Bir Madhkur is one of approximately 40 sites in southern
Jordan with a connection to the ancient Incense Route. This major land and sea
trading route stretched from India across the Levant and Egypt, linking eastern
and southern incense, spices, and luxury goods with the Mediterranean world.
The route existed between the 7th century B.C. and 2nd century A.D, and Bir
Madhkur itself was occupied during the Nabataean, Roman, and Byzantine periods.
The most prominent features of the site include a late
Roman/early Byzantine military fort, dwellings, and bath houses. Around the
fort, excavations have revealed caravan stations, farmhouses, and nomadic
encampments. Evidence also suggests the area was once home to a massive
agricultural area and also served as a hub for copper trade, linking Faynan to
the north with Abu Kushayban.
At its peak, Bir Madhkur was a bustling trade hub, home to
communities of herders, farmers, and traders. These locals also mixed freely
with those who traveled through the site including pilgrims, merchants, and
The expansive site is most tightly concentrated along the ridge
that separates the fort from a nearby spring, which was the ancient water
supply. Today, locals get their water from a well nearby, which gave rise to
the name Bir (well) of Madhkur.
The project worked to revitalize the trails that link Bir
Madhkur to Petra, as well as to further conserve the site and make it more
comprehensible to public audiences. One of the most visible signs of SCHEP’s
work has been the establishment of clearly marked trails and installation of
interpretive panels along the route.
Another key component of the project included environmental
protection, trying to fight erosion and other degradation. This included
building terraced walkways to limit foot traffic in risk-susceptible areas.
SCHEP trained members of the local community with the skills
necessary to conserve and protect archaeological features at Bir Madhkur, including
those found along the routes to the site as well as the routes themselves,
throughout the year and on a more sustained basis. Along these lines, SCHEP
held workshops in site clearance and consolidation, use of GPS and survey
equipment, and technical trainings in the repair, consolidation, and maintenance
of the paths between Petra and Bir Madhkur.
Bir Madhkur community members who were interested in establishing a tourism
business were invited to a workshop in Wadi Ramm to learn from their business
models and observe the ways in which tourism has positively affected their
The project at Bir Madhkur trained and offered opportunities
for guides, surveyors, architectural consolidators and other similar functions.
The project provided 21 employment opportunities.
Tourism and Economic Development
SCHEP worked closely with the local community at Bir Mahdkur
and the PDTRA to help develop an ‘Incense Route Project’ that would connect the
area with nearby Petra, as was the case in ancient times. SCHEP organized test
hikes with community leaders and tourism professionals.
SCHEP installed interpretive panels at the site and along
the route to Petra in order to make the area accessible and comprehensible to
visitors. SCHEP also worked to refurbish a variety of houses in the area, in an
effort to transform them into cabins for tourists to stay overnight and
comfortably enjoy the area.
Bir Madhkur lies in Wadi Araba, within Aqaba governorate. Together
with the surrounding communities of Qweilbeh, Quraygra/Feynan, Abu Kushayban,
Rahma, Gharandal, Risha and Qatar together make up the municipality of Wadi
Arabia, which has a total population of around 6,000 people. The area is
classified as a poverty pocket, with more the 87% of the population falling
below the poverty line.
The area’s mountains and wadis
are ideal for hiking, climbing, and exploring the nearby canyons. USAID SCHEP
teams, as well as projects from the Jordan Tourism Board, hope to continue to
promote adventure, as well as cultural heritage tourism in the surrounding area.
Director: Dr. Andrew Smith II.
Abdullah al-Sayyideen and Mohammed al-Sayyideen.
Read More About Bir Madhkur:
About Site Steward Mohammed al-Sayyideen
About Visiting Bir Madhkur
About the History of Bir Madhkur