Preparations for Jerash festival begin ‘too early’ for tour guides

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JERASH — Preparations for Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts 2017 have begun, triggering criticism from local tour guides over alleged disruption to tourist movements in some parts of the Greco-Roman city.

A local tourist guide in Jerash, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Jordan Times on Monday that the preparations are “too early” and that the festival’s facilities would hinder the movement of visitors and block the view of some monuments. 

Another tourist guide, who also asked not to be named, said that, despite being temporary installations, the festival’s facilities block some parts of the ancient structures.

However, they both agreed that the festival is an opportunity to promote the city at the domestic and regional levels.  

The Jerash festival is an annual celebration of local, Arab and international culture during the summer. It is held in the ancient Greco-Roman city of Jerash, once known as Gerasa, located some 48km north of Amman. 

In 2011, the government revived the festival, which was first launched in 1981, after a four-year suspension.

The festival’s executive director, Mohammad Abu Summaqa stressed that the festival’s administration “carefully considers” the impact of the festival on the site’s environment and archaeological assets.

In an interview with The Jordan Times, Abu Summaqa stressed that the event is one of the largest festivals in the region and requires an extended preparation period, noting that all of the facilities are temporary and that he ordered the removal of all fixed structures two years ago.

The permission to begin the preparations was issued on May 20, Abu Summaqa said, adding that they will be held in two phases. 

The first phase will see the installation of facilities such as stages, ticket gates and lighting equipment, while the second phase, which will take 20 days, will see the preparation of the light and sound at the theatres.

Jerash Tourism Director Mashael Khasawwneh said that she accompanied Tourism Minister Lina Annab on a visit to the site last week and noticed “no obstacles” that would hinder tourists’ movement or the taking of photos, reiterating that such an important event requires extensive preparations.

She stressed the importance of the festival in promoting the ancient city and encouraging visitors, noting that the festival, which starts on July 20, is held out of tourist season and during a period characterised by low numbers of day visitors.

In 2008, authorities launched the Jordan Festival, a nationwide, theme-oriented event under which the Jerash festival became a component, a move that faced criticism from fans, artists and associations.

Since its first year, Jerash festival has been a launching pad for some of the most well-known Arab stars.