Nasser Al Zawideh, the director of the Wadi Rum Protected Area in southern Jordan, concludes his experience as a World Heritage Fellow in Yosemite National Park this week.
Al Zawideh, who has worked at Wadi Rum for 15 years and served as its director for the past year, heads home after spending a month in Yosemite learning about park operations and sharing his expertise on managing an iconic protected area.
Wadi Rum Protected Area, like Yosemite National Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fellowship program is sponsored by U.S. Department of Interior's International Technical Assistance Program and the United States Agency for International Development funded Jordan Parks Project.
"It has been a great honor and pleasure to host Nasser during his fellowship here in Yosemite,” said Don Neubacher, the park’s superintendent. “He has brought us some unique insights and lessons from Wadi Rum and we were pleased to share with him a glimpse of how we manage this magnificent park."
While in Yosemite, Al Zawideh spent significant time with each of the park's divisions and experienced firsthand several components of park operations. He learned about resource and visitor protection, interpretation and education, administration, resource management and science, and several other disciplines. He also visited several areas of the park, including Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. He was also able to visit the gateway communities of Mariposa and Oakhurst, and gave several presentations about Wadi Rum and Jordan's other protected areas at park meetings and open houses.
Wadi Rum Protected Area is located in southern Jordan and receives about 250,000 visitors per year. The visitors come mostly from Europe and are able to participate in activities such as hiking, rock climbing, jeep tours, and horse and camel rides. Wadi Rum is protected both for its natural and cultural features. It features beautiful sandstone cliffs and is home to several species of mammals, including the ibex and oryx. Culturally, Wadi Rum preserves the Bedouin culture and features petroglyphs and remnants of habitation from over a million years ago.
"I particularly enjoyed the amazing natural landscape of Yosemite Valley. I loved being able to view the beautiful mountains with no buildings in the way," said Al Zawideh. "The two things I saw as most effective in Yosemite National Park were the effectiveness of the resource and visitor protection rangers and the awareness of the park mission on behalf of the employees on the general public."
Al Zawideh is the first World Heritage Fellow that Yosemite National Park has hosted. He is originally from the Wadi Rum area and continues to live there with his family. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in archeology and tourism from the University of Amman in Jordan.