For most of the Islamic period central and southern Jordan has existed on the periphery of larger states. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the political and economic life of the Muslim and Frankish polities of Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria) was dominated by cities like Damascus, Aleppo, Jerusalem and Acre. These urban centres contained the greatest concentrations of the military and civilian elite, and provided the largest markets for locally produced and imported commodities. Intellectual activity also prospered in such urban environments and, with few exceptions, it was the occupants of the cities of Bilad al-Sham who composed the histories of the Crusader states and the Ayyubid confederacy. These chronicles tend to reflect the interests of the ruling elites and generally pay rather less attention to rural areas. The lands between the Wadi Zarqa' and the Red Sea – populated as they were by villages and small market towns – excited little interest among historians, and only Karak and Shawbak merit relatively regular mentions in the chronicles of the period.
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