DAY TRIP to ASHABUL KAHF, AJLOUN, and JARASH: This trip was not in our itinerary at first, but our guide/driver suggested that if we have a day to spare we should definitely go and visit these places. Thank God we took his advice and decided to take this trip. I don’t know which one would be my favorite site since each of these sites has different significance and mind-boggling history attached to them. This was arranged by our hotel Arab Tower Hotel in Amman. We paid 54 JD to our driver/guide which didn’t include entry fee to any sites.
EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch in a very nice restaurant (Jordanian House) right outside the ancient Roman city in Jarash. It’s a traditional Jordanian restaurant where you can eat all you want for 10 JD per person (kids eat free). Drinks aren’t included and it was weird that even the customers have to pay to use their restroom.
For shopping, the best place is in Jarash right before the ticket office to enter the Roman city. There are tons of small shops selling many local souvenirs, like paintings, colorful scene of desert in bottles made with sands, home decors, kuffiyeh (checkered scarves), religious gift items, and much more. We bought an oil painting for 35 JD and my husband bought 2 kuffiyehs for 5 JD each.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We started our journey from Amman about 10 am, were done with all the places, and reached our hotel at 6:30pm in the evening. It was a pleasant weather during day but a bit chilly in the late afternoon.
1) ASHABUL KAHF (CAVE of 7 SLEEPERS): This is a historic cave for the Muslims which was mentioned in some verses of the Qur’an (Sura Al-Kahf). The story goes that some 7 young boys were not happy with their king, so they left their city and started to walk in the desert. After a while when they were tired, they stopped and decided to take some rest in a cave. When they woke up, not realizing that they were sleeping for hundreds of years, they went to the market to buy some food and saw their old coins were not usable.
There were 3 other of such caves were found around different places in Middle-East. But this was proven to be more authentic according to all the evidences given in another Surah of the Qur’an (Surah Yasin). You can still see the place where those 7 boys and their dog slept as well as their burial site inside the cave. There are some ruins of the old mosque that was built by the Umayyad dynasty right on top of this Quranic site. After it was destroyed, a new mosque was built beside the old one.
The cave is about 25 minutes’ drive from city center of Amman. There is no fee to enter but the visitors have to get someone from the gate to come and open the door of the cave.
2) AJLOUN CASTLE: This was our second stop after visiting the cave. City of Ajloun is located about 120 km north of Amman and took us about hour and half to reach. Visitors mainly come to this beautiful town situated on several hills to see an old castle built by the mighty Salahdin’s General in 1184. This castle aided in the defeat of the Crusaders 8 centuries ago. The castle is located on a high-top mountain and can be seen from very far distance. This sandstone castle is overlooking the valley and the city of Ajloun. There is a small museum displaying some potteries from Byzantine period and some ancient mosaic works, may be from 5th or 6th century. Inside the castle is like a small maze with many stairs and small rooms. Go all the way to the top of the terrace for an astonishing view of Ajloun settlements. The castle looked very well-preserved but I wish it was well-marked with more information boards.
Entrance to the castle is 1 JD for adults and free for the kids. Summer hours are 8 – 6 pm and for winter, is 8 – 4 pm. Roaming around the castle with a stroller is not a good idea since there are many stairs to climb but no ramps. It didn’t take us more than 30 minutes inside the castle. There are some pricey souvenir shops outside the castle selling local goods and gift items.
A Muslim Prophet Khidr’s (AS) shrine, from Moses’ time period, is also located in Ajloun. No one knows the exact location of his burial place, just a sign points towards the mountain nearby where he was buried.
Another important place which may interest to some people is that Jesus, his mother, and his disciples passed through and rested in a cave very close to Ajloun city. Now Church of Our Lady of the Mountain stands there to commemorate their journey.
3) ANCIENT ROMAN CITY in JARASH: Our third and final stop of this trip was Jarash and its ancient Roman city. Jarash is located about 35 km south of Ajloun. The history of this city dates back more than 6500 years. This Roman settlement is acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved one in the world.
Tour of the city starts with the grand Hadrian’s Arch, which was built in 127 AD when Emperor Hadrian from Roma came to visit Jarash. We walked a little more and came across Hippodrome where horse chariot race once used to take place in the Roman times (the locals still enjoy horse race here few times a month). This is a stadium-like sitting arrangements with a big field in the front to entertain the crowd with the race. The ruins of old stable are still visible. Leaving behind some more ruins we saw the Oval Plaza which looked like a big oval-shaped square fenced with tall columns. Temple of Zeus and South Theater can be seen on your left hand side on a small hill. South Theater was an amphitheater where few locals were entertaining the tourists by playing some bag-pipes. Remaining of Temple of Zeus include few typical Roman-style columns and some walls made with sandstone. I did climb up to the temple and the picture-perfect view from up there was something no one should miss. Then started walking again along a green meadow and saw some shepherds feeding their goats and lambs. The soaring Temple of Aramatis can be seen from afar. This is another very nice and well-preserved temple of the city. After passing the temple, comes the North Theater. Similarly structured like South Theater, this amphitheater looked more for like wealthy people. Take few steps further and you can see another entrance, North Gate, and couple other small arches on the sides to enter the city. One of the major highlights of this city is the Colonnade Street which was once the main road of the city. This majestic walkway guarded by many pillars on both sides runs from the North Gate to all the way to the South Gate.
Jarash is a city that should be included in everyone’s plan when visiting Jordan. Kudos to Jordanian authority for keeping this place so clean and organized. Unlike many other places we’ve visited in the Middle-East or even in the Western world, this Roman city definitely deserves appreciation for its talented past history and charming present day look. The view of the whole town from these ruins are heavenly. I am sure it never fails to impress its guests with its architectural and natural beauty. Many events still take place in Jarash every year, including Jarash Festival, chariot race, gladiator fights, and etc.
Entrance is 8 JD per person and free for the kids. Visitors can stay here until 5 pm. It takes about 2 hours or little more to walk around leisurely among the ruins and go to all the main points of this historic town.