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Jordan Tourism Board prepares for a landmark 2009

The Jordan Tourism Board has said it was looking forward to a landmark year, which will witness a series of anniversaries, celebrations, and events.

The Jordan Tourism Board has said it was looking forward to a landmark year, which will witness a series of anniversaries, celebrations, and events.

The Kingdom is putting the final touches on the centennial celebrations of the capital Amman, which is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities. It is also celebrating a decade of the rule of His Majesty King Abdullah II, who ascended to the throne after the demise of the late King Hussein Bin Talal. Jordan is also getting ready to host many important events, including a Papal visit, and the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum.

JTB managing director Nayef al-Fayez has expressed great hope for 2009 saying it will be a landmark year. He said planned events and upcoming attractions will deliver a memorable experience to Jordan’s people and its visitors.

Al-Fayez said: “Jordan’s uniqueness and strongest selling point is its diversity, and the combination of a strategic geographical position, mild climate, diverse landscape, rich history and culture, holy sites, historical and archaeological locations, a cosmopolitan capital, and reasonable cost.”

“Such unique diversity and unmatched attractions” he added, “will combine with landmark events such as the Amman centennial, the Dead Sea and the Petra marathons, the World Economic Forum, and a historic Papal visit to compliment a distinctive Jordan experience.”

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit Jordan on May 8, where he will lay the corner stone for the Latin Church at the Baptism Site (Bethany Beyond the Jordan). He will be the second pope, after John Paul II, to visit the Holy Site since it was discovered in 1996.

The site, where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, is a leading attraction for thousands of tourists from around the world. It has drawn 280,000 visitors and pilgrims (mostly European) in 2008, which represents a rise of 86 percent over 2007.

The Pontiff’s 3-day visit will include an audience with His Majesty King Abdullah II and a meeting with prominent Islamic figures, diplomatic corps, and other officials including presidents of universities in an effort to further promote interfaith dialogue. The Pope will hold a mass at the Amman Stadium at Al-Hussein Sport City and another at the Holy See Embassy Church. His itinerary also includes a visit to Al-Hussein Ben Talal Mosque and the Madaba University, which is being built by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Greater Amman Municipality is putting the final touches on preparations to celebrate 100 years since the establishment of “modern Amman.” The capital, known historically as Rabbath Ammon, is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and was an important crossroads connecting the Arabian Peninsula in the south to Damascus in the north and the “Syrian desert” in the east to Palestine and the Mediterranean in the west.

The Dead Sea, another biblical and historic location, will host the meetings of the World Economic Forum for the 5th time at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center, which has become an increasingly popular choice for conferences and large events. The World Economic Forum on the Middle East is the region’s foremost gathering of government, business, and civil society leaders.

The 2009 meetings will be held May 15-17 under the theme “Home-grown Strategies for Global Success” and will focus on the role of the Middle East in addressing critical global challenges, ranging from systemic financial risk to resource management and political extremism.

The lowest spot on earth will also be the destination for participants in the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon which will take place on April 10, taking runners from Amman down to more than 340 meters below sea level. The marathon is the main fundraising event for the Society for the Care of Neurological Patients (SCNP) and is held in cooperation with the Amman Road Runners. The SCNP, which provides neurological patients with medical aid and covers the cost of necessary surgeries for the needy, has contributed to the treatment of 940 cases at a value of nearly 600 thousand Jordanian Dinars (almost US$850,000).

Another landmark marathon will take runners to another spectacular location: Petra. A world heritage site and a world wonder, Petra’s spectacular setting will be the backdrop for the September 26 marathon, which will take participants through the 1.2 km gorge known as the Siq, across the site of the Treasury, and along other ancient attractions.

The Petra Marathon is the latest marathon in the “Adventure Marathon” family, which includes the Great Wall of China, the Big Five, the Polar Circle, and the Great Tibetan Marathons.

Jordan has already hosted the 37th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships on March 28, which witnessed the crowning of Ethiopia’s Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam as champion of the senior men’s race and Kenya’s Florence Jebet Kiplagat as champion of the senior women’s race. The junior men’s race was won by Ethiopian Ayele Abshero, while the junior women’s race was won by defending champion Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba.