Nestled on a plateau in the northwestern corner of Jordan lay the ruins of the ancient city of Gadara. From this vantage point, just beyond the sleepy town of Umm Qays, you have a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Like many other places in the region, Gadara appeared on the historical record after Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Near East in 333 BCE.1 The city seems to have been mostly destroyed and subsequently abandoned after an earthquake in the eighth century.
Jordan’s location in the geographical “near east” has exposed it to dozens of civilizations over the course of history. In the last three thousand years alone the region has invariably fallen under the Persian, Greek, Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Ottoman empires, the legacies of which are often still visible today.
Anyone who has drank tea in Petra or ate mansaf in Wadi Rum will quickly recognize the unique fabric adorning traditional Bedouin tents in Jordan. These colorful designs are commonly used across the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, from Syria and Iraq in the north to the United Arab Emirates and Oman in the southeast. American musician Cardi B even featured some in the 2017 music video for her song Bodak Yellow!