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The Distinctive Black Basalt Towns of the Northeastern Region of Jordan?

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

In Umm al-Jimal story-telling is the foundation of our culture. Glancing through Umm el-Jimal Volume1I noticed the publication of the Umm al-Jimal in 1973 field survey by Bert de Vries.

There I found a map drawn by Howard Crispy Butler when he led the Princeton University team the surveyed the Southern Hauran region in (1904 - 1909). The map shows the towns of the southern Hauran; Umm es-Surab, Qaser el-Baaj, Umm al-Jimal, Sabha, Subhia, Umm al-Quttein, Deir el-Kahf and others sites. All of these names are familiar by virtue of the fact that they are located close to Umm al-Jimal and inside Jordan. But there are other names on the map that bring to mind stories from my grandmother.

This map is an important reference for understanding the region, showing these places and the shape of the roads that connected them with each other. These roads are a key feature of the story my grandmother narrated one day about life in the past .

Survival was essentially dependent on the trade among the towns of the region. Products like milk and wool made by the Bedouin families were exchanged with the Druze near Jabal Al-Arab who made dried raisins, cotton, and also grape molasses.

She told of a kind of harmony and complementarity in the exchange between communities. She talked about connections between them like the lines on a map. Her story included names that were new to me like Imtan, Salkhed, Suweida and Bostra which she visited from her childhood home in nearby Umm al-Quttein. She was nostalgic for the time when, rather than using money, people exchanged items that they needed directly with each. In a sense they extended their community.

Now when I open the map I can not only see the lines and shapes and names of the regions, but I can also imagine the people and the connections they made, living a different form of existence in the past. Hand by Hand Heritage is collecting these memories to tell them to you the next time you visit the black basalt towns of the Southern Hauran like Umm al-Jimal .

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