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Abila (Quwayliba)

Lying just 10km north of Irbid, between the twin hills of Tell Abila and Tell Umm-al-Amad, are the ancient remains of the Decapolis city of Abila. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that this site could only be enjoyed by the committed ruin hunter or the aspiring archaeologist. Indeed, little remains of this once-great city, especially since the earthquake of AD 747 did a pretty thorough job of turning Abila into a rock-strewn field.

To date, much of Abila remains largely unexcavated and the site certainly isn’t set up for visitors, though you don’t need a guide to find the Roman-Byzantine theatre or the scattered remains of columns from the markets, temples and baths lying around the site. If you’re looking to have a real Indiana Jones experience, definitely check out the eerie tomb caves that are carved into the hillsides surrounding the site.

Independent exploration is possible if you bring along a good torch and your sense of adventure, though picking up a local guide in the nearby village of Quwayliba will certainly enhance the experience. At one point the caves were full of corpses, but tomb raiders stripped them clean over the millennia. However, the spectacular frescoes adorning the walls and ceilings are marvellously intact. The Abila site is close to the village of Quwayliba, about 15km north of Irbid. Buses leave from the North bus station in Irbid (less than JD1, 25 minutes) for Quwayliba; ask the driver to drop you off at the ruins