Jordan is much more than Petra, even if the former capital of the Nabataeans takes all the spotlight of the Arab country.
From Amman, gateway to Jordan, you can make different one-day trips to several locations with great interest that are less than one hour away from the capital. Today we will talk about two of them: Jerash and Madaba.
The ancient Roman city of Jerash
Jerash is one of the best visits of Jordan, along with Petra and the desert of Wadi Rum. It is one of the best vestiges of the Roman civilization that has arrived to our days, after its passing through the Middle West.
To get to Jerash you can take a bus in the bus station of Tabarbour, in the north of the capital. It costs 1 Jordanian dinar (JD), about 1.14 euros, but they usually try to charge a little bit more to tourists. For better convenience, you can hire a taxi to go and come back with a couple of hours of waiting for about 40 JD (about 46 euros). Jordan is not an expensive country and you can afford those small luxuries.
The Archaeological Site of Jerash, including the museum, has an entrance fee of 10 JD (about 11 euros). I assure you that it is worth the visit.
It was one of the most important cities of the Middle West during the Roman Age and it was part of the Decapolis, a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in the southeastern Mediterranean Levant. Those ten cities became a sort of commercial league, but each of them was autonomous.
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Even though the area had already been inhabited for more than three millennium, it was during the Roman Age when Jerash flourished. Almost every monument that you will visit in this city is related to that historic moment, such as the beautiful arch of triumph. The Hadrian’s Arch was named after the famous emperor, who visited the city at the beginning of the second century AD.
However, the most emblematic place of Jerash is the excellent Oval Forum. It is a really unusual place and it began the Cardo Maximus, an awesome colonnaded street. This plaza was built in the first century AD and it stands out for its original elliptical disposition, as well as for its width. The Oval Forum measures 80 per 90 metres. Around it, 160 Ionic columns highlight its splendour.
After this plaza there is the Cardo Maximum, about 600 metres long. It was the most important street in the city. The most important buildings in ancient Jerash were arranged on both sides of this street.
One of the most beautiful buildings was the Nymphaeum, a public fountain adorned with statues of lion heads and dedicated to the nymphs. Not less impressive was the Temple of Artemis, dedicated to the patron goddess of the city.
Lastly, I would like to mention the wonderful Theatre, that has a capacity of 3000 people and that has reached our days in an excellent state of preservation. Thanks to that, two thousand years later it is still used for concerts and stage and musical productions.
Madaba and the map of Palestine
Madaba is even closer to Amman than Jerash. It’s just 25 kilometres away. To get to Madaba you can take a minibus from the east station of Amman (500 fils, 0.5 euros) or a shared taxi (you shouldn’t be charged more than 2 JD, about 2 euros).
The most important visit you have to make in Madaba is the St. George Church. There you can find one of the most interesting Byzantine mosaics to have reached our days. It is an ancient map of the Holy Land that was made on the 6th century and it occupies the floor of this venerable church. This mosaic was hidden under the floor until the restoration of the church in the 19th century. Then the more than 2 and a half million tesserae than make this wonderful treasure came to light.
The map of Palestine of St. George Church occupies all the floor of the temple, but only a part of could have been recovered. Out of the 94 square metres of the original mosaic, only a quarter of it has reached our days. However, it is enough to see that it locates perfectly places such as Jerusalem or Jericho. The Holy City, for instance, appears totally surrounded by a wall. We can also identify clearly in it the Decumanum Maximum, which is a reference to the principal street during the period of Roman domination.
The mosaics are still now, one thousand five hundred years later, one of the economic powers of Madaba. Because due to the tourism that comes to visit the famous mosaic, many mosaic workshops have appeared. Anyone can take one home.
You can visit the St. George Church of Madaba from Monday to Thursday, from 7 am to 6 pm. Fridays and Sundays it opens from 10 am to 6 pm. The entrance fee is 1 dinar (about 1.14 euros).
Where can I change money for my trip?
As we have already told you, you will need Jordanian dinars to visit all these places. Global Exchange has foreign exchange branches at the principal airports of more than 20 countries, and Jordan is one of them. Check the branches in your country and travel without any worries, always without the money ready to pay anything you may need.
And if you are already in the country, you can change your money at any of the Global Exchange branches in Jordan and benefit from a 15% discount by presenting this coupon: