bottles of water, we headed out of Amman and to the north. Our single site for the day (which we had passed through on Day 2) was the city of Jerash. Known as Gerasa, this too was once one of the Roman cities that made up the Decapolis. Well preserved now and surrounded by the modern city, Roman Jerash had as many as 15,000-20,000 people here in at the height of the Roman era.
Surrounded by the hills of Gilead, this is fertile territory. Though not on any of the trade routes at the time, it was instead good for agriculture. It was a cosmopolitan settlement.
Even now it is possible to walk the area from the entrance through triumphal arches and by the area of the market, the Agora, past the hippodrome and into the walled city itself, with a theatre, baths, housing, and temples.
Jerash peaked in the 3rd century C.E. After its decline, Christianity was the main religion. In 747 C.E. and earthquake devastated the area. After the earthquake, it was basically deserted until the Circassians of Russia settled here in 1878.
The site is immense in its scope, and in very good shape.
We saw a chariot race and a show with actors portraying Roman soldiers. While music from the movie Gladiator played over loudspeakers, a narrator explained to us what the Roman soldier wore and how the soldiers lived and fought. It was a little touristy (ok, a lot touristy) but fun. And it was in the real hippodrome, not a reproduction. Can’t beat that!
We wandered the site again after the races – or, as in my case, shopped in the various markets on the way back to the bus. Surviving the onslaught of sales pitches is another kind of battle, albeit a modern one. I escaped after spending a number of Jordanian dinars and taking as my battle booty some books (what do you expect for a retired academic?), some small paintings, a shawl, a red and white scarf and a white scarf.
Back on the bus and headed to our hotel in Amman, we talked and drank water, anticipating once more the comfort of our hotel rooms and showers.
By the time I was clean and relaxing with a drink in the downstairs dining area, my calves were telling me I’d been doing not only a lot of walking, but some uphill hiking as well (not much, but I’m not used to uphill in Louisiana).
By now it was clear: I needed to read a lot more about the Nabateans, who have clearly been significant in Jordan’s past. More on them later!