Jordan’s second-largest city is something of a glorified university town. Home to Yarmouk University, which is regarded as one of the most elite centres of learning in the Middle East, Irbid is in many ways more lively and progressive than staid Amman. The campus, which is located just south of the city centre, is home to shady pedestrian streets lined with outdoor restaurants and cafes. Since the start of the crisis in Syria, Irbid has taken in large numbers of refugees, who live in the city itself or in the extensive camp on the outskirts.
Historians and archaeologists have identified Irbid as the Decapolis city of Arbela. The area likely predates the Romans, with significant grave sites suggesting settlement since the Bronze Age. Aside from the tell lying at the centre of town, however, there is little evidence today of such antiquity.