Umm Qais or Umm Qays is a town in northern Jordan known for the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Gadara. By the way – ‘Umm’ means ‘Mother of …’ and ‘Abu’ means ‘Father of …’. In Arab culture it’s tradition that mother and father get named after the first born – so if the child’s name is Abdullah, the mother’s name will be Umm Abdullah and the father’s Abu Abdullah. Such a lovely practice as I think.
But back to the area around Umm Qais: the ancient city is located in the northern edge of Jordan, close to the disputed borders to Israel and Syria, overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the southern Golan Heights – as often mentioned in my previous posts, it’s another one of Jordan’s biblical spots. The region just fits perfectly for a road trip especially in spring; blooming flowers and green grass stretches throughout the hilly environment. As you may imagine it’s quite a rarity to find in a land mostly surrounded by desert sand.
We started our road trip from Amman. To see a little bit more from landscape we choose a side street passing the blooming fields, hills and valleys and the charming villages in between. We stopped near Irbid, one of the bigger cities in the northern area, to buy something to drink and to have a small pick nick break. It was a Friday and several families were on their way to the next Mosque. The sound of the Muezzin almost everywhere, truly Arab cultural experience.
After a total drive of around two hours we reached Umm Qais. There was a small entrance fee to pay, but then you are free to explore the area by yourself. I guess because it was still early noon we were lucky not to face inrushes of tourists, which, in Jordan, is generally hard to get into. After all the beautiful-impressive ‘primary’ sights of Jordan, such as Petra, honestly, I was not expecting that big thrill from Umm Qais’s ruins – but I changed my mind immediately when entering the ancient area and overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake of Gennesaret, or locally called: Tiberias. Just a moment to take a deep breath and still-standing at the hilltop. Such an exciting feeling with hundreds of pictures in mind with regard and respect to the locations so nearby, in a hiking distance on the other side: Syria, Israel… the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights and the historical Yarmuk valley – all just a gaze away. Very impressive but also making one thoughtful in many other ways.
For different reasons we stayed on the Jordanian side hilltop area, but continued walking around and explored the place. Passing by lovely olive groves within the rugged landscape with hidden monuments, sprinkled with sparse grass and flower patches, and of course well preserved ruins and columns built from basalt rock as well as the ancient theatre’s and the basilica.
We took a break in one of the shady olive groves dreaming about having a hammock between the olive trees and a six-pack beer spending whole day in Umm Qais orchards. The weather was fantastic and the nature really invited to stay for longer. But after a while of relaxing we got a bit hungry (and still dreaming of an ice-cold beer) and didn’t have any leftovers from the pick nick before. We decided heading back to the entrance and hopefully finding some food stand. Instead, we found a very beautiful restaurant inside the historical area. Again the breath-taking view. The Restaurant named Umm Qais – Resthouse, maybe not too fancy in name, but fancy in interior and offer of Arab food. Best thing… we also got the ice-cold beer. The day couldn’t get any better.
For the trip back to Amman we choose to drive through Jordan Valley to buy freshest fruits and vegetable for a decent price… but this is another story I’d like to tell… just keep on following my blog tightly ,)
Cheers with sunbeams.