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University of Petra Wins the Newton Prize 2020

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The Newton-Khaldi funded project “Our past, our future, all together in Faynan”, won the 2020 Newton Prize. The project is led by Professor Steven Mithen (PI), University of Reading and Dr Fatima Al-Nammari (Co-PI), University of Petra, Jordan. The research team also included scholars from the University of Jordan, Durham, Leeds, and Queens London, in addition to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and the Council for Britain Research in the Levant.
The distinguished project bridges sustainable development and heritage in a bottom-up participatory approach for economic improvement. The proposed project in Faynan, a valley in South Jordan known for its unique nature reserve and ancient archaeological sites, has received the outstanding international award for advocating participatory community development through heritage tourism. This included developing the local museum; working with schools for educational content based on local heritage, and creating a vision based on community input on the role tourism can play to improve their lives. The project also included improvement of heritage trails and interpretation signs, and developing new museum items were locals can tell their own story.
The fund prize will be used to develop a women center for handicrafts, in partnership with the NGO Future Pioneers for Empowering Communities, who will assist the local women in developing quality crafts inspired by the local traditions of Faynan and its history. The center builds on the previous work funded through Newton-Khalid fund for developing heritage tourism in partnership with the community.
Well known as an eco-tourism destination, the Faynan Valley contains a number of camping grounds in addition to an award winning eco-lodge that attracts tourists, but the valley also contains archaeological sites from different eras, in addition to the local heritage associated with agriculture and grazing, all offering unique opportunities. Despite all this, the people of the Faynan Valley suffer low income and limited opportunities for economic development. The winning project invests in existing tourism opportunities bridging local crafts, tourism, and the museum, in an approach that is based in expanding the local NGO: The Faynan Heritage Women’s Cooperative.
Dr. Al-Nammari pointed out that the new project invests in the local strengths of the community while adopting a contemporary approach, as local women will develop new designs for artifacts inspired by archaeological findings in the museum, and provide hospitality through a locally inspired café, basing their work on existing tourism in the valley and on internet sales as well.
The Newton Prize awarded £1.5 pounds to five country projects recognizing the excellent research and innovation. The award funds allow such projects to expand, thus the new project “The Past Empowers the Future” will build on the previous work in Faynan to expand benefits to the local families.
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