Farming and Food Culture

As a rural settlement in Northern Jordan, farming was the basis for the local economy and social organisation. The traditions of farming, it's impact on daily life and the food culture that developed in Umm Qais are important to understand local heritage but are intangible and easily lost.

Everyday food was almost exclusively from local produce such as dairy, meat and pigeons and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables:

“We used to farm fruits and vegetables in the valley, such as tomatoes, Armenian cucumber, as well as okra and black-eyed peas. Because tomatoes are seasonal, they were dried by sprinkling salt on a straw dish for all year long.”

Interview with Firas Al-Rousan: Olive Harvesting and processing

Farming life was labour intensive and hard work. A normal day started very early, with some of the interviewees stating they woke up at 1 or 2 Am in the morning, for early breakfast, before heading to the valley on donkey backs.

“The donkey knew the way to get there and got us back without even knowing it our self.”

All members of the community took part in some part of food production, each with a different role working from before sunrise to sunset in the valley. Women would cook food for lunch and ride to the valley with it, returning together with the men at the end of the day. Older children also took part, one interviewee asserts:

“My role was weeding. If I can’t harvest, I helped collect the crops. We walked behind the donkeys in the trail or helped load trolleys.”

Yet, the work was also collaborative, one the key themes of the local community’s everyday life was interdependence between families. Informal mechanisms of exchange of food, supplies and labour amongst the hawara fouqa’s households provided greater resilience for the community as a whole whilst also respecting the dignity of local families.

‘If my cousins would work for me in one day, I would work for my uncle in another, we did not get money, it was all about effort exchange'.

Interview with Firas Al-Rousan: Local Olive trees, ancient origins

Interview with Talib al-Rousan: Farming economy and Community

Interview with Umm Hiba: Farming and crops

Interview with Firas Al-Rousan: Traditions of Farming and Food in UmmQais

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.