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Scholars mull establishment of geopark in Jordan

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Dec 21,2017 - Last updated at Dec 21,2017

Blueprint of ‘the first’ geopark in Jordan (Photo courtesy of Kawthar Al Rayyan)

AMMAN — Motivated by the desire to present to the general public the old phosphate mines of Ruseifa, a group of scholars came to the idea of establishing the “first geopark” in Jordan.

The geopark is a defined area that has geological feature or features of globally and regionally recognised significance that is set to promote awareness through society, said Catreena Hamarneh, a Jordanian archaeologist.

The location of the Ruseifa phosphate mines met several of these concepts, not only geologically but heritage wise too, Hamarneh continued. 

“First, the site is that of the first mining activity in the modern history of Jordan, with well- preserved geological strata and a unique fossil record,”î she noted, adding that the original landscape of the Zarqa River is partially preserved, bringing to mind the famous “gardens” of the area mentioned in Arabic poems of the era. 

According to Geology Professor from German-Jordanian University Nizar Abu Jaber, “Phosphate ore was first recorded by the German geologist Max Blankenhorn in 1903, yet its extraction hadn’t started till 1935 as a result of an initiative by pharmacist Amin Kawarto, afterwhich it became a major export of the country in the early 20th century.î

Abu Jaber, who is heading the project added: “The concept of the geopark lies in restoring the ancient mining company buildings to establish a museum, which focuses on three main themes: history of mining activity in Jordan, the geology of the phosphate and the history of Ruseifa."

However, Hamarneh said:"In addition to the geological history, the site has heritage value in the constructed mine company building which reflects the 1950s-1960s architecture, with glass windows, the site had aesthetic values reflected in gardens and fields along the river bank, now polluted by brick production and dumps.”

The site was very important during the formative period of the Kingdom and it well reflects early industrial revolution in Jordan, she underlined, noting that the mining activity and the use of the locomotives to transport the phosphate ore is evident from the railway, water tower and the carts at the site.

 ìAs the technology developed so did the architecture with new toasters and storing silos,” Hamarneh outlined. “The site reflects developing of heavy machinery and mining technology; two types of mining activity existed at the site: the shaft mining and the open pit mining.” 

The presence of the offices and the old clinic reflects the organisation and the care for the miners, the archaeologist stressed.

The development of extraction correlates with the growth of the city of Ruseifa, which drew more population to work in the mines, increasing the urban sprawl of the city and modifying the population network, she explained. 

The project is trying to benefit from the already existing urban planning, according to architect Kawthar Al Rayyan.

The street network already in existence, makes the accessibility to the site easy and comfortable, Rayyan said. 

Moreover, project designer Rayyan, created the blueprint on multiple levels, connecting the site with the amusement park and up the river bank below, thus placing it in the core of the city. 

“The concept behind my design was to create interactive, open and closed space, where activities meet exhibited items,” she added. “The design is made to attract people to do various activities, to learn, enjoy and interact. Now that the houses are flanking the area from east and west, the need for the park and recreation area becomes crucial,” Rayyan added.

Unfortunately, according to Hamarneh,  due to the site mine abandonment, the presence of extracted phosphate waste, it has turned into a dump, creating a huge hazard on the population, thus increasing the need to intervene, to protect the site from the ecological and visual pollution it is now facing.

“The project uniqueness lies in the social component it carries, special souvenir line has been developed by designer Hanna Sukkar for production by the local community, thus providing new family income. Moreover, the educational component is imbedded by special curricula and hands on activities in the museum, thus giving education new dimension,” Abu Jaber noted.

 

The Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs gave a positive feedback, Abu-Jaber added, but the project can only be launched once financial structure gets sustainable funding, he concluded.

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