It is amazing how much there is to do out in the Eastern Desert even writing a lot for Part 1 and Part 2 I still had quite a bit left over for our final bit of time wandering the desert. It wasn’t 40 days but it was longer than any of us had done in the past…
The Abandoned City
It is amazing really what is out here in the desert.
We woke early and most of us (except for Matthew who was still whining about the early hour) were excited to set off and still explore the region around us. We had a bucket list of “must hit” places we wanted to see and this required us to get moving and do a lot of driving. Much of road to Umm Al-Jimaal was dusty and empty and there was not much of a presence or population on the way. As we approached the northern part of Jordan we saw a small a few small towns and villages with men wandering along the road and women standing waiting for buses that would eventually come.
Umm Al-Jimaal is a large old abandoned city made from the local black basalt. There were multiple buildings littering the the area in various states of disrepair. The city had been abandoned centuries ago but it still held together better than expected and the town grew up around its borders. The was a small parking lot and a small building that housed what might have been the visitor center with an open gate but nothing else and no one else.
The history of Umm Al-Jimaal is fascinating when you think back about how old this place really is. It dates back to the Nabataean as a village on the outskirts of the Nabataean capital of Bostra. It lasted through the Roman era, into the early Islamic periods as well. During the 8th century a large earthquake nearly destroyed the entire place but it continued to still survive. But some period after that the entire village was abandoned and it has remained so for approximately 11 centuries. That is older than most countries are. Since then a modern town has developed and surrounded the village. If you look around the area you can see houses and buildings built up to the edge of the city. It is definitely fortunate that over the centuries this “Mother of Camels” was preserved so tourists and visitors can experience and enjoy it today as well. Well at least until it met our group of adventures.
The place is a bit of a playground for adults. Lots of old ruins and buildings to run around and explore. It was a bit strange, being so abandoned as it was. I’ve been to sights like this around the world, but often there were other tourists at least exploring or signs or other information. It was just us and the buildings.
I was getting a little nervous with some of my friends climbing and exploring. Matthew especially being a climbing instructor in his native land made the most use of the buildings and pillars to pull himself up and see the city from a higher perspective.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
However let’s be honest, we don’t know the structural integrity of any of the buildings in this city, and while there might be a hospital in Mafraq, we really had no idea what was available. Injury was definitely a possibility but the more others did stuff the more the rest of us followed. Go group think!
We wandered through the ruins, climbing, exploring, peering through doorways. There were tall towers and archways strewn through the ruins and buildings that remained in this surprisingly large town. It is quite a gold mine in history and exploration, and it was quite fortunate and amazing to have the entire place to only ourselves. I have not met any other tourists among my group of friends and others who I’ve met during my months here who have even taken the opportunity to visit this part of Jordan, so I do not know how visited this place is.
If you want to go the best way to reach Umm Al-Jimaal is by car. There is public transportation of sorts. First you need to take a bus to Mafraq, and then a mini-bus to Umm al Jimaal. It might be possible to catch a taxi from Irbid or Mafraq but I imagine it would likely nearly be as much cost as renting a car for the day.
It is fairly easy to find, as it is located about 17 km from the town of Mafraq. Around that distance keep an eye out for signs for Umm Al-Jimaal.
The site is open from Dawn until Dusk most days.