This weekend was spent learning about water politics in the Jordan River Valley and visiting Umm Qais. To get to the valley from Amman (or any region of Jordan of higher elevation) you have to descend through mountains and between precariously steep and winding cliffs and valleys. The Jordan River serves three countries (98% of its water is diverged to Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Jordan from its natural path), so it’s more of a creek by now. There are some rivers that are completely dry. There are huge dams no longer in use because there is no more water to be stopped. The unfortunate reality of Jordan’s water resources has a lot to do with the politics of Jordan’s Agriculture Industry. The government heavily subsidizes this industry, so water is basically free for big farmers while unaffordable for everyone else. It uses something like 70% of Jordan’s water while accounting for less than 5% of the country’s GDP. Most of the profits go to multi-national corporations (like Monsanto) and private contractors, and most of the food goes to Europe. Jordan is, in effect, exporting its most sought after resource to countries that don’t even need its produce. This ecological problem stems from a deeply-rooted political-territorial problem that continues to plague Middle East relations, so despite feasible solutions, not much is being done to fix it. After visiting the nature reserve and being escorted around the border by Jordanian border patrol, we headed to Umm Qais, an ancient archaeological site perched on a hilltop at the northwestern most tip of Jordan and overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, and the Yarmouk River, which separates Jordan, Israel, and Syria.
The Northern Border & Umm Qais