Nestled on a plateau in the northwestern corner of Jordan lay the ruins of the ancient city of Gadara. From this vantage point, just beyond the sleepy town of Umm Qays, you have a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Like many other places in the region, Gadara appeared on the historical record after Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Near East in 333 BCE.1 The city seems to have been mostly destroyed and subsequently abandoned after an earthquake in the eighth century.
Jordan’s location in the geographical “near east” has exposed it to dozens of civilizations over the course of history. In the last three thousand years alone the region has invariably fallen under the Persian, Greek, Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Ottoman empires, the legacies of which are often still visible today.
Shortly after moving to Amman I noticed this unique building on a distant hill and I set out on a sort of scavenger hunt to find it. The walk from downtown to Jabal Al-Ashrafiyeh is packed with winding streets and steep staircases (some of which go nowhere). To this day the church is one of my favorite landmarks in Amman and I often make the trek there when I’m feeling like getting some exercise and exploring the city. I like to think of it as a pilgrimage — it is a religious site after all!