The true story from the beginning….
This project to train Jordanian guides in adventure tourism goes back to the late 1980s.
At that time, there was no corps of guides, whether in terms of tourism, culture or sports.
The first real “status” of professional guide emerged in Wadi Rum, when three Bedouins from the Al Zalabiah tribe were trained by the National Outdoor School of Plas y Brenin, in Wales, Great Britain. It was led by Tony Howard and Diana Taylor (now Diana Howard).
Ataeq Odeh, Sabbah Eid and Sabbah Ataeq were the lucky, enthusiastic and talented ones elected.

Sabbah Ataeq - Photo Mario VerinAlthough recognized as experts by the authorities, no further action was taken on this salutary, if not essential, initiative.
The following Bedouin mountain “guides” then operated for many years without formal approval by the Jordanian state.

The same was true for all rescue operations in the mountains, most of which were carried out by the indigenous people, who are the only ones able to extirpate the victims of these complex, even dangerous, mountain topography. They volunteered in these often delicate operations and only rarely received any recognition or thanks.

It was only in 1998 that the Jordan Tour Guides Association – J.T.G.A. – was born, totally dedicated to the group supervision, and to cultural and historical information for tourists, with more than 1200 guides and 32 spoken languages. This association grew spontaneously and quickly became the only official body recognized by the state, without however being a direct emanation of it.
Then came local licences enabling local “guides” to operate legally (Petra, Wadi Rum, Chateau de Kerak…).
And of course, private companies, such as the R.S.C.N. ‘Royal Society for Conservation of Nature‘, trained their own executives in complete independence.

But as already mentioned before, the original request for State recognition for adventure tourism management, which is therefore potentially at risk, has its origin in Wadi Rum.
Bedouins, occasionally or regularly active as guides in their mountains, quickly received informal recognition from Western mountain guides, including many celebrities.

The new generation was there, with Mohammed Hammad, Omar Odeh, Mussalam Sabbah, Talal Awad…
And then, Tony Howard’s friends took over the project. Bernard Domenech and myselffrom The Desert Guides SocietyPhilippe Brass and Gilles Rappeneau have intensified their demands to the authorities to create a guide diploma, similar to those that are found everywhere in the world.

All this therefore depends on the attention of the authorities, and more especially on the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in charge of tourism activities. But the government has been unable to finance such a project, mainly because of the constant changes of governments.

After many ‘adventures’ and hopes raised, after two attempts to reach an agreement with USAID, which is very present in the country, I was about to give up….
Until the day when a good friend of mine came to re-activate our now common project, because something seemed to move… It was Hakim Tamimi, who in the meantime became responsible for “Adventure Tourism” within the Jordan Tourism Board, or JTB, the Ministry of Tourism’s auxiliary and communication agency.

Hakim Tamimi - head of the Adventure Tourism Department at JTBThings then moved quickly. The French Embassy’s concern for such a major project was the essential driving force to make the deal a reality. It was Sophie Bel, Cooperation and Cultural Action Advisor, and Catarina Sabatini, Cooperation Officer, who made it possible for the project to mature and raise the necessary funds through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France (the famous Quai d’Orsay in Paris). And on the Jordanian side of course, thanks to Hakim Tamimi, but also and above all to the first attentive ear to this emerging tourism that is “adventure tourism”, the Minister of Tourism herself, Mrs. Lina Mazhar Annab.

Following the structuring of the courses planned for hiking, canyoning, climbing, mountain climbing, etc., developed with Hakim in Amman, Jean-Sébastien Knoertzer of ENSA and Andy Perkins, a British guide based in Chamonix and an old friend of mine from when I was climbing with Tony Howard in Great Britain, it was time to take action.

The real driving force behind this ambitious project was, and still is, Neil Brodie, another ENSA teacher of Scottish origin. It was with him that we quickly put together the file in response to USAID’s 2017/18 call for tenders. To apply, you had to be an American or Jordanian first… Which was impossible for us to become in a few days…
So, using our network of guides through….
So, using our network of guides around the world, and with the precious help of Nancy Bouchard-Pritchard, we created an American company in nearly 24 hours thanks to our American guide colleague, Michael Silitch!
But it was not enough. For what seemed to us to be obscure reasons, our file was not chosen, despite the establishment of a’Dream Team’ of trainers mainly from the ENSA, but not only.

Michel Coranotte et Neil Brodie de l'ENSA, formateurs en JordanieIn short, it was finally in October 2019 that the first exam sessions were held, with besides Neil and Wilfried, Michel Coranotte and ‘Titi’ Gentet, other ENSA teachers, as well as the very efficient Jordanian manager, Ward Al Muheisen, without whom everything would have been much more complicated.

obtaining equivalence for the ‘Trekking Guide’ by a Confirmation Process, in Ajloun Nature Reserve.

selection of candidates for the training of Rock Climbing Instructors, planned on two levels, at Sami’s and Iraq al Dub cliffs (Ajloun region).

probationary exam for the ‘Trekking Guide’, in which the Mountain Guides were also integrated.
Endurance and agility tests in the granitic mountains west of Rashdyia, north of Aqaba-Red Sea.

entry selection for the training of Mountain Guides in Wadi Sulam, below Shaubak.

The next sessions will take place in December 2019 – for theoretical subjects only – then on site again in February 2020 for practical training courses for all candidates !

Wilfried Colonna

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