Buildings, houses and public spaces

The traditional village of Umm Qais has a unique architectural heritage with much of the stone being reused from the surrounding archaeological site. The cream limestone and dark grey basalt blocks have been reused to build the houses, but also provides a visual style of contrasting bands of colour. Ancient decorative motives carved in stone are seen reused throughout the village to provide embellishments to door lintels and window surrounds.

(C) ACOR: Decorative reuse of ancient carved stonework

Reuse of roman stonework to decorate house in Umm Qais (Image reproduced with kind permission of ACOR Photo Archive: Rami Khouri Collection)

Whilst the archaeological remains of Gadara provided a ready supply of dressed stone for building, the style and colours of Umm Qais also reflect the local environment. 

Internal walls were white washed with Jayr (lime) to give a soft cream colour that reflects light and remains cool in summer. Many of the external shutters, and doors were painted blue using flowers of al-Neele (indigo) that grow in abundance locally as pigment.

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Blue shutters using indigo flowers for pigment (Image reproduced with kind permission of ACOR Photo Archive: Bert de Vries Collection)

Ceilings were made from Duflah (oleander wood) available locally and provides good insulating properties but also because the wood is resistant to weevils and other insects. Olive and al-keena (eucalyptus) was used for other wooden construction as well as fences in the surrounding farmland. 

The design of buildings in Umm Qais integrates passive cooling drawing in cool air at low levels and venting warm air out through openings such as the taga, an opening above the main door which often also expresses some artistic and decorative individuality.

Interview with Firas Al-Rousan: Design and materials of buildings in UmmQais

Interview with Umm Hiba: Houses and Families in UmmQais

Interview with Firas Al-Rousan: Building with the past, living among the archaeology

The Living Museum of Umm Qais project has been interviewing the people of Umm Qais, recording the oral histories of the community. The following videos are excerpts from this archive in which people describe their memories of the community, it's rituals and events in the life of the community.

Throughout the project we are processing more interview material collected by our project volunteers in Umm Qais so look out for new material uploaded here.