Monday, May 14, 2007

27th March Umm Qays and Al-Himma

27th March Umm Qays, Al-Himma

Umm Qays

11am Asma' and friends excused themselves to attend their class. So, Dr. Eyas asked me how
was my trip to Jordan. I told him there is another place that I wanted to go but don't know how. The place is Umm Qays. Dr Eyas immediately called his relative who is a taxi driver, later I got to know his name is Hisham, to bring me to Umm Qays. He also suggested to me to go to Al-Himma, a hot springs, near Umm Qays. The round trip to Umm Qays from Irbid will take around 4-5 hours. I estimated latest by 5pm I'll be back here in Irbid.

Umm Qays, situated 110 km north of Amman on a broad promontory 378 meters above sea level with a magnificent view over the Yarmouk River, the Golan Heights, and Lake Tiberias, this town was known as Gadara, one of the most brilliant ancient Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis.

Golan Heights and Lake Tiberias (Tasik Tobari) used to be under Syria but now is occupied by Israel. So, Umm Qays is located at the border of north Jordan, Syria and Israel.

Also known as Sea of Galilee, Lake Tiberias is a freshwater lake located at northern Israel. It is 13 mi (21 km) long and 7 mi (11 km) wide; it lies about 700 ft (212 m) below sea level and receives most of its inflow from the Jordan River. The region has been inhabited for millennia: archaeological finds dating to some 500,000 years ago are among the oldest in the Middle East. In the 1st century AD, the region was rich and populated; Christians know it as the scene of many episodes in the life of Jesus. Today the lake's waters irrigate the surrounding agricultural region. Modern health resorts have grown up, and the baths at Tiberias are among Israel's winter resort attractions (

In ancient times, Gadara was strategically situated, laced by a number of key trading routes connecting Syria and Palestine. It was blessed with fertile soil and abundant rainwater.

This town also flourished intellectually in the reign of Augustus and became distinguished for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, university's scholars, attracting writers, artists, philosophers and poets, the likes of satirist Menippos (2nd half of the 3rd century BC), the epigrammist Meleagros, and the rhetorician Theodoros (14-37 AD).

Archaeological surveys indicate that Gadara was occupied as early as the 7th century BC. The Greek historian, Polybius, described the region as being under Ptolemaic control at the time. The Seleucid ruler Antiochus III conquered it in 218 BC, naming the city Antiochia and Seleucia. In 63 BC, Pompey liberated Gadara and joined it to the Roman league of ten cities, the Decapolis.

Soon after, the fortunes of Gadara improved rapidly and building was undertaken on a large scale, carried out for the love of Pompey's freed man Demetrius, who had been born there.

During these early years of Roman rule, the Nabataeans (with their capital in Petra), controlled the trade routes as far north as Damascus.

Unhappy with the
competition, Mark Anthony dispatched King Herod the Great to weaken the Nabataeans, who finally gave up their northern interest in 31 BC. In appreciation for his efforts, Rome rewarded Herod with Gadara.

View of rows of olive orchards in the Jordan Valley

The city reached its peak of prosperity in the 2nd century AD. New colonnaded streets, temples, theaters and baths sprouted. Meleagros compared Gadara with Athens, which testifies to the city's status as a creative center of Hellenism in the ancient Near East.

Christianity spread slowly among the inhabitants of Gadara. Starting from the 4th century, its bishop attended the ecclesiastical councils of Nicaea, Chaleedon and Ephesos.

Despite his
attendance, the city was no longer a seat of learning. During the 6th century, decline set in, and in 636 AD a decisive military clash between Byzantines and Arab Muslims took place not far from Gadara. There is no evidence, however, of widespread destruction in the city.

Umm Qais's charm still lingers today. A large portion of the western Roman Theater has survived history's upheavals. Vaulted passageway supports its rows of seats, built of hard basalt stones.

A row of elaborately carved seats for dignitaries stand near the orchestra, and in the center was a large headless white marble statue of Tyche, goddess of fortune and of the city, now displayed at the local museum.

Across from the
theater is the main colonnaded street (cardo), which was in all likelihood the town's commercial center. Also, near the black basalt theater is the Terrace, which hosts a courtyard, a church and a basilica.

Further west of the Terrace and along the east-west colonnaded street (decumanus), ruins of the Nymphaeum, a bath complex and a well-preserved Roman Mausoleum can be seen. After a few hundred meters one can barely make out remains o
f what was once a Hippodrome.

Gadara was also the resort of choice for Romans vacationing in the nearby Himmet Gader Hot Water Springs (Al-Himma)

Information taken from:

Al-Himma (Himmet Gader Hot Springs)

From Umm Qays, we went to Al-Himma.

, a therapeutical hot springs located about 10km north of Umm Qais in Irbid Governorate, was highly regarded by the Romans.

The mineral-rich hot waters of the springs pour into an indoor pool at a privately run complex with a restaurant.

Anyway now the hot springs is closed temporarily due to the management wants to develop it into a tourist resort with a hotel.

According to Hisham, many people used to come here with their family to have a picnic and take a bath in the hot water springs.

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