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Umm Qais 360° virtual tour
Present Umm Qais is the site of ancient Gadara, a Hellenistic-Roman ruined city in Northern Jordan that used to belong to the Decapolis, a group of ten cities. Although Gadara cannot be compared to Jerash, it's worth to be visited as well. Highlights of the site include Roman ruins and a mostly intact but abandoned 18th-19th century Ottoman village built on the top of them.
History of Gadara can be traced back to the 2nd century BC when it was first captured from the Ptolemies by the Seleucids in 198 BC, and then the Jews under Hyrcanus took it from them in 100 BC. Finally the Romans occupied it in 63 BC and gave the city to Herod the Great, the famous Roman client king of Judea. Just after his death in about 4 BC, Gadara again became an independent city in the Roman province of Syria. Gadara increased rapidly during the Roman age and it continued to be a great and important city during Byzantine times, and was long the seat of a bishop. After the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, the Arabic conquest brought the decline of the city which was eventually devastated by an earthquake in 747 AD. Later a small Ottoman village was established on the top of the ancient ruins. Excavations started only in 1982 when residents of the village were finally relocated.
Gadara is famous for possibly being the site of a miracle. According to the Bible, Jesus cast demons out of two men living in tombs into a herd of pigs that ran violently down the steep place into the Sea of Galilee. There is a controversy about the exact location of the miracle and some other cities on the eastern shore of the lake also claim the miracle.
2. What to see
Gadara is a large ruined city with two major Roman roads and lots of monuments around them. However, the well-restored ones are close to the entrance. The first one is the west theatre that once seated 3000 people. It is followed by a row of shops topped by a basilica complex that contains a colonnaded courtyard and a rare octagonal space.
After reaching the Decumanus Maximus you can continue your way either west or east. If not being pressed for time, turn west and follow the colonnaded street to visit overgrown ruins of baths, temples and the ancient Forum. The best monument to be seen is an underground Roman mausoleum and the ruins of a basilica built above it. You can pass two Roman gates to reach the borders of the ancient town.
Walking back to the shop-basilica complex, you can continue your visit along the Decumanus to the east. It is worth having a look at the ruins of a Nymphaeum (although much better ones are to be seen in Jerash and Amman) and to walk to the unexcavated North theatre. Finally climb the hill to the former Ottoman governor's house that now contains a small archaeological museum.
3. When to see
If you want to visit Gadara thoroughly, expect about 2-3 hours to be spent in the ancient city. The site is open daily 8am-5pm. If having limited time, focus on the West theatre, the shop-basilica complex and the museum.