Forum in Jerash, Jordan.

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Top choice in Jerash

Whatever the light and whatever the weather, the forum, with its organ-pipe columns arranged around an unusual oval-shaped plaza, is always breathtaking. It's one of Jerash's undisputed highlights. This immense space (90m long and 80m at its widest point) lies in the heart of the city, linking the main thoroughfare (the cardo maximus) with the Temple of Zeus. It served as a marketplace and the main locus of the city’s social and political life.

Today it still draws crowds, with Jordanian families picnicking and site guards napping among the columns. And what superb columns they are! Constructed in the middle of the 1st century AD, the forum is surrounded by 56 unfluted Ionic columns, each made from four solid cuts of stone that appear double in number because of their shadow. The plaza itself is just as spectacular, paved with extremely high-quality limestone slabs. The slabs, which increase in size as they radiate from the middle, create a sense of vortex that draws your eye to the centre point. To appreciate this effect fully you need an aerial view, which can be gained from climbing the steps to the Temple of Zeus.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Jerash attractions

1. Vaulted Gallery

0.03 MILES

The vaulted passageway under the courtyard of the Temple of Zeus is a good starting point in Jerash's ancient city. When your eyes become accustomed to…

2. Temple of Zeus

0.03 MILES

Built in AD 162 over the remains of an earlier Roman temple, the Temple of Zeus was once approached by a magnificent stairway leading from the temenos …

3. Lookout

0.05 MILES

Near the South Theatre, this viewpoint offers a panorama of the forum and beyond – one of the first opportunities to truly take in the size of Jerash.

4. Museum

0.05 MILES

Before you finish exploring ancient Jerash, visit this compact museum and visitor centre just above the forum. It houses a small but worthwhile selection…

5. Upper Temple of Zeus

0.07 MILES

Though most of it has collapsed, this temple has imposing 15m-high columns that are some of Jerash's most dramatic. The thick walls of the sanctum still…

6. South Gate

0.07 MILES

Two hundred metres north of the hippodrome is the imposing South Gate, which was likely constructed in AD 130 and originally served as one of four…

7. Agora

0.09 MILES

On the western side of the cardo maximus is the agora, where people gathered for public meetings around the central fountain.

8. South Theatre

0.11 MILES

As you enter the South Theatre through a wooden door between the arches, there’s little to suggest the treasure encased by the plain exterior. But then…