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You are hereMajor Attractions > Irbid
> The amphitheatre at Umm Qays.
Jordan's second largest city is a bustling community with a large university. Though not as significant a city for sightseeing as other areas, Irbid houses two very worthwhile museums, and forms a good base from which to explore the northern Jordan Valley or to start a trip to Syria.

In addition to Jerash and Amman, Umm Qays (modern Gadara) and Pella (known locally as Tabaqit Fahl) were once Decapolis cities, and each has unique appeal.

Umm Qays


Graeco-Roman columns stand amidst the lush green countryside around Umm Qays.

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.

The Al-Himma therapeutic hot springs are located around 10km north of Umm Qays and were once highly regarded by the Romans. There are two bathing facilities: a privately-run complex, and a public bath complex, with separate timetables for men and women.

Pella (Tabaqit Fahl)


Ruins at Pella.

Pella is a favourite of archaeologists as it is exceptionally rich in antiquities, some of which are exceedingly old. Besides the excavated ruins from the Graeco-Roman period, including an Odeon (theatre), Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, the remains of Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches and houses, an Early Islamic residential quarter, and a small medieval mosque.

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Gadara was one of the most important cities of the Decapolis;it had minted its own coins, and adhered to the Pompeian calendar.

During the early years of Roman rule, the Nabataeans controlled the trade routes as far north as Damascus. Unhappy with the competition, Mark Anthony dispatched King Herod the Great to weaken the Nabataeans. In appreciation for his efforts, Rome rewarded Herod with Gadara.

Islam entered Gadara after the victory of Islamic troops over Byzantine armies at the Battles of Fahl (Pella) and Yarmouk in 635 AD and 636 AD.

The first literary reference to the city of Pella is from the 19th century BC when it is mentioned in Egyptian texts as Pihilum, or Pehel. It was a flourishing trade centre, with links with Syria and Cyprus as well as Egypt.

Like many of Jordan's ancient cities and monuments, the cities of Umm Qays and Pella were destroyed during the terrible earthquake of 747 AD.