(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN — A group of 22 volunteers took it upon themselves to clean up one of Jordan's most iconic locations: the Wadi Rum desert.
Motivated by his love of environment and the Kingdom's natural gems, Ahmed Sabah Saideen, a camp owner, looked for ways to raise awareness on the importance of preserving the desert's environment.
'My friend and I run a camp in Wadi Rum and we had been talking about the idea of cleaning up the area, but we didn't know how to spread the word and reach out to people from other cities like Amman,' he told The Jordan Times.
Helped by his German friend Lena Pschiuk, he managed to gather a group of volunteers to participate in a 'cleaning weekend' initiative.
'Even though there is less rubbish here than in the big cities, it is shameful to see our beautiful desert dirtied by garbage,' Saideen said, noting that trash comes both from careless tourists' and sandstorms bringing in rubbish from the surrounding villages.
'Some people come to the desert by themselves and camp without abiding by the rules applied in the protected area. They come once, throw their trash and don't care about the area or our land,' the young man claimed, noting that the trash laying around the desert has been harming the animals, the environment and humans in general.
Starting off on Friday morning, the volunteers spread across three different locations in Wadi Rum, where they spent the day collecting rubbish.
'We decided to organise it throughout the weekend, so that the participants can fully enjoy the beauty of this magical desert at night, gazing at the star. That makes them even better understand the need to preserve this location and ensure it remains plastic free,' Pschiuk said.
Volunteers from all walks of life participated in the event. Hernando Aguilar, a Colombian living in Amman said: 'I have visited Wadi Rum four times since I arrived in April and it is really a pity to see the amount of garbage in that beautiful place.'
'With this activity, I realised how fragile the natural environment is and how much damage we can make with our actions,' he told The Jordan Times, noting that 'there is a lack of understanding of the visitors on how to handle their garbage. I wonder where they think the cans and diapers they throw away disappear off to!'
Once collected, the trash was distributed to the people in charge of the protected area, who disposed of the waste in an environmentally friendly way.
'We partnered with the people at the visitors' centre, who have been really helpful. They have provided us with cars for the different groups participating in the initiative, and will be disposing of all the trash we collected,' Saideen said, voicing his appreciation to the governmentally run institution.
'Today, we are only doing this small initiative with 22 people, but tomorrow, we hope to create a spillover effect. First of all, it is a message to all Jordanians, but also one to our colleagues running other camps and to the government running the protected area… we want to show them that we are taking the matter into our own hands,' he noted.
With over 150 people voicing their interest in the initiative, Saideen said he hopes to launch other projects, including bringing school children from the surrounding areas to help them realise the impact of their littering on the desert.
'This initiative is a very important step in the right direction and it should definitely happen on a regular basis,' said Jessica Rex, a German-American.
'We just started this idea as an experiment but we are planning to make it a yearly event, on the same day. I am hoping to make it an annual touristic event at the beginning of December to raise awareness in a symbolic way,' Saideen concluded, noting that he also plans to schedule more cleaning initiatives in the near future.