Located about 2.5 hours from Jordan’s capital of Amman, the Umm Qais Museum is home to a mix of history and natural beauty that shouldn’t be missed. The site’s most popular draw would be the ruins of Gadara, an ancient Greco-Roman city occupied since the seventh century BC and originally ruled by the Ptolemaic Kingdom. According to the Bible, it was in this very place that Jesus removed demons from within two possessed men and put the evil spirits into a herd of pigs, who then sprinted into Lake Tiberias.
Gadara was a flourishing city, largely due to its strategic location atop fertile, rain-soaked land and its position as an intellectual hub for writers, artists, philosophers and academics. Today visitors can stroll the colonnaded streets; admire the dramatic black-and-white basalt columns of the Basilica Terrace; see the remains of two Roman theaters; view an abandoned Ottoman village; photograph ancient tombs; and try to imagine the shops, baths, hippodrome and Byzantine church that made up this once-bustling area in ancient times. The site’s two-story museum, filled with artifacts and mosaics procured from the ruins, provides insight into the area’s history.
While there’s much history to be explored at Umm Qais, people also visit for the site’s hilltop views of the Jordan Valley, Israel, Syria, Golan Heights, Lake Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. Enjoy Umm Qais’ general slow-paced countryside setting.
From Amman, Umm Qais can be reached by car; take Al Hashimi to 45M. Visitors can also book a tour or hire a driver to get to the museum. Entrance is free for residents and costs about $4 USD for tourists. There is also an on-site restaurant. If you’re interested in seeing other ruins, it’s also possible to explore Umm Qais and the ancient cities of Jerash (the Gerasa of Antiquity) and Ajloun in one day, but be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and extra water, as Umm Qais and the other sites in the area provide little shade.