Irbid is a city in northern Jordan, some 88 km north of the capital Amman. The main industrial and administrative centre in the north of the kingdom, Irbid is home to the Yarmouk University, the Jordan University of Science and Technology and a good range of services, making it a staging point for exploration further afield to Gadara (Umm Qais), Pella and other nearby sites within the region.
Archaeological evidence reveals that Irbid has been settled since the Bronze Age. During the Roman period, Irbid was known as Arabella. The city's ancient past now lies hidden beneath modern roads and buildings.
To get to Irbid you have to start out from Amman's Al-Abdali Transport Terminal. If you've arrived by airplane, Al-Abdali Terminal is Airport shuttle's last stop. From there, you can take a cab, a bus, or one of the "service" taxis. A "service" taxi is a scheduled route taxi service taking several passengers for a flat price, usually not more than 1.20 JD (1 JD = USD 1.71 in May, 2008). Buses to Irbid cost from 80 piasters to 1 JD (1 JD = 100 piasters). From the same terminal, the most comfortable coaches are run by Hijazi Buses and Arabella Co. One ticket shouldn't cost more than 1.20 JD. Ordinary cabs, recognized by their yellow or beige color, are more expensive. But many of them have air conditioning, so they might be worth a try in the summertime. In Irbid, almost all means of road transportation arrive at Amman al-Jadeed Transport Terminal. Once there, you can hire a cab to anywhere in Irbid.
You can get anywhere in Irbid by taking one of the many yellow or beige coloured taxi cabs. You can also take a "service" taxi or a bus, which have scheduled routes and can drop you off on the way. Ask the locals about the routes, because a) there are no regular departure time tables, and b) buses and taxi cabs wait up to take enough passengers in before taking off. You should not pay more than 20 piasters.
There is not much to see in the town of Irbid itself, but from there you can go on and visit several ancient sites around the city. Umm Qais, almost 20 minutes from Irbid, is a Roman era settlement. In Ajlun (also 20 minutes away), you can see an early Islamic castle on the top of a hill. Jarash boasts a large Roman site, with pillars and a forum. Pella is among the smaller sites. To get to these sites, either take service buses or taxis. Taxi fare shouldn't exceed 10 JD. Also, check out the following museums:
- the Museum of Jordanian Heritage , Yarmouk University campus - considered by many the finest archeological museum in the country, designed in partnership with the German government. Somewhat difficult to find, however: Driving from Amman, turn left at the roundabout by the stadium, then right after 500 m (around the stadium), and you will see an entrance about 500 m on the left, with a museum sign. Check in with the officers at the gate and they will direct you to the museum, which is part of the University's Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.
- Irbid Archaeological Museum, Department of Antiquities building, Al-Ma'amun Street, open daily, 8 am - 2 pm, except Fridays.
- the Natural History Museum, open daily (except Tuesdays) 10 am - 5 pm winter time, and 10 am - 3 pm summer time. Exhibits Jordanian fauna and flora. Worth a visit.
There is not much to see in downtown Irbid. The town's landmark thoroughfare is University Street, with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. The street is also known for its myriad of internet cafes, for which reason Irbid boasts an appropriate entry in the Guiness Book of World Records. One hour of internet use costs 75 piasters or 1 JD, at most. Most cafes and coffee shops serve hubbly-bubbly, for 1.50 JD. There are many schools and colleges in the Irbid area, including Al-Yarmouk University and Jordan University of Science and Technology. Students are mainly of Arabic background; there are also many American and Malaysian students.
There are many shops in Irbid, especially on University Street and the streets nearby, selling souvenirs, jewelry, and clothing. For international brands and souvenirs, go to Amman.
You will find all kinds of Arabic food to enjoy. Try Al-Manqal, on University street, which serves decent grills and the usual Middle Eastern fare. You can also try Arabella and Al-Saadi. All of these serve the usual Middle Eastern grills, rice, hummus, and tabbulah. They're relatively cheap, especially for western visitors. If you want to eat like the locals, buy felafel sandwiches or hummus from one of the numerous small delicatessen shops. There are also many shawarma restaurants. (Shawarma is shredded meat or chicken, wrapped in thin bread.) All of these are very cheap: Shawarma sandwich: 60 piasters; felafel sandwich: 20 piasters; hummus dish to go: 40 piasters. (100 piasters make one Jordanian Dinar.) Finally, for hamburgers and fries, you can go to McDonald's, close to University Street Roundabout and Yarmouk University. For fast food, there are also Quick Burger, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye's and other places, all on University Street. If you're looking for something in particular to eat, ask the local residents where you can find a food establishment that serves it.
As said before, there are no pubs or bars of note in Irbid. However, if you fancy a drink, there are numerous liquor stores in downtown Irbid. These mainly Christian-run enterprises are safe, open to everyone, and they sell both domestic and international alcohol and beer, at reasonable prices (although you should always ask about prices before buying). Go there in daytime, preferably.
The hotel most frequented by western visitors is Al-Joud Hotel, close to University Street Roundabout (or "circle", as they call it in Jordan). Always agree on prices before checking in. Many Israelis and Israeli Arabs use the hotel. For security reasons, a police guard has been posted there recently. Prices are relatively reasonable; so, if you can afford it, go ahead and check in because you won't find alternatives of the same standard in Irbid. The hotels in the downtown area are old but cheaper than Al-Joud. The downtown, typically Levantine, boasts old buildings and it's noisy from the nearby traffic and people enjoying the night out.
You can leave Irbid the same way you got in -- through Amman al-Jadeed Transport Terminal (New Amman Transport Terminal), called as such because most of its buses (esp. "Hejazi" buses) head to Amman.
This page was last edited at 04:44, on 24 September 2008 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Dora, Ryan Holliday and Rob Payne, Wikitravel user(s) Bustany, WindHorse and Pjamescowie and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.