About Umm Qais
Umm Qais or Qays is a town in northern Jordan principally known for its proximity to the ruins of an ancient Decapolis city, the Greco-Roman settlement of Gadara.
History of Umm Qais
Probably established by the Greeks in the 4th century BC, Gadara was taken by the Seleucids and, in 63BC, by the Romans led by Pompey. It would later fall under the remit of King Herod.
In ancient times, Gadara was strategically situated, laced by a number of key trading routes connecting Syria and Palestie. It was blessed with fertile soil and abundant rainwater. This town also flourished intellectually in the reign of Augustus and became distinguished for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, university’s scholars, attracting writers, artists, philosophers and poets
For Christians, Gadara is also said to be the site where Jesus performed the Gadarene swine miracle.
Umm Qais today
Today, Umm Qais still has remnants of Gadara including a theater, churches, shops, a nymphaeum, baths, and paved roads. One interesting part of the sites in Umm Qais is that many of the structures, such as the theater, were made out of black basalt. There are also Byzantine-era elements built atop the original Roman ruins.
With the rolling hills of Jordan, Syria, and Israel and Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) enclosing the area, Umm Qais is also very picturesque.
Getting to Umm Qais
Umm Qais is situated 110 kilometres (68 miles) north of Amman on a broad promontory 378 meters above sea level with a magnificent view over the Yarmouk River, the Golan Heights, and Lake Tiberias.
The most efficient way to visit Umm Qais is by renting a car or grabbing a taxi for the full day and splitting your time between Umm Qais and Jerash, another expansive set of ruins north of Amman. This one-day Jordan road trip allows you to fully control your time and spend it where you want to.
There are, nevertheless, public transportation options from Amman to Umm Qais. There is a bus which runs from Amman to Irbid. You can either catch a local mini-bus from Amman’s north bus station (you can get there by taking a taxi) or you can take a JETT bus.
Once in Irbid, you will need to make your way to Irbid’s north bus station if you are not dropped off there (most public buses from Amman will have you get off at the south bus station). From here, you can take another bus from Irbid’s north bus station to Umm Qais.
Jordan is a young state on an ancient piece of land which bears the marks of many different cultures, religions, and political systems through its wealth of fascinating sites. Here's our selection of 10 sites which you shouldn't miss when visiting.