Cultural Heritage Celebration at Umm el-Jimal

Umm el-Jimal, 18-19 October 2014

UNESCO and UN Women joined their efforts and expertise to implement a Joint Programme supporting women in the Governorate of Mafraq: ‘Empowering rural women in Mafraq Governorate through the management and preservation of the Umm el-Jimal’s archeological site in Jordan as income-generating activities’.

Umm el-Jimal is both a modern village and an archaeological site inscribed in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The village is located in Mafraq, one of Jordan’s poverty pockets with the highest poverty and illiteracy rates, and has been severely impacted by the Syria crisis.The UNESCO – UN Women Joint Programme intertwines culture, job opportunities and empowerment of women, the areas of expertise of UNESCO and UN Women. Through an innovative approach, the project intends to improve the livelihoods of the women and the community in Umm el-Jimal with the promotion of the village -and its unique cultural heritage- as a potential tourist destination and attraction.

The event was organized and presented by the Umm el-Jimal Project within the framework of the UNESCO – UN Women Joint Programme and aimed at mainstreaming the cultural values and assets of the site within the local community with the purpose of fostering their engagement in the sustainable preservation and development of the site.

The event gathered members from the local community in a tour to the site, conducted by Prof. Bert de Vries and Mr. Muaffaq Hazza, from the Um el Jimal Project. The tour was attended by more than one hundred people keen to learn about their own history and heritage. The tour was followed by a drawing contest for children led by members of the local women association of Al-Nashmiat of Umm el-Jimal. These very same women have been trained over the past months in a variety of tourism-related activities, including heritage, archaeology and tour guiding. Eighty children participated in the activity, selecting one of the most significant remains from the archaeological site and drawing it.

Through this Joint Programme, UNESCO and UN Women, together with their partners, the Umm el-Jimal Project, the Queen Zain al Sharaf for Development (ZENID) and Al Hima Foundation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Department of Antiquities, will build on the potential of Umm el-Jimal’s as a cultural tourism destination, turning it into a source of employment and livelihood opportunities for the people in Um el Jimal, and especially for the women, who are the most marginalized sector of the community. The programme will concurrently ensure the sustainable preservation and development of the site, as a key prerequisite to the successful spin off of the tourism business.

Following this event, a conference entitled: “Coordinating the Future of Umm el-Jimal” took place at Umm el Jimal on Sunday, 19 October gathering heritage managers, archaeologists, tourism specialists and members from the local community to discuss on community and archaeology as a means of developing site preservation, security and a local tourism.