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Princess Sumaya highlights urgency of preserving region’s cultural heritage

By Elisa Oddone - May 12,2014 - Last updated at May 12,2014

AMMAN — Jordanian and German archaeologists convened in the capital on Monday to discuss ways of protecting the region’s cultural heritage amid the wave of revolts, regime changes and ongoing civil wars that marked the situation of Arab Spring countries since 2010.

During the two-day meeting, titled “Preserving the Past — Constructing the Future, Cultural Heritage and Social Development in the Arab World”, experts will discuss current political, economic and social issues linked to the preservation of historical sites in the Arab world.

“This is a particularly poignant time in which to consider the preservation of our cultural and archaeological heritage,” HRH Princess Sumaya told the audience attending the opening ceremony. “For as the humanitarian crisis across our not distant border continues to take a terrible toll on our shared human heritage...  We must determine to redouble our efforts in preservation.” 

“For what is happening today in Syria may happen more slowly but inexorably in other countries in time of peace, unless we are up to preserving our heritage,” the princess added.

Vulnerability of sites in phases of violent upheaval, threats to historic buildings in times of rapidly growing urban centres, and the balance between touristic use and conservation requirements are among the topics experts will touch upon in the conference.

Princess Sumaya said that since the region’s cultural heritage stands as a non-renewable resource, no one should underestimate the urgency of acting now to save its material heritage.

“As we all share common anxieties over our threatened environment, our dwindling resources and reckless population growth, we should remember that even the greatest civilisation may fall to the ravages of climate, conflict and economic greed. Discovering the secrets of the past may help us live in harmony with our environment and indeed with each other,” she said.

The conference, organised by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), is taking place within a celebration dubbed “German Weeks”, which brings together German institutions, organisations and companies active in the Kingdom.

Princess Sumaya, deputy chairman of the Jordan Museum board of trustees, inaugurated the May 11-23 event on Sunday.

DAAD President Margret Wintermantel stressed her country’s commitment in academic education in archaeology and related fields in the Arab world during the conference’s opening ceremony.

“We are convinced that cooperation between German and Arab universities brings benefits to both sides,” Wintermantel said, highlighting the “tremendous” importance of cultural heritage for a country’s identity, and also as an economic factor since tourism is a significant income generation source.

German Ambassador to Jordan Ralph Tarraf praised the role of Jordan amid the Syrian crisis, which started as a peaceful protest movement and turned into a civil war in which over 160,000 people have died.

“Jordan has become the hub of security in the Levant not only inside its borders but also projecting security into the whole sub-region which is quite a remarkable achievement for a country of the size and volume of Jordan,” Tarraf said.

“Syria has become the open wound of the region with destabilising effects on Lebanon and Iraq, and posing a huge burden on Turkey and Jordan. These developments are directly endangering the cultural heritage of the region.” 

The envoy stressed that the current political and economic arrangements to preserve the security of Jordan should be sustained in the future. 

“Constructing the future and preserving the future is the most urgent and pressing need as soon as we think beyond the current crisis mode. We are here to see and discuss how the cultural heritage can contribute to construct the future.”

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