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Introducing Jerash

The ruins at Jerash (6351272; adult/student & child under 15 JD5/2.500; 8am-4pm Oct-Apr, to 7pm May-Sep) are one of Jordan's major attractions and still have the power to evoke the ghosts of Rome. It's one of the best examples in the Middle East of a Roman provincial city, and is remarkably well preserved.

In its heyday, Jerash (known in Roman times as Gerasa) had a population of 15, 000 to 20, 000 inhabitants and, although it wasn't on any major trade route, its citizens prospered from the good agricultural land that surrounded it. The ancient walled city that survives today was the administrative, commercial, civic and religious centre of Jerash. The bulk of the inhabitants lived on the eastern side of Wadi Jerash (now the modern town of Jerash) and the two centres were linked by causeways and processional paths.

As you wander Jerash try to imagine life 2000 years ago: the centre bustling with shops and merchants, lined with cooling water fountains and dramatic painted façades. Picture today's empty niches filled with painted statues; buildings still clad in marble façades and decorated with carved peacocks and shell motifs; and churches topped with Tuscan-style terracotta tiled roofs. For a visual reconstruction of Jerash's finest buildings, check out the drawings at the visitor centre.