Umm Qais was once the thriving Roman city of Gadara. Today the area is home to magnificent ruins which draw thousands of visitors each year. Due to its hilltop location, Umm Qais is a perfect destination for absorbing the picturesque views of the Jordan Valley. There are many Roman sites at Umm Qais including two ancient theatres. After exploring this fascinating destination be sure to visit the restaurant for a bite to eat, or, venture further afield to the nearby hot springs.
Location of Umm Qais
Umm Qais is nestled in the hills above the Jordan Valley. The site is located 68 miles away from the capital city of Amman, 378 meters above sea level. The closest city to Umm Qais is Irbid which is a 45-minute car journey.
Umm Qais’s History
Umm Qais is mentioned in the Bible as the location where Jesus performed the miracle of the Gadarene Swine. The site was home to the ancient city of Gadara which was well located on the trade route between Syria and Palestine. It became a popular holiday resort for Romans and was notable for attracting scholars, writers and artists. It was ruled by the Romans as part of the Decapolis League in around 63BC and the city was a reward for King Herod the Great in 31BC.
Things to See at Umm Qais
This beautiful structure is located along the main Roman Street which takes visitors through an Ottoman village. The theatre resembles a Colosseum and has the capacity to seat three thousand spectators.
These tombs are located towards the western edge of Umm Qais and are identifiable by the basalt doorway.
The Basilica Terrace
This terrace is a vast space which contains a small Byzantine church. The church is believed to have been constructed during the 6th Century and was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in the 8th Century. Today visitors can explore the ruins of the church, pillars, and the domed rooms which were once a row of Byzantine shops.
The Ottoman Village is a fascinating insight into life during the Ottoman era. In fact, this village was lived in right up until the 1980’s when the citizens were evicted. The village is comprised of two houses, a mosque, and a girls’ school. The village is constructed of winding lanes and alleyways which make for a pleasant stroll.
Umm Qais Restaurant
After exploring the ruins of Umm Qais settle down at the site’s fabulous restaurant on top of the hill. The restaurant is set within a former Ottoman House and boasts dramatic views across the Sea of Galilee and the mountains of Lebanon. The restaurant is open from 10 am until 7 pm from October to May, and 10 am until 10 pm between June and September. The average price for a main meal is 7JD (10 USD).
Visiting Umm Qais
Umm Qais is arguably one of Jordan’s most spectacular sites. Steeped in history, this site provides an insight into the Roman Empire in Jordan and the Ottoman era. There are many organized tours from the cities of Amman and Irbid which can be booked through hotels and local tourist offices.