By Khetam Malkawi

AMMAN – The World Heritage Committee on Saturday inscribed Wadi Rum of Jordan, a mixed site displaying unique natural beauty and cultural significance, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

With this win, Wadi Rum joined the Nabataean city of Petra, the Byzantine ruins and mosaics of Um Rasas and the Umayyad desert palace of Quseir Amra.

“This win is considered as a recognition for Jordan and its heritage, and will have a great impact on the country’s tourism sector,” Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Haifa Abu Ghazaleh told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.

She added that, currently, the ministry is also lobbying for the Dead Sea to be voted for as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

“We will launch a campaign in July to encourage votes for the Dead Sea,” Abu Ghazaleh said, noting that the sector is intensifying its efforts to list more Jordanian sites on the world map.

Ibrahim Osta, USAID/Siyaha chief of party, also noted that this win will help attract more visitors to the site.

“This ranking will further raise the profile of Wadi Rum globally which will attract higher value visitors and improve the livelihoods of local residents,” Osta told The Jordan Times.

The Ministry of Environment, in cooperation with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, the Ministry of Tourism and the USAID/Jordan Tourism Development Project (Siyaha), prepared a nomination file that was referred in late 2009 to the National World Heritage Committee.

The Wadi Rum protected area, 300 kilometres south of Amman, encompasses 720 square kilometres of desert wilderness with distinctive mountains and sandy valleys that are home to bedouin tribes and a range of desert wildlife, including the Arabian oryx.

Archaeological finds in the area indicate that Wadi Rum has been inhabited as far back as prehistoric times, with its unique landscapes and water sources offering a place of refuge for those travelling from the Gulf to the Levant.

Nabataean inscriptions, bedouin culture and tradition lend an intrinsic value to the site and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world. Along with nearby Petra and Aqaba, the site is part of the so-called golden triangle of tourism in the southern region.

Wadi Rum is present in historical records and religious texts, according to UNESCO. The area was referred to as Aramwa by Roman geographer and astrologer Ptolemy. The area is mentioned in the Old Testament as the centre of the emirate of the Prince of Aram, while according to Christian tradition, Iram was a name given to one of the sons of Noah, whose descendants lived in the region. Iram is also mentioned in the Holy Koran, linking it with a tribe called Ad, whose name was discovered in an inscription on an ancient temple at the site, according to archaeologists.

A total of 35 nominations, including Ogasawara Islands of Japan and the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, will be reviewed by the committee, which is holding its 35th session at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, by the end of the session on June 29.