AMMAN — At a time of political change and upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, cultural heritage remains an “anchor point” to connect countries south and north of the Mediterranean Sea, an EU representative said Monday.
Speaking at a conference to highlight projects in Jordan within the Euro-Med Heritage IV Programme, Irène Mingasson, representative of the EU Delegation in Amman, said the cultural richness of the Mediterranean region can be used to promote dialogue between the EU and Arab countries.
The 17-million-euro Euro-Med Heritage IV Programme (2008-2012) is aimed at improving accessibility to and knowledge of cultural heritage and funds 12 projects within the region, Nizar Al Adarbeh, manager of one of the projects, said on behalf of team leader Christiane Dabdoub Nasser.
“This programme has proved that the value of heritage can be promoted through a holistic approach that includes public and private parties,” Adarbeh noted at the conference.
The initiative sought “to facilitate the appropriation by people of their own national and regional cultural legacy through easier access to education and knowledge on cultural heritage”, according to the programme’s official website.
The projects presented at Monday’s conference focused on several aspects, including documenting intangible heritage, reviving ancient theatres and increasing youth involvement in preserving culture in Jordan and other partner countries.
Under the Mediterranean audiovisual memory project (Med-Mem), 14 television networks from Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, France and Italy provided some 4,000 video-radio files for a free online archive (www.medmem.eu), according to Khaled Abdallat, who presented Med-Mem at the conference.
“This is the largest video library of Mediterranean online archives… available in three languages: English, Arabic and French,” Abdallat said, adding that the topics covered in the files vary from history to culture and tourism.
In another initiative, 120 youths from Jordan and Lebanon were trained to capture and present their cultural heritage through interactive multimedia presentations and documentaries.
“It was up to them to capture their own stories,” Robert Maroni, Mercy Corps country director, said.
Mercy Corps implemented the “Foundations for a strong future” initiative in cooperation with local partners from Jordan and Lebanon. The project concluded in October 2011.
A toolkit on guiding youths through cultural heritage in their villages and towns was also produced as part of the project, with the organisers training some 1,000 teachers on using it for their students, according to Maroni.
“These countries are so rich in cultural heritage but the youth aren’t so interested in it… the goal was to get them interested,” he noted.
Hikmat Nawaiseh outlined the Safeguarding Mediterranean Living Heritage Project and its results in documenting the intangible heritage of Madaba Governorate and training researchers on documentation.
Adarbeh also presented the Ancient Theatres Enhancement for New Actualities (ATHENA) project, which is led by Jordan and includes Tunisia, Algeria, Spain and Italy.
Within the project, which concludes in early 2013, the involved countries are documenting six of their ancient theatres to ensure that they continue to play a vital cultural role in the future.
Also on Monday, ATHENA team launched “Aladdin’s Magical Journey to Ancient Theatres” by Mohammad Al Zaher. The children’s book, which takes readers on a journey through the history of the theatres involved in the project, will be distributed to schools around the Kingdom.
“We are also working on translating it into English, Spanish, Italian and French soon,” added Adarbeh, ATHENA project manager.
The ATHENA team is also finalising several other publications, including a manual on 3D scanning of heritage sites, a handbook on theatre management and a thesaurus of terminology related to ancient theatres, he explained.
Tourism Minister Nayef Al Fayez highlighted Jordan’s rich heritage and the importance of the Euro-Med Heritage Programme.
“I am proud that my country, Jordan, took on the leading role on one of these projects… under the umbrella of the Ministry of Tourism/the Department of Antiquities, which increases our faith in our institutions that work to safeguard cultural heritage,” he said at the conference.