Last summer's tourism season was an important moment for Hand by Hand Heritage. It was our true debut. And it happened at a time full of events, including the opening of the new Umm al-Jimal Interpretation and Hospitality Center on the archaeological site. The Umm al-Jimal Archaeological Project worked for many years to reach this important presentation during the summer of 2019.
Hand by Hand Heritage also worked hard to support the project in a whole range of activities over those years, and now was helping to prepare for the arrival of guests who would visit from around the world, including many Jordanian VIPs.
Not only would we help with the opening celebration, this was also the chance for Hand by Hand Heritage to test our readiness for upcoming tourist seasons. There was so much to do to prepare for home stays, food service, tour guiding, hands on activities, lists of invitees…the whole team worked without a break. All of this was happening during the holy month of Ramadan, so the Hand by Hand Heritage team was working and fasting.
Before the opening, everything seemed to be on time. Many attendees arrived early, days before the opening, to truly experience the place. It was an opportunity for us, starting with the arrival of the guests, to give them unique experiences in the black basalt desert, with a Bedouin touch and hospitality, to transport them into the world of our heritage.
When our first group of visitors (Tara and her family from the U.S.) arrived. We led them to the house of their host family (the Umm M. family) where we had prepared their sleeping arrangements in advance. Once there, we described the program schedule. Dinner was set for six o'clock, then they would have a chance to recover from jet lag by resting overnight to prepare for tours the next day. We checked for food preferences and allergies and then offered to answer any questions. The most surprising question was, "What is the time of breakfast?” Breakfast to us is the word used for the time when we break our fast after sunset during the fasting month of Ramadan. But they were asking about the time of the morning meal for the family in the home of Umm M. This simple question was a beautiful chance to share our customs, and a little Arabic language.
The time for breakfast was less important to the guests than the chance to eat the same food, in the same manner, at the same time as the host family.
This revealed another meaning for tourism, that is integrating and involving host communities with visitors to generate a new type of interaction based on our heritage. This is exactly the purpose of Hand by Hand Heritage!We are keen to enable a synergy between visitors and the local community, to create new experiences and opportunities for both, and to generate true mutual understanding.