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Umm qais jordan e555310ad4a7

Once you've hiked the desert dunes of Wadi Rum, done your best Indiana Jones impression in the ruins of Petra and wandered the bazaars of Amman, head into Jordan's less-explored north and east for windswept temple ruins, castles crumbling back into the deserts from which they arose and small glimpses of the history that defines the borders of the modern Middle East. These regions might be off today’s tourist track, but they lie along caravan routes that have brought visitors here for centuries.

Despite its proximity to the capital, the atmospheric ruins of Gadara at Umm Qais don't see many visitors © Stephen Lioy / Lonely Planet

In the far north of Jordan overlooking the Golan Heights, Syria, and Israel, the city of Umm Qais was founded as the Greek city of Gadara and was later conquered by the Romans. In the empire’s decline, it became an Ottoman settlement. Of the ruins that remain, easily the most iconic is the Basilica Terrace, the standing columns of a former Byzantine church at the heart of the settlement. Despite Umm Qais' distance from Amman, it sees few visitors, so you'll likely find yourself wandering through the ruins or the attached archaeological museum without any other tourists in view. Beyond archaeological significance, Umm Qais has a claim to religious fame as well. Biblical scholars believe it was here that Jesus cast demons out of two crazed men and into a herd of pigs, as described in Matthew 8:28–34.

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Asia Jordan