Some friends recently invited Kail and me on a day trip to visit Umm Qais, Roman ruins in northwest Jordan. We packed a picnic lunch, piled into their car and made the 110-kilometer journey (about two and a half hours) from Amman.When we arrived, it seemed as though we were a world away. What is Umm Qais? I’ll cite my Lonely Planet guidebook on Jordan:
In the northwest corner of Jordan, in the hills above the Jordan valley, are the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gadara (now called Umm Qais). Although the site is far less complete than Jerash, it is nonetheless striking due to the juxtaposition of Roman ruins with an abandoned Ottoman-era village. Umm Qais is especially visit-worthy in the spring when an explosion of wildflowers adorns the fallen masonry. … The site boasts spectacular views of three countries (Jordan, Syria and Israel and the Palestinian Territories), encompassing the Golan Heights, Mt. Hermon and the Sea of Galilee.
Spectacular views, indeed.We arrived to Umm Qais in the early afternoon and took a bit of time enjoying the breathtaking views and exploring some of the ruins. With the exception of a couple rainy, cold days recently (and by “cold” I mean in the 40s/50s), we have had some amazing weather in Jordan lately: sunny, cloudless and high temperatures in the low 70s.Amphitheatre.It’s not quite spring yet, but true to Lonely Planet’s description, countless wildflowers decorated the ruins and landscape with spots of yellow, orange, pink, purple, white and red. It was beautiful, and the perfect day for a picnic.Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights in the background.Roman Road.Since we arrived on the earlier side (for Jordanian standards) the site wasn’t that crowded yet, but we decided to set off from the main ruins to find a good picnic spot. We walked the length of the Roman Road and found ourselves amid olive trees, cows, goats and sheep.Olive grove.Were we as tourists supposed to be traipsing about what was probably private land? Maybe, maybe not. We left things as we found them and with the exception of the livestock and a couple shepherds, no one saw us or cared we were there.We did climb through this hole in a fence. I mean, the fence was there mostly to keep the animals from straying too far down the hillside. It was a human-sized gap, and clearly had been used as a point of passage.Finally we found the perfect picnic spot: a clump of boulders partially shaded by an olive tree on a small plateau, where we could comfortably spread out our blankets and lunch (without tumbling down the hill). The menfolk kindly walked back to the car to pick up all our provisions and carry them back to our spot.It was a great way to spend a Saturday, and both Kail and I were glad to get out and see some new (to us) areas of Jordan, which we hadn’t really done since our trip to Wadi Rum and Petra in December. Have you been on any new hikes or day trips lately?