I did a day trip to Jerash, a wonderfully preserved Roman city, popularly known as the “Pompeii of the East” , and Ajloun, a well preserved “Anti-Crusader” Islamic castle, situated among olive and pine groves and hills. Both of these are north of Amman.
Plan: Leave for Ajloun by public bus from Tabarbour bus stand(North bus stand) , arrive in Ajloun, take a taxi to the castle and back, get a bus to Jerash, explore the site for several hours, come back to Amman by shared taxi.
Woke up the next morning, the plan was to go to Jerash and Ajloun. I had initially planned to go to Umm Qais and Jerash, but that would have been a very long and I would have had to wake up really early. So I headed towards Amman Pasha Hotel, the owner had told me there are people whom I can I can share a taxi for the trip. Unfortunately there was no one, so I had to do it on my own.
I took a shared taxi(0.5 Dinar) to the Tabarbour station and then a bus to Ajloun(1.1 Dinar). The highway pretty interesting, pine forests and fields and rolling hills all along the way. Reached the town of Ajloun, took a taxi( 3 Dinars return) to the castle. The castle looks brilliant as you approach it, it’s like a crown on the top a biggish green hill. When you get there, it looks really small, but as you explore you realize it’s not really that small. The castle was an islamic one built to defend against crusaders. The castle’s corridors and stairs and rooms were very well preserved/restored. The color of the stones too was awesome, it would glow when sunlight would fall on it. The top of the castle had brilliant views of the countryside. The morning was a very pleasant one, blue skies, cool breeze, cirrus clouds, from the top you could see typical Mediterranean countryside, hills with pine forests and olive groves everywhere..and just then a big tour group arrived, actually they were students at an Arabic school in Amman, met a few interesting people there, so that was fun, but I was glad I got to see the entire castle without anyone being there.
Got a bus back to Jerash, had a so-so buffet lunch(6 JD,vegetarian,just salads and bread) and entered the site. I knew I was back in a tourist area after seeing the shops selling souvenirs. The Hadrian’s Gate was gorgeous. Very quickly I realized Jerash was huge!! Very different and much bigger than the Graeco-Roman sites I had seen in Turkey, like Ephesus or Afrodisias. The theatre was brilliant. I was so glad I had rented a wide angle lens for the trip. The Oval Plaza, it’s view from the temple and the top of the theatre, the Colonnaded Street, the Baths, the Temples of Zeus and Artemis, all were fabulous. Firstly I loved the color of the stone, a very nice shade of brown, then the entire landscape, the whole place had become green and yellow(wildflowers) from the spring rains, and the long, colonnaded streets were absolutely first class. I met this local who offered to show me around, I tested his knowledge of the site, and it seems the Greeks were there 20,000 years back, and Romans 15,000 years back and they “did party at the Oval plaza” , gave him a tiny “tip” and moved on.
I stayed there for quite some time, almost until the site was about to close, 6 PM, or so, the site was simply amazing, I just couldn’t leave. But then I had to leave, only to realize there were no buses going back to Amman. I now had to take a service taxi, which I wasn’t terribly reliable, since they would wait for the taxi to fill up, and it was almost dark and they did not drop me at the bus station, as promised. And I didn;t want to spend 10-12 JD on a private taxi(but one should,dont go with these service taxis). So I had to get another taxi to come back to the downtown, whereas if I had been dropped at the bus station, I could have taken shared taxi back to the Downtown.
Dinner was again at Hasem Restaurant, ordered a gorgeous Fatteh, falafel and bread. And sweets at Al-Quds, which were heavenly.