Islamic tourism in Jordan: heritage policies, paths and itineraries since the 1980’s

By Norig Neveu
Submitted to Session P4812 (Tourism, Heritage, and the Politics of Place in the Middle East, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Since the 1980’s, a policy of renovating and rebuilding Islamic heritage has been developed in Jordan. Around 50 holy sites have been turned into enormous Islamic complexes, deeply marking the national territory. Initially conceived as places of worship for local communities, these sites have been turned into touristic hubs. In addition, Jordanian representatives have taken part in the first international conferences about Islamic tourism in order to promote those new touristic destinations and the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have started to promote this Islamic heritage through Internet websites, brochures and publications. Since then, the national holy sites are included in international Islamic itineraries, usually for pilgrims travelling for the hajj or umra. Thus, it is as part of the Muslim Holy Land, located between the Holy sites of Jerusalem and Mekka, that Jordan is promoted as a destination for Islamic tourists.
The purpose of this presentation is to highlight the new representation of the Jordanian territory that has emerged at the national and international levels. My talk will focus on the itineraries followed by the Islamic tourists in Jordan in order to understand how the former were elaborated by the Ministry of Tourism and tourism agencies and what representation of the national territory they induce. Based on the analysis of interviews, my presentation aims to understand how tourists themselves perceive Jordan as an Islamic destination and if they have some specific expectations in terms of accommodation, according to «halal» criteria. By underlying the progressive inclusion of Jordan within a regional Islamic territorial unit, I will show how the attendance of those sites has gradually changed, involving more and more international tourists and pilgrims. This process has led to the emergence of local resistance movements, as the inhabitants are sometimes opposed to the visit of the sites by new religious groups or wish to symbolically reinvest these places of worship.