The 74,000-hectare property, inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site, is situated in southern Jordan, near the border with Saudi Arabia. It features a varied desert landscape consisting of a range of narrow gorges, natural arches, towering cliffs, ramps, massive landslides and caverns. Petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains in the site testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment. The combination of 25,000 rock carvings with 20,000 inscriptions trace the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet. The site illustrates the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity in the region.
Wadi Rum Protected Area (WRPA) is located in the southern part of Jordan, east of the Rift Valley and south of the steep escarpment of the central Jordanian plateau. It comprises an area of 74,200 hectares. WRPA’s natural values include desert landforms developed within continental sandstones. These landforms have been developed under the influence of a combination of various controlling factors, such as lithology, tectonic activities (including rapid uplift, numerous faults and joints) and surface processes (including various types of weathering and erosion associated with desert climate as well as humid climates in the past), representing million years of ongoing landscape evolution.
Widespread petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment, illustrating the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the Arabian Peninsula and the environmental history of the region.
Criterion (iii): The rock art, inscriptions and archaeological evidence in WRPA can be considered an exceptional testimony of the cultural traditions of its early inhabitants. The combination of 25,000 petroglyphs, 20,000 inscriptions, and 154 archaeological sites provides evidence to continuity of habitation and land-use over a period of at least 12,000 years. The petroglyphs, representing human and animal figures, are engraved on boulders, stones, and cliff faces. They provide evidence of long-term patterns of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the property. Engravings indicate an elaborate sense of aesthetics in a pictorial culture, and the archaeological findings span all eras from the Neolithic to the Nabataean. Thamudic, Nabataean and numerous Arabic inscriptions in four different scripts testify to the widespread literacy among its pastoral societies.
Criterion (v): The variety of landforms at WRPA has played an essential role in fostering human settlement. The rock art, inscriptions and water catchment systems document the settlements of successive communities, which developed in areas of mobile animal husbandry and agriculture and form part of a wider context of human interaction with the semi-arid eastern desert environment of the Arabian Peninsula. WRPA assists the understanding of the continuum of settled and mobile lifestyles in a desert landscape illustrating the adaptability and ingenuity of human communities who have made the most of scarce resources to sustain continuous presence after the climate became dryer in the Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC).
Criterion (vii): WRPA is recognised globally as an iconic desert landscape, renowned for its spectacular series of sandstone mountains and valleys, natural arches, and the range of narrow gorges, towering cliffs, massive landslides, and dramatic cavernous weathering forms displayed. Key attributes of the aesthetic values of the property include the diversity and sheer size of its landforms, together with the mosaic of colours, vistas into both narrow canyons and very large wadis, and the scale of the cliffs. The property displays, in a protected setting, an exceptional combination of landforms resulting from drainage incision, severe weathering by salt, biological and other processes, and the undermining of steep sandstone cliffs by these weathering processes, together with the world’s most spectacular networks of honeycomb weathering features. Its associations with the writings of T.E. Lawrence, stressed strongly in the nomination, have ensured a high profile for the property and have reinforced its reputation of the area as a classic desert landscape both globally and within the Arab States.
Aqaba is Jordan’s only port city. It is on the Gulf of Aqaba in the extreme south of the country, adjacent to Eilat in Israel. Aqaba is Jordan’s window on the Red Sea. Historically the same city as Eilat on the Israeli side of the border, plans for a shared international airport and other forms of cooperation have cooled down in the past few years during a period of political tension. Aqaba has seen a lot of development. This has improved the infrastructure and facilities. Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect or out of date. The Desert Highway terminates in Aqaba. The bus station is about 300 m east of the mosque. There are frequent buses to Amman and other points along the highway. The fare is 7 JD each way. Amman to Aqaba is about 350 km using the Desert Highway. It will take about 4 hr to travel this distance at a reasonable speed [read more].
Ma’an is a city in southern Jordan, 218 kilometres southwest of the capital Amman. It serves as the capital of the Ma’an Governorate. Its population is approximately 41,055 in 2015. Civilizations with the name of Ma’an have existed at least since the Nabatean period—the modern city is just northwest of the ancient town. The city is an important transport hub situated on the ancient King’s Highway and also on the modern Desert Highway. Ma’an was founded by the Minaeans (known as “Ma’in” in Arabic), an ancient Arab people based in Yemen, between the 2nd and 4th century BCE. The site was located on a major trade route and was settled by Minaean traders and merchants. Local tradition has it that the city was named after “Ma’an”, the son of Lot. During the Byzantine era in Syria, Ma’an was part of the territory of the Arab Christian tribe of Banu Judham who served as vassals for the Byzantines in Transjordan [read more].
Kerak (also spelt Karak, Arabic al-Kerak) is a small, Arab city (population 170,000) in southern Jordan. It has a significant Christian population. Kerak is on the King’s Highway, 124 km south of the capital Amman, and is the site of a magnificently-situated Crusader castle, now an evocative ruin on the skyline above the city. In biblical times Kerak was the capital of the Moab Kingdom. Later it was ruled by the Nabataeans, after which the Romans took over. Under the Byzantines it was used as the seat of a bishopric. Left abandoned until 1140, when the crusaders acknowledged its strategic meaning and built a mighty fortress here. Only 50 years later it was conquered by the Arabs. Between the old city and the rest of the city local (shared) taxis should be used for around 2 JD. By car, the roads in town are narrow and usually one-way, but the town is compact, so you can park wherever you find space and walk to the castle [read more].
It’s a very evocative place, the sound is echoing off the walls around you, you’re looking up and down this broad desert canyon with sun coming down and the blue sky above.