by Khetam Malkawi
|The ancient city of Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
AMMAN — Petra faces the risk of being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger if Jordan does not meet the World Heritage Centre requisites to preserve the site, officials have warned.
Emad Hijazeen, Petra Archaeological Park (PAP) commissioner, said on Wednesday that at a meeting last year, the World Heritage Centre defined a number of requisites that Jordan must meet to prevent Petra’s placement on the list of endangered sites.
However, “it was only in 2010 that we started implementing conservation projects”, Hijazeen said at the opening of the “Conserving and Presenting Petra to the World” conference that opened on the same day.
The rose-red city was listed on the World Heritage List in 1985, and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
These conservation-related requisites include completing an action plan for PAP by April 2013 and excavation research regulations expected by December this year, in addition to identifying park boundaries and a buffer zone by 2013 and a state conservation report by February 2013.
According to Hijazeen, tourism authorities’ main concern over the past few years was only to focus on developing the infrastructure, while the conservation of the site was neglected.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Issa Gammo said the most important conservation solution to come up with in the short term is “deploying a more pleasant visitor circulation that helps protect the park”.
This, he added, reduces pressure and eases human impact on the site, which receives hundreds of thousands of people every year.
Gammo explained that local and international experts in the conference will develop a comprehensive conservation plan to be implemented immediately.
Also on Wednesday Prince Raad, president of Petra National Trust, stressed the urgent need to find solutions for the challenges facing the historic site, and making its preservation a priority for all stakeholders.
USAID Jordan, which was involved for years in supporting development projects in Petra, pledged its support to the preservation of the city.
Douglas Ball, acting mission director of USAID Jordan, said: “Over the past several years, the USAID tourism project has given priority to ensuring that the necessary requirements and conditions of World Heritage Status for Petra are being met.”
“USAID’s strategy in supporting archaeological sites begins with conservation and heritage preservation… as part of our continuing programme, USAID has invested in a wide range of projects and programmes to support the Petra region and archaeological park,” Ball explained in the opening of the conference organised by the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, the Department of Antiquities and the USAID.
Petra — popularised by the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” — is known for its dramatic tombs and temple facades, including one that served as a church during Byzantine times. The city’s inhabitants, Nabataean Arabs, carved structures into the soft sandstone more than two millennia ago.
The once bustling city was the capital of the Nabataean state, which controlled the trading routes that passed through Petra to Gaza in the west, Busra and Damascus in the north, Aqaba in the south, and across the desert towards the Arabian Gulf.
The rose-red rock city was forgotten for centuries until Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burchhardt, disguised as a bedouin nomad, went into the city and rediscovered it in 1812. The ancient city was hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra.