Umm Qais is located in North West Jordan, 110 kilometers from Amman. It lies opposite the Golan Heights and overlooks the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley, 380 meters above sea level. Umm Qais was called Gadara and was part of the Roman Empire. It made up one of the Roman Decapolis, meaning it was an important Roman city (one of 10 main cities during the Roman Times). Gadara was mentioned in the Bible as a place where one of Jesus’ miracles occurred.
More Facts about Umm Qais, Jordan
Umm Qais not only had an excellent vantage point but it was an important stop on the trade route between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea.
Umm Qais was built by Alexander the Great and then controlled by the Seleucids around 198 B.C. It later became the center of Greek culture in the region. Its grandeur did not last, it was destroyed by Alexander Jannaeus early in the first century B.C.
LIke with many sites in history, it was rebuilt again in 63 B.C. by Roman General Pompey. He made Gadara the strongest of all Decapolis.
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Gadara participated in Nicaea Council of 325 A.D. and 5 churches were built during that period on top of the Roman underground mausoleum to show the victory of Christianity over Roman paganism. Remains of these churches can still be seen in Umm Qais today.
The site of Umm Qais is an entire city. It can be explored starting from the colonnaded street, which run North-South (The Cardio), then the Roman Amphitheater, then at the end you will see the Nymphaeum (the Fountain) where the East-West street starts (The Decumanus).
The site includes church ruins, remnants of shops as well as residential areas. The site still has small-scale excavations and cataloging going on today.
How long to Spend at Umm Qais
Expect to spend about 1 hour in Umm Qais. If you like to take your time and take photos plan for 2 hours.
Gadara in the Bible
Below you will find the passage where Umm Qais, which was then known as Gadara, was mentioned in the Bible.
Mark 5: 1-20 And they came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. And constantly night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones. And seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said^ to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many. And he began to entreat Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there was a big herd of swine feeding there on the mountain. And the demons entreated Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” And He gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea. And their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion” and they became frightened. And those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to entreat Him to depart from their region. And as He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was entreating Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone marveled.
How to Get to Umm Qais
It takes about 2 hours to drive to Umm Qais. It is located in the very North-Western corner of the country, very close to both the Syrian and Israeli border. You can also take a taxi to Umm Qais (or round trip). Expect to pay about JD60 for the round trip fare. Ensure you negotiate the fare before you get into the Taxi.
How to Get to Umm Qais by Public Transit
It is possible to take public transit to get to Umm Qais, however, it is not regular service. Most of Jordan’s busses act as shared transportation and leave the terminal when they are full. To get there from Amman you should take a bus rom the Northern Terminal (Mujamaa Al Shamal) in Amman. The price is 550 fils which is less than 1 dinar. Similar to a car, it takes about two hours.
Tour to Umm Qais from Amman
This Tour from Viator and this Tour from Get Your Guide do not include a guide but has a driver that will pick you up from your hotel, then stops in Jerash, Ajloun and a visit Ajloun Castle, and Umm Qais. It is perfect for those who do not want to drive.