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Samar Erman on Umm al-Jimal: Each Visit is Like the First One

Just visiting an archaeological site is never like living near it!

Ancient Umm al-Jimal is a part of me. I am Samar Erman. My link with the site is not the same link of those who visit, work or even study the place, it is a mixture of them all, and even more. From a young age we used to visit the site and walk around it. We are linked by memories of the place that cannot be forgotten, as if it were a link from our roots. We have never lost sight of the time that we used to live in it. Therefore, the scene of black basalt walls, scattered stones and even the existing buildings is in my bones.

My knowledge of the history of the place was limited. My university background was not focused on the history of Umm al-Jimal or the thought of working with it. It was for me merely part of my past, but that all changed after starting with Hand by Hand Heritage. It became necessary to increase my factual knowledge of the place. What I learned in official tour guide training enabled me to start a new chapter in my story with the place.

I can picture myself on my first tour after studying to be a tour guide, I’m thinking, “I do not know where start. Everything is known to me, but how can I convey its meaning to visitors? I do not want to just explain the place, but more than that, I want the visitor to feel connected to the place, to its "spirit ".

My first guests were Nancy and Ted from the United States. I really wanted them to love this place. I started telling a brief history, as I was trained.

As soon as we started walking on the trail another voice inside me began to speak, recounting the past and explaining, like an audible dialog with my self as a guide here, and my self with a personal connection to what I was describing.

Everything changed, the anxiety disappeared. As it slipped away my sense of responsibility for my guests increased. They would see through me. I could not just repeat what I was taught. But I could offer details and stories to give them a personal connection to this place, its history and its people—my people.

The ancient site at Umm al-Jimal has been here for 2000 years, but each visit to the site is new. I see it from different dimensions. Each guest brings a new perspective, too. The rich stories that I tell from the past and present differ depending the people and my desire to inspire them from the depth of my roots.

The archaeological site tour is one of the most loved activities of Hand by Hand Heritage Umm al-Jimal. It is enough for me to hear a guest say, "Keep the history alive." I will do just that.

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