A Community Development Initiative
Today Umm el-Jimal retains a strong sense of its history and culture. Although it has seen many changes over the centuries, residents share a serious interest both in preserving their heritage and continuing to improve local quality of life. To those ends, local residents and the project partners are collaborating on an exciting new sustainable development project: a cultural heritage organization named Jama’iyya al-Jawhara as-Sawda’a at-Ta’ouniyya—the Black Jewel Cooperative Society. Al Jawhara's main goal is to improve the community's wellbeing, help preserve its antiquities, and protect the local environment by linking all three in sustainable, income-generating programs. The project aims to generate employment for 30-40 local people on a long-term, self-sustaining basis.
Overseen by a local board and operated by Umm el-Jimal's residents, the organization is structured as a nonprofit cooperative society with comprehensive financial and legal oversight according to Jordanian law. Conceived with a multi-faceted mission, Al Jawhara will offer a range of services to the community, contribute to the protection of the archaeological park, and provide tourism facilities for visitors to Umm el-Jimal. Currently the organization utilizes Sheikh Hail es-Serour's historic home adjacent to the ruins. However, plans are already underway for Al Jawhara's permanent home: a cultural heritage center located directly adjacent to Umm el-Jimal's main archaeological site, bridging the community and ruins.
In addition to a large contingent of Umm el-Jimal's residents, a growing number of partners have committed their expertise and/or financial backing to the collaborative project. This group currently includes the Umm el-Jimal Project, Open Hand Studios, UNESCO, and other institutions.
Al Jawhara's core activities seek to combine its three-part community, preservation, and environmental mission into sustainable programs. Programs currently under development include:
Protection, cleaning, maintenance, and improvement of the main archaeological site.
Restoration of the site's ancient water system for low-cost use by Umm el-Jimal residents for their gardens and small farms. See the Water Project for more information.
Operation of a restaurant, restroom and overnight facilities, and provision of site tourism materials and guided tours.
Development of an annual Hauran cultural festival and regional products fair.
Collection, preservation, and presentation of community heritage artifacts and oral histories from the region.
Local Business Promotion
Development of local businesses and classes that serve community needs and visitor interests, such as crafts and mementos, cooking classes, home stays, and bread baking.
Public and school-based lectures about Umm el-Jimal's antiquities and local cultural heritage.
The Umm el-Jimal Project highlights the following institutions' special dedication in developing Al Jawhara, without which the society would not exist.
Municipality of Umm el-Jimal
Current mayor Hassan Fahed al-Rahaibeh and the municipality of Umm el-Jimal have been warm and enduring advocates of Al Jawhara and its vision for a living Umm el-Jimal.
Meet the Co-Directors
Al Jawhara is ably managed by co-directors and Umm el-Jimal citizens Ismail Hanawi (pictured above) and Muaffaq Hazza. Their steady hands, smart leadership, and passion for Umm el-Jimal are helping ensure the site's future.