History:

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, domestic settlement, bath houses, and various other structures. 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 soldiers.

The expansive site is most tightly concentrated along the ridge that separates the fort from a nearby spring, which was the ancient site’s water supply. Today, locals get their water from a well near the site, which gave rise to the name Bir (well) of Madhkur.

Progress:

Project Director Dr. Andrew M. Smith II has 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. Site Stewards Abdullah al-Sayyideen and Mohammed al-Sayyideen have cooperated with multiple stakeholders in the local community, and begun adventure guide training certification.

Additionally, USAID SCHEP will ensure that members of the local community are trained with the skills necessary to conserve and protect archaeological features at Bir Madhkur, those along the routes to the site, and the routes themselves throughout the year and on a more sustainable basis.

Host Community:

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.

Project Director: Dr. Andrew Smith II.

Site Stewards: 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