Driving Chariots in Jerash

In the historic Roman city of Jerash in Northern Jordan, I was able to try one of the most unique equestrian experiences I could have ever imagined, riding in a horse drawn chariot- rather racing- as a part of RACE, the Roman Army and Chariot Experience. It’s the NASCAR of over 2000 years ago, a fast, exhilarating Roman chariot reenactment race in Jerash’s well-preserved hippodrome.

From the 1st to the 7th centuries, chariots raced around the same track where I’d get to ride. Of course to enter the arena, I had to dress the part. I pulled on a burgundy colored toga and completed the ensemble with a heavy belt and fake sword. Ibrahim, one of the horse trainers who drives these chariots himself, asked me to hop abroad for a few laps. The chariot felt a little rickety, maybe too light for me, as the wheels began to turn and we started off. As our two-horse chariot picked up speed, I gripped the front of the wooden two-wheel cart. Ibrahim wanted me to get the full picture of what the Romans felt as they raced. It was fast and bumpy and those turns are not for the faint of heart!

Hippodromes are not circular tracks, but ovular, meaning the two end turns are sharp and treacherous. These turns were the most exciting part of the race for spectators of old, as it’s where there was the greatest chance for accidents, including having your opponent sabotage your chariot. I was nervous and also exhilarated as we increased our speed down a straightaway—the wind in my hair on a horse drawn chariot in ancient Jordan. 

Visit Jerash on the Jordan Bedouin Trek & Classic Tour with EquitrekkingTravel.com.