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Ottoman Period


Ottoman Mamluk war. Ottoman empire expands their control into the Levant and Egypt incorporating all of former Mamluk territory.

16th Century

Tax and Land documents

Ottoman Salnamat (tax and landownership yearbooks) refer to the settlement as “Mkeis” situated in the Nahiya (subdistrict) of Bani Kinana, part of the Sanjak of Huran. Successive Salnamat show the village grew from 5 dwellings in 1523 to 10 in 1534 and by 1596 Mkeis was recorded as having 21 households (families) and 15 bachelors, in addition to 3 Christian households. The villagers paid a fixed tax-rate of 25% on agricultural products; including wheat, barley, summer crops, fruit trees, goats and bee-hives and the village was relatively prosperous as the total tax was 8,500 akçe.

1806 CE

Umm Qais is ancient Gadara!

The site of Umm Qais is first identified to western scholars as the location of ancient “Gadara” by Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806. Seetzen notes that the main focus of the early Ottoman period settlement is on the adjacent hill.

3rd Feb 1816

Adventurers William John Bankes, and James Silk Buckingham visit the site recording the visit in their journals as well as in the memoirs of Bankes’ guide and interpreter Giovanni Finati which Bankes translated and published in 1830. They make notes, drawings and describe the visible remains including many Roman and later tombs.


Rapid Expansion

Expansion of the village as people resettle in the area taking advantage of the site’s fertile farm land and it’s strategic position on trade routes between the Mediterranean coast and southern Syria. Oral histories record people living initially in the “caves” of the numerous rock cut Roman tombs and the Late Hellenic and Roman water cisterns cut into the rock of the main settlement hill. The houses of the village were constructed re-using the abundant dressed stone from the ancient ruins of Gadara in places using the ancient walls as foundations. Construction expertise was brought in from Safed (a small town NE of Lake Tiberias) to help build the late Ottoman village.

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