Amman & Northern Jordan
Amman is the capital of Jordan and is known as the ‘White City’. Amman is the perfect place to explore northern Jordan including the sites of Jerash, Umm Qais and the Desert Castles to the east of the city.
Much of the old city, known as Philadelphia, has been built over, but the ancient Citadel of Amman survives. The Roman remains are impressive, especially the superb Roman theatre dating from the reign of Marcus Aurelius. The best way to experience Amman is on a walking tour, seeing the boutique shops, cafes and local life. You’ll smell a wafting smell of kebabs cooking, and the smell of freshly brewed arabica coffee as you walk. The Gold Souk is especially memorable.
Jerash is one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the Middle East, and is about 50 minutes north of Amman. Known as Gerasa, the city came to prominence in the Hellenistic period, and especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD when it became part of the Decapolis confederation. Jerash controlled the trade from east to west and became fabulously wealthy. Emperor Hadrian visited in 129AD and a monumental arch was constructed which still survives. The oval colonnade still survives, and leads onto what were bustling shopping streets, still showing latin inscriptions indicating what these shops sold. There are two well-preserved theatres, the Hippadrome, and Nymphaeum. The highlight is the wonderful Temple of Artemis.
To the east of Amman you find three interesting Desert Castles – Qasr Azraq, Qasr Kharana and Qasr Amra. You can see all three on a long day-trip from Amman.
Other highlights in northern Jordan include Umm Qeis (ancient Gedara) which overlooks Lake Tuberias and the Golan Heights. There are some superb Roman ruins to be explored. Pella is another Roman city in the region. Ajloun has a wonderful castle that was built by Saladin’s cousin, Izz ad-Din Usama in the 12th Century – a rare example of Islamic castle design. Lesser known places of interest include Umm al-Jimal, one of the ancient Hauran towns and built from black basalt, and Iraq al-Amir, containing a two-story Hellenistic palace, Qasr al-Abd.