Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Suhair Al-Ali signed on Tuesday a grant agreement with the Government of Greece for the funding of the "Shelter in Madaba Archeological Park and Interpretation of the Church of the Map Project". The grant agreement was signed on behalf of the Government of Greece by Greek Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mr. Theodorus Kasismis.
During the signing ceremony held in Madaba, Minister Al-Ali said that the Greek Government, through its development arm Hellenic Aid, would extend a Euro 487 thousand grant. This grant is allocated for the construction of a shelter for the protection of the mosaics at Martyr's Church, one of four Byzantine churches that lie along a Roman road in the Madaba Archaeological Park. It will also be used for the construction of an interpretation room within the church premises, and the construction and rehabilitation of tourist accommodation at the church.
"The project is aligned with a tourism development strategy executed by the Ministry of Tourism and the Department of Antiquities, and supported by USAID, Hellenic Aid and other European donors" she added.
"It is hoped that this project will ultimately serve to strengthen Madaba as a tourism destination, improve visitors' experience and prolong their stay in Madaba, which will ultimately result in job creation" explained Kassimis.
Hellenic Aid will work closely with MIMAR and USAID/Jordan Tourism Development Project, who will be managing the implementation of the projects in partnership with the Department of Antiquities, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, owner of the Church of the Map, and the Martyr's church, a Byzantine church at the Archaeological Park.
“At the moment, one tenth of the visitors who visit the Church of the Map visit the Archaeological Park. We hope that this will change as a result of improvements in the visitor experience and interpretation services, which will provide more opportunities for souvenir sales and help spread the word on the fragility of the mosaics and the need to protect these treasures,” said Mr. Jay Knott, USAID Jordan Mission Director.
His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, confirmed the Church's interest in promoting tourism in Madaba and Jordan, and to present Jordan's heritage treasures in the best possible light to Jordanian and international tourists.
Minister Al-Ali concluded by thanking the Greek Government for its continued support of the Jordanian Government's development efforts, praising good bilateral relations between the two countries.
Greece is a member of the EU since 1981. In the field of tourism, the EU has an extensive programme pertaining to the protection and promotion of cultural heritage in Jordan.
Existing projects already underway in Madaba and supported by USAID and other European donors include efforts to enhance the visitor center, develop the Madaba Mosaic School, and enhance tourism enterprises in Madaba.