Um Quais and Gerasa – The North of Jordan

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Round two hours by car from Amman you can reach Um Quais also called Umm Qays or Gadara.

Driving in Jordan is adventurous inbetween. The streets have between three to five lanes depending on the needs and the courage of the drivers. Honking is very important and done quite often. Interestingly there are only a handful of traffic lights in Amman. Traffic goes and goes nearly day and night. We only have spotted one man on a bicycle so far and pedestrians are seldom. Because of the missing traffic lights it is impossible to cross a street. When walking you have to take long extra ways to reach a tunnel. At the roundabouts there is often a traffic jam and you face chaotic situations. But somehow everything works out. And if not there is still a policeman directing the traffic.

Um Quais is right in the North of Jordan directly at the border to Israel and Syria. That is exactly the area for which a travel warning exists. On our way we were stopped several times by police and controlled but it was always in a friendly mood and we did not even have to show our passports. At the border area we have seen less sentinel than in Amman.

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The old town with ruines of Roman theaters is deserted at the moment. Apart from us there were only a few tourists. The Western Theater is very impressive and the view to the sea of Galilee. The site is quite large and there are hints that there was a time with more visitors. Only one restaurant is open and there is a museum but otherwise the shops and facilities are closed. Staff and other tourists greeted us again with ” Welcome to Jordan”. The entrance fee is three JD per person. Guides offer their services in several different languages. At the main entrance there are some small market stands for hats and souvenirs and there are some very creative bohemians. Beware: “Free photo” means that there is another service sold anyway and the price for it will be encashed.

From the nothern part it took us another hour by car to Gerasa or Jarash. We had lunch at the restaurant Artemis  which is well prepared for tourists. They are coming by busloads and the waiters speak scores of different languages. Food was more expensive here. The traditional food buffet was 12.000 JD.

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The entrance fee for the three kilometers round tour is eight JD. Unfortunately the sight is treated somewhat respectless. First the tourist has to pass through a kind of bazaar with much too expansive stuff and the ground is also full of garbage. Market stands which are not used any more disturbed the general view and part of the ruines are used to fix tents. In the Southern Theater musicians play scottish songs on a backpipe and snare drum for a tip and the loo attendant encashes her share. I would wish for more tact on the part of the tourism board.  Staff and workers are enough at hand.

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However I would have liked to spend more time at that area because the town is well preserved and conveys an imposing impression.

Another fourty minutes by car and you are back in Amman. A car including driver and gas can be rented starting from a 100 JD per day.

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In the evening we were at the Bazar ‘No Money’. Here you will find traditional Jordan handicrafts galore and with an opulence which reminds you of 1001 nights. Subtle handwork can be bought for reasonable prices.

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Finally we went to a restaurant just two houses away of which we cannot tell the name because it was all in Arabic. We only understood that it is open 24/7. The food was delicious. Bread was brought to the table every other minute fresh from the oven. We paid eight JD for us two.

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