Site of the famous miracle of the Gadarene swine, Gadara was renowned in its time as a cultural centre. It was the home of several classical poets and philosophers, including Theodorus, founder of a rhetorical school in Rome, and was once called “a new Athens” by a poet. Perched on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, Gadara is known today as Umm Qays, and boasts an impressive colonnaded street, a vaulted terrace, and the ruins of two theatres. You can take in the sights and then dine on the terrace of a fine restaurant with a breathtaking view.
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 attractive in spring when an explosion of wildflowers adorns the fallen masonry.
Umm Qais has another claim to fame as the site where, according to the Bible, Jesus performed one of his greatest miracles: casting demons from two men into a herd of pigs. Since the first millennium, Gadara has resultantly been a Christian place of pilgrimage, though an alternative Israeli site on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee also claims to mark the spot.
The site boasts spectacular views of three countries (Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian Territories), encompassing the Golan Heights, Mt Hermon and the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias). Over the past decade or more, Umm Qais has become a rallying point for homesick Palestinians (many of whom are now Jordanian nationals), yearning for a glimpse of their former homeland. The Resthouse, a popular restaurant located amid the ruins, is a particular favourite with families congregating to swap stories of the Holy Land.