Um Al-Jimal

This strange black city is located about 20 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Mafraq, 87 kilometers from Amman, and only 10 kilometers from the Syrian border. Umm al-Jimal is now known as the Black Oasis because of the black basalt rock from which many of its houses, churches, barracks and forts were built.

The precise history of Umm al-Jimal is still unclear, but historians believe that it was built originally by the Nabateans around 2000 years ago. Under the Nabateans, the city played host to a great number of trading caravans. Indeed, the name Umm al-Jimal means “Mother of Camels” in Arabic.

The large vacant area in the town center was reserved for traveling caravans stopping in Umm al-Jimal. When the Romans took the city in the first century CE, they incorporated it into the line of defense for Rome’s Arab possessions. The city lay only six kilometers east of the Via Nova Triana, which connected Rome’s northern and southern Arabian holdings. Umm al-Jimal may have had as many as 10,000 inhabitants during its heyday.

During the third century CE, it seems as though local residents faced some major threat, as they resorted to using tombstones and other available basalt to construct wall fortifications.

This wall was then refortified during the fourth century CE. Most of the buildings of Umm al-Jimal were practical and residential in nature, with little evidence of the systematic layout that can be seen, for instance, at Jerash. After surviving a number of catastrophic events including the Persian invasion, plagues, and minor earthquakes, the city was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 747 CE.

There are no accommodations in either Mafraq or Umm al-Jimal.