When we share with friends some of the activities we routinely do around the country, often times we get a response like “there are many hidden gems in this country, but why do we not know about them?”
I will talk about the gems now and leave the answer to the question for another occasion.
Writing does not do justice to these hidden gems. No matter how prolific or literary one is when writing about the unique experiences this land has to offer, and one can do in Jordan, the description remains abstract. Even the best descriptions and adjectives fall short of telling the story of this open air museum. Seeing is believing.
Here’s a personal example. I have come to know about the dinosaur foot print in Shobak, in the south of Jordan, through a social media post by the renowned environmentalist, my good friend and nature lover, Mohammad Asfour. I asked him about the site and he, in addition to telling me about his experience in finding the location by trekking the area on foot during the heat wave, provided me with a scientific paper detailing the discovery written and published by seven authors from Germany, Poland, the UK, and Jordan in Annales Societatis Geologorum Poloniae 90:331 — 342.September 2020.
The paper describes the site in an exploratory manner. It details the seven “successive pes imprints” with pictures and measurements, and a geological history of the area.
I shared the story with Australian Ambassador to Jordan Bernard Lynch, who was visiting me to discuss other matters. It turned out that one of his three children has a passion for dinosaurs, just like my son, so we invited them to the site. We visited the site on September 24 to explore the dinosaur foot print in Shobak in a family-friendly adventure. It was an enjoyable excursion. We drove off-road for about 30 minutes and walked 4 km uphill to reach the site. The children loved it, despite the heat and the steep climb up and down.
The ministries of agriculture, environment, and tourism should designate the area as a bio reserve to protect it and provide its population with environment-friendly sustainable livelihood opportunities.
The place has a huge potential and can turn the area into a destination for scientific, educational, and adventure tourism. It is virgin land that needs plenty of development, but it provides an opportunity that can ignite a cluster of activities, in association with the Jordan Heritage Revival Company programs that are being developed and implemented in the Shobak area.
The area is one of the remaining locations where there is some presence of the juniper trees (Juniperus phoenicea). They are threatened and very unhealthy. The biosphere is degraded and needs protection. The ministries of agriculture, environment, and tourism should designate the area as a bio reserve to protect it and provide its population with environment-friendly sustainable livelihood opportunities.
A related subject is the cleanliness deficit across the country, especially on inter-city roads, and particularly roads leading to tourist locations and around the locations themselves. These locations require the government to act more seriously to address what amounts to a shameful environmental challenge. A quick trip to the Dead Sea would make the point. Once again, seeing is believing.
Fares Braizat is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, former minister of youth, moderator of the working group on tourism as part of Jordan Economic Vision 2033, and member of the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System. [email protected]
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