UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. These sites are accorded World Heritage status, which recognizes the need to protect, preserve and claim responsibility collectively as the sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.
Jordan has four sites on the World Heritage List – Petra, Quseir Amra, Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a) and the Wadi Rum Protected Area – and a further 15 sites on its Tentative List. The UNESCO Amman Office works closely with the Department of Antiquities and several NGOs for the sustained protection and management of Jordan’s World Heritage Sites, provides support for the preparation of nomination dossiers for sites on the Tentative List and assists with the implementation of particular projects as required. In addition, UNESCO provides continuous support to the Department of Antiquities in the form of capacity building and training in site management and conservation.
Jordan’s World Heritage Sites:
- Petra is a Nabataean caravan-city half-built, half-carved into the rock, and surrounded by mountains riddled with gorges. It is arguably Jordan’s most prominent tourist site, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. For this reason, much of UNESCO’s efforts in Jordan in World Heritage are directed towards the preservation and sustainable management of this famous but fragile site. Since 2010, the UNESCO Amman Office has engaged in projects that aim to reduce natural and man-made risks threatening the site. This includes developing a risk management methodology for the site and ensuring its entrance – the Siq – is safe for visitors through systematic identification and monitoring of potentially unstable areas.
- Quseir Amra is a well-preserved desert castle built in the early 8th century that acted both as a fortress and a residence of the Umayyad caliphs. The most outstanding features of this small pleasure palace are the reception hall and the hammam, both richly decorated with figurative murals that reflect the secular art of the time. UNESCO’s work at Quseir Amra include collaborating with the Institut Francais du Proche Orient to revitalize the visitor centre, introduce new signage for the site and develop an interactive game to engage young visitors, as well as work with the World Monuments Fund, the Istituto Centrale del Restauro and the Department of Antiquities for the conservation of the mosaic floors.
- Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a) is a historical site that began as a Roman military camp and grew into a town in the Byzantine era through to the early Islamic era. The site includes remains dating from the Roman to the early Islamic periods. Most remarkably, the site has 16 churches, some with well-preserved mosaic floors such as that in the Church of St Stephen (8th century AD), which bears a unique representation of the region in the Byzantine era. In 2009, the stylite tower at the site was stabilized with the support of UNESCO. The tower represents a unique testimony to the practice of the stylites, ascetic monks who spent time in isolation atop a stylos, or tower.
- Wadi Rum is Jordan’s first mixed World Heritage Site that was inscribed on the basis of both natural and cultural value. It comprises of desert landforms that evidence millennia of landscape development, as well as archaeological remains testifying to 12,000 years of human settlement and interaction with the natural environment. The site illustrates the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity in the region. The UNESCO Amman Office works with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority in the management of this site.