Topography of holy places, national image and religious tourism
Topography of holy places, national image and religious tourism in Jordan
The term ‘tourism’ has only recently come to be used in today’s accepted sense, even though it describes an activity that has been managed in an industrial fashion since companies such as Thomas Cook developed organised travel. By the end of the 19th century many western travellers were criss-crossing the area known today as Transjordan looking for Biblical sites, and their presence awoke an interest in the area. The development of tourism in Jordan is closely bound up with the archaeological discoveries, many of them connected to the Bible, made at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. The first archaeological sites visited by tourists had religious origins. Since the 1980’s, under the aegis of the Hashemite royal family, state development of the country’s heritage and tourist activity has been the priority of different governments for mainly economic and political reasons. This activity has been developed with enormous energy by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The very word ‘heritage’ has a particularly meaning in Jordan: when the first laws were being drawn up in 1923, all sites after 1700 were included under this definition (B. Porter, N.B. Salazar, 2003:364). This chronological limit applied to remains which were “heritage” (turath) as opposed to older remains which were “history”, tarikh. This official definition is often contradicted in practice, the terms are often used interchangeably in official documents and papers. Again, this is an administrative definition of heritage, and may have little in common with the way the people see it. The Christian and Islamic holy sites enjoy different status: the Christian sites recently made into heritage sites are mostly run by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, although many of them are actually looked after by Christian religious authorities, whereas the Islamic sites are run by the Ministry of awqaf, thus the Islamic heritage is managed by the state and not a religious institution. From this division of responsibility spring significant differences in the way the sites are managed. Today the distinction between tangible and non-tangible heritages has great importance, the second having been re-appropriated by many local communities. An example of this is the development of local organisations such as Bayt al-Anbat at Petra which gathers oral history in the town of Wadi Mousa.
After the creation of the Emirate of Transjordan [as it was known under the British mandate in 1922], then the Kingdom of Jordan, King Abdullah I was more interested in pan-Arab issues and did not try to push a strictly Jordanian heritage. The Hashemite king’s pan-Arab ambition continued until it came up against Palestinian nationalism. It was during the struggles with this new element of the Jordanian population that the Hashemite family gradually transformed their pan-Arab ambition, in the late 1980’s, into a nationalism focussed totally on Jordan. A comparative study of how the Christian and the Muslim holy places became heritage sites enables us to better understand the successive re-writing of national history and to analyse the heritage politics behind these re-writings. As from the 1980’s while the Christian sites have Biblical archaeology and their interpretation corresponds to contemporary Jordan, when Islamic holy places were turned into heritage sites they were presented as part of a territorial continuity between Jerusalem and the holy towns of the al-Hejaz [Mecca and Medina].
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities works closely with USAID, an American development agency. This latter has emphasised the need to promote religious and heritage tourism. The study of tourist activity helps us understand why certain sites were put forward as part of the national policy to give them heritage status. By using Jordanian television’s archives, and interviews done in Jordan with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of awqaf, this study aims to show the evolution of the way the tourist sector has been promoted since the 1960’s. How religious tourism has developed in the country; what collective image is being promoted by the media and public bodies responsible for development of tourism; how the 1980’s were a break in the creation of this national image.
I- Biblical archaeology and tou...
II- Islamic Tourism, re-writing...
Topography of holy places, national image and religious tourism in Jordan 1960-2011 The term ‘tourism’ has only recently come to be used in today’s accepted sense, even though it describes an activity that has been managed in an industrial fashion since companies such as Thomas Cook developed organised travel. By the end of the 19th century many western travellers were criss-crossing the area known today as Transjordan looking for Biblical sites, and their presence awoke an interest in the area. ...
PHD student at EHESS under the direction of Jocelyne Dakhlia and ATER at the University of Aix-Marseille.