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Lavender… and the life of Umm al-Jimal

In our tendency to habitually move through our daily activities, , on behalf of the Department of Antiquities and the Ministry of Tourism, we don’t notice subtle change. Such is our case with the garden at the Interpretative and Hospitality Center in the archaeological site of Umm al-Jimal. When we arrive each morning, we enter through the arched doorway of the ancient farmhouse the archaeologists call House 119. We wander through that is now the Interpretive Center, checking that all is as it should be. We glance at the Inscription Garden with its stone reminders of the people who lived and died in this place. These markers do not change, have not changed for more than 1000 years. In our routine, we tend to overlook the living things that do change on the site.

We missed our habits while we, and the rest of Jordan and the world, were required to stay at home for the health and safety of all of us who are alive today, to stop the deadly virus that will become part of the history of our time in this place. This absence made us miss our beloved site, our work, our team.

Sitting at home with time on our hands allowed us to ’walk’ through the site in our minds thinking about each detail. What is there that may not survive without our care? The newly planted living garden, especially the tiny lavender plants that we hope will thrive even in this desert climate.

Jehad Sulieman, Architect, General Director of Hand by Hand Heritage, and Umm Al-Jamal Archaeological Project team member does it all—field work, public safety, site integrity, community interaction… But for Jehad, the garden is his baby. Imagine him arriving after nearly three months to the smell of lavender before even passing through the doorway. The lovely lavender took root while we were away and grew up and around the stories that the stones tell.

The growth of the plants in the garden provided us with a measure of time passing, like a time lapse. They represent the continuity of life here in Umm al-Jimal over centuries through all sorts of human challenges. The smell of the lavender is a symbol of resilience that lifts our spirits as we prepare for opening again, as a team and as a community of Umm al-Jimal. We welcome you again to the living story of Umm al-Jimal, as usual, with "Ahlan Wa Sahlan" .

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