PETRA, Jordan (eTN) – On the occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra, a two-day conference on “Conserving and Presenting Petra to the World” was launched today under the patronage of HRH Prince Raad Bin Zeid. The event is being held by the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA) and the Department of Antiquities, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“I’m proud to be among this prestigious group of respected professors and researchers from Jordanian and international scientific institutions who are gathered today from different parts of the world to discuss the challenges that face Petra in order to come up with a national plan to protect Petra in a way the connects maintenance and restoration with the many areas of tourism development,” said HRH Prince Raad bin Zeid.
“This conference is in line with the new law of the PDTRA which translates the royal vision to develop this region, achieve comprehensive and sustainable development, offer a suitable environment for attracting investments, and provide a remarkable tourism product that balances between preserving the international heritage of Petra and generating revenues for both the national economy and local communities,” said HE Mohammad Abul Ghanam, PDTRA Chief Commissioner.
“On this occasion of Petra’s 200-year rediscovery, not only do we celebrate it being among Jordan’s many great heritage assets, but we are pleased and in full support of protecting the monument with scientific expertise and sound planning. We, at the Ministry of Tourism and at the Department of Antiquities, and I speak on the minister as being also the minister of environment, that we have several major conservation initiatives that we want to see materialize very quickly,” said HE Mr. Issa Gammoh, MoTA Secretary General.
“A central goal of the National Tourism Strategy is to create jobs and economic growth through the sustainable development of Jordan’s tourism sites. This goal requires a delicate balance between conservation and marketing throughout all of our efforts. USAID believes this balance is especially true for Petra which received 975,000 visitors in 2010, and remains the overwhelming reason international tourists come to Jordan,” said Mr. Doug Ball, Acting Mission Director – USAID.
The conference began with a plenary session open to the tourism sector at large as well as conservation experts, during which the latest developments at the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP) and the surrounding region were shared, in addition to the projects and initiatives supported by international agencies and donors, along with an update on implementation of the conservation plan. USAID has been supporting the Petra Archaeological Park to strengthen its technical and institutional capacities, with the ultimate goal of preserving the site for the generations to come. Also, the recently-developed Petra master plan, which won the Pierre L’Enfant award, was developed and is being implemented with USAID support. The plan incorporates site preservation, local community development, and investment opportunities.
The plenary session was followed by workshops aimed at setting priorities and actions needed for conserving and preserving the archaeological site of Petra as well as enhancing operational management, developing tourism, and increasing visitation. Archaeologists, site conservation experts, and policy makers representing government entities, NGOs, academia, and foreign archaeological missions shared their opinions regarding a variety of technical issues related to the Petra site. Hazards, conditions, and vulnerabilities that could affect the site were discussed, and solutions were proposed to advance the work on the site conservation plan project without any risks. Experts from the UNESCO World Heritage Center, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) as well as Achen University were there to share their expertise. The Jordanian firm Cultech will use outcomes of these discussions and input from USAID expert consultants to feed into a conservation plan being developed for Petra.
Currently, the Petra Archaeological Park is facing specific challenges in relation to its World Heritage status. During its annual meeting of 2011, the World Heritage Center put forth a number of requisites that Jordan must meet to prevent Petra’s placement on the list of endangered sites. These requisites primarily call for the adoption and implementation of coherent conservation strategies and management planning. One of the goals of the conference is to develop a conservation frame work and policy direction and prepare a list for key conservation actions to be executed