Petra-born archaeologist wants to restore spirituality, simplicity of new world wonder

Petra-born archaeologist wants to restore spirituality, simplicity of new world wonder

by Saeb Rawashdeh | Feb 19, 2015 | 16:31

A sketch of a projected eco-village that archaeologist Shaaban Nyazi plans to establish in Petra, 235km south of Amman (Photo courtesy of Shaaban Nyazi)

AMMAN — In a bid to “restore authenticity” to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, archaeologist Shaaban Nyazi is launching a project to establish an art colony there and organise “meditation tours”.

Within the project, people from all around the world will be able to come to Petra, 235km south of Amman, and enjoy silence, meditation and the unique atmosphere of the rose-red city, he said.

“Petra is a legend easily seen and recognisable the way it is. Petra isn’t a… resort with a beach, Jacuzzi and swimming pools,” Nyazi told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

For him, Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is more than just a historical and archaeological site; it is the most Jordanian symbol of the Kingdom, a symbiosis of a pre-Christian and pre-Islamic Middle East with monotheistic religions that changed the social landscape forever.

But the Petra resident believes that Jordan’s most spectacular tourist site has turned into a five-star resort instead of being a sanctuary of tranquillity.

“My goal is to preserve the heritage of Petra and Jordan. It’s about time [we] protected our identity by returning to [the] simplicity and reality of everyday life,” Nyazi noted.

“I want to incorporate art, meditation and eco-friendly tourism,” he added.

His project is not simply born out of his profession, but out of his intimate connection to the ancient city. 

“I was born in Petra in the beginning of February 1955, in a cave in the hill surrounding the ancient site. At that time, no regular housing existed in Petra so people used to live in caves during the winter and would take sheep and goats to the hill tops in the summer heat.”

Nyazi is planning to use 10 dunums of his land to create a centre or “colony” to promote original Jordanian arts and crafts.

“I’ll build 30 rooms compatible with ecotourism, a botanic garden where herbs could be used to make colours, spices and medicine like the ancient Nabataeans did 2,000 years ago,” he noted, elaborating on his plans.

The facility will be smoking-free, without any extra semblance of luxury. Each room will also be dedicated to a famous Jordanian historical site.

“We should focus more on [experiencing] the cultural value because I want to offer [the] spirituality of Petra and its unique experience. I want to fill hearts not suitcases. Instead of offering our genuine hospitality we corrupt it with services that could be found elsewhere in the world,” Nyazi said.

“Even residents of Petra don’t realise the significance and the legend behind [it], and they litter the site. I don’t want to complain about the present and cry about the past because for me Petra incorporates beauty, hard work and determination.”

Nyazi believes education is key to counter this attitude and instil a sense of belonging to heritage sites like Petra.

“We should promote our authentic culture instead of imitating Americans and Europeans. We should be proud of our Arab heritage and show it to the world.”


Categories: Arab World, Archeology, Asia, Jordan

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