Umm Al-Jimal Al-Mafraq Ecocultural Convergence

02-08-2023 03:38 PM
Eman Safouri

Umm al-Jimal is an ancient archaeological site situated in Al-Mafraq Governorate, Northern Jordan, that holds great historical and cultural significance. The site is at the intersection of three eco-zones: agricultural plain, mountain slope, and basalt desert. Its location on Jebel Druze lava slopes provides water supply and fertile soil for agriculture, while the site is on the eastern basalt desert, badia, near the Iraqi border.

Al-Mafraq is considered "the bride of the desert," a Jordanian city rich in natural and archaeological resources in the middle of a vast desert, and it has a share in its name as it is Jordan’s gateway to the neighbouring countries of Iraq to the east, Syria to the north, and Saudi Arabia to the south. Al-Mafraq has many archaeological sites, most notably Umm Al-Jimal, which is rich in coloured rocks; Al-Safawi Castle, which is known as the "Al-Agfayev" castle; and the churches of Umm Al-Qutini, which hosts four historical churches as well as the oldest church in the world.

Umm al-Jimal, one of the ten cities in the Decapolis Pact, was considered one of the most important stations of the Nabatean commercial caravans in Al-Mafraq. In the first century, Umm al-Jimal arose as a rural suburb of the ancient Nabatean capital, Bosra.
The strategic location of Umm al-Jimal played a pivotal role in its development as a major agricultural and trading centre during the Nabatean, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The site is primarily known for the large ruins of a Byzantine and early Islamic city and an older Roman village (locally referred to as al-Herri) located to the southwest of the Byzantine ruins. Moreover, the Umayyads also contributed to the growth and development of Umm al-Jimal by establishing military, civil, and religious structures. In addition to Mamluk, the modern era followed, and after that, the Bedouins resettled the region.

The architectural structures of Umm al-Jimal were constructed on hard basalt, which adds more exclusivity to the site's importance and provides valuable insights into the daily lives of people during ancient times. Umm Al-Jimal archaeological site contains Arabic, Latin, Greek, and Nabataean inscriptions dating the city to this time, and the Arabic ones are examples of the evolution of Arabic calligraphy. Finally, it has found the Safavid texts. These inscriptions indicate that the inhabitants of the region were educated and knowledgeable.

Umm Al-Jimal became an official archaeological site protected by the Jordanian government in 1972. Today, the Umm al-Jimal Museum, which opened in 2019, protects heritage, artwork, handicrafts, architectural, artistic, cultural, and religious elements from the Nabataean to late Islamic eras. It features four rooms where short films are shown. As well as several development, service, community, tourism, and archaeological projects being implemented for the benefit of the municipality of Umm Al-Jimal, including the development of the archaeological site of Umm al-Jimal.

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