Deputy Mayor of Amman, Engineer Amer Al Basheer recently inaugurated the three-day “Documenting Amman” conference, organized by the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) Cultural Programs Department, at Al Hussein Cultural Center, as part of its centennial celebrations.
During his opening speech at the conference, Al Basheer stated that the importance of such a gathering lay in the work papers that depicted the authentic history of Amman and its Municipality since the founding of its first municipal council 100 years ago. “Our history is a success story that proves the resolve and perseverance of Jordanian citizens in turning a small, relatively unimportant village into a large city with an impressive presence in the pages of history, holding an important and central position that is acknowledged throughout the world,” he added.
Al Basheer indicated that history is not a recital of the past, but a lesson for the future, as using its examples and findings can help plan for a more efficient and viable future for future generations.
Al Basheer expressed the hope that the conference in which participated various experts, researchers, and academics, would have exceptional advantages, due to the constructive dialogue and exchange of views, thereby enhancing the development process in Jordan in general, and Amman in particular, under the leadership of H.M. King Abdullah the Second.
Mr. Sultan Al Maani delivered a speech on behalf of the participants, during which he eulogized Amman, its beauty and history, and the heroism of its people.
“Ten decades have passed, 100 years of continuous hard work during which our beloved Capital has retained its glory and greenery,” he said. Al Maani also praised the Hashemite leadership for their endless and tireless efforts in helping their people, proving their benevolence and thoughtfulness for the good of Jordanians and Arabs at large.
During the first session of the conference, Dr. Hind Abul Sha’ar, Director of the University of Jordan Library and Publishing House, presented a paper on the history of Amman’s municipality during the Emirate of Trans-Jordan (1921-1946), reiterating that the first municipal council in Amman was established in 1909, nine years before the official fall of the Ottoman Empire.
She pointed to one of the notable events to take place in the Emirate of Trans-Jordan, namely an earthquake. After this natural disaster struck, an engineer working at the Municipality conducted a study, urging the government to use stones rather than clay in constructing buildings located on the main streets of Amman. He also requested the government to remove the buildings damaged in the earthquake, and to stop levying the Lime Tax (imposed by the Municipality at the time), thereby encouraging citizens to repair the damaged houses.
Abul Sha’ar indicated that the first mayor of Amman was Adel Ismael Babouq who held office between 1909 and 1911, and the first doctor on the municipal council was Mohammad Fareed Al Mufti, after whom one of Amman’s streets was named. The Amman Municipality was also the first to set up a piped water network in Amman, on October 21, 1927, as water was previously supplied manually from Ras Al Ein.
On his part, Dr. George Tareef presented a paper on the transformation of the Amman Municipality into the Greater Amman Municipality, during the period 1946 – 2009. He said that the residents of Amman in 1946 numbered 65,754, and continued to increase at an unimaginable rate, particularly with the surge of Palestinian refugees into Jordan following the 1948 Nakbah (catastrophe).
In 1948, Tareef said, the Capital’s population reached 60,000, and continued to mount to over 308,614 in 1966, reaching 330,220 in 1967, and 900,732 in 1985. In 1967, Amman witnessed an increase of almost 155,000, as large numbers of Palestinian refugees were forced, in the June Nakseh, by the Israeli occupation to leave their homes in the West Bank and come to Jordan.
Concluding his presentation, Tareef stated that GAM is a key party to provide services to all its annexed regions, and that, year after year, it remains dedicated to raising the standard of such vital services.
During the conference’s second session, entitled “Structure and Roles” and chaired by Manager of Amman City, Eng. Ammar Gharaibeh, the Deputy City Manager for Public Works, Eng. Fawzi Mas’ad, briefed the audience on the urban and architectural accomplishments in Amman and GAM’s role in the process.
He pointed out that the first municipal council in Amman was established in 1909 and that, by 1914, it evolved into a directorate center with a population of 2,000. In 1950, the Amman Municipality was named the Capital’s Municipality, and was finally officially named the Greater Amman Municipality in 1987, covering its current area of about 1,688 square kilometers.
Eng. Mas’ad highlighted GAM’s work priorities, namely, public transport, safe traffic, good governance, and local community development. Other priorities include enhancing social responsibility, and improving environmental and health conditions in the Capital.
Along these lines, Mas’ad highlighted the many infrastructure projects implemented by GAM, such as Al Nasr Tunnel on Al Yarmouk Street that links the two districts below Al Hijazi railroad with Al Hafeth, the expansion of Sahab Bridge, Saleheyat Al ‘Abed Bridge, Amman Suspended Bridge, and Mecca Intersection. Other works include establishing or expanding other tunnels and bridges, constructing support walls, rehabilitating pavements, establishing and maintaining transportation network, and linking 96 traffic lights to the Central Control system.
During his presentation, Mas’ad demonstrated GAM’s role in bolstering social responsibility, by holding the Social Responsibility Forum in 2007. He also indicated that GAM plays a part as a facilitator and a partner to the private sector when it comes to developing the local community, through such projects as the Park Plaza project in Sweifieh, and its agreement with the Housing Bank for Trade and Financing to establish Abdoun Park, which will provide parking.
Mas’ad stressed the fact that GAM takes interest in utilizing and developing urban spaces, like Al Wakalat Street, Rainbow Street, and Al Hashemi Square, in addition to ‘Omar Mattar Street in which a car park accommodating 1,000 cars and green spaces will be established.
The Advisor of the restructuring and institutional performance development project, Eng. Ismael Al Usta, explained that much is demanded and expected of Amman, the Capital. As a result, GAM management has established numerous projects and initiatives (like the 25-year Amman Master Plan, the public transport project, and the institutional performance development project), all aimed at creating a new urban environment and facilities deemed proper for a capital, planning the City’s growth, and contributing to the social and cultural development.
With its overall aim of achieving maximum competency and effectiveness, according to Eng. Al Usta, the organizational structure will encompass all similar activities and operations in one sector, and set clearly-defined powers for directors.
In a work paper tackling “The Educational Role of GAM: Its History and Horizons,” the Executive Director of Culture, Eng. Samir Khreno, stated that GAM’s main responsibility with regards to culture is the whole community, and not merely educated citizens, necessitating in a move to planned methodological work that is community-oriented.
Eng. Khreno added that GAM’s cultural role kicked off with the establishing of the Public Library Department, taking on a more institutional aspect in 1997 when a chain of cultural departments were established. He pointed to GAM’s contribution to holding the Amman International Exhibition, as well as various local and specialized exhibitions, and GAM’s support of the cultural activities and events that are held in Amman.
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