Global Award for Sustainable Architecture

Global Award for Sustainable Architecture

Rima Alsammarae report on Middle East Architect of 9 April 2019 that “Jordanian architect and artist Ammar Khammash is a 2019 laureate of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, along with four other architects including Dr Werner Sobek, Ersen Gursel, Rozana Montiel and Jorge Lobos.” 

Jordanian architect Ammar Khammash wins Global Award for Sustainable Architecture

Jordanian architects, Ammar Khammash, Sustainable architecture, Architecture awards, Architects from the Middle East, Architects from Jordan

Created by architect and scholar Jana Revedin in 2006, the international award recognises five architects each year who have contributed to sustainable development and created innovative and participatory approaches to meet societal needs. 

Royal Academy for Nature Conservation in Jabal Ajloun, Jordan by Khammash Architects

According to the award’s website, Khammash was recognised for his dedication to interdisciplinary scientific research, as well as his artisanal and artistic approaches to architecture.

Khammash’s projects include the Wild Jordan Center, the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, the Darat Al Funun workspace and the Columbia University Middle East Research Center in Amman, as well as the Church of the Apostles in Madaba. His approach involves the use of locally-sourced, natural materials to achieve context-relevant designs. 

The Middle East Modern Art Space in New Badr, Amman by Khammash Architects

“It appears that there is a growing international trend to put architecture back on the track of social and environmental responsibilities, and away from being a hostage of powerful visual output that publishes well in the media,” he said. “Our philosophy and methodology of approach is entirely based on the role of architecture in solving problems, finding creative ways to co-exist with the larger context, which includes society and nature.”

Currently finalising two ecolodges in Jordan (one in Yarmouk Reserve and the other on the hot spring of Al Himmeh in Mukhaibeh), Khammash and his team are also working on a number of competitions in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He noted that the award will help him further his approach and convince clients who see things differently.

Heedan Visitors Center by Khammash Architects

“The recognition from this prestigious award will help me change the mentality of clients, politicians and students,” he said, “ensuring that architecture retains some degree of modesty and symbiotic relationship to people and nature, instead of overwhelming, overpowering and outsmarting the very reason we need to build for.”

Khammash will be speaking at the award’s symposium, to be held in Paris in May.

Ammar Khammash talks on CNN’s program “Inside the Middle East” about Feynan Eco-Lodge, designed by Khammash Architects, and which is one of the first Eco-Lodges in Jordan and the Middle East.
Watch the interview: Inside the Middle East
World Water Day in the MENA region’s commemoration

World Water Day in the MENA region’s commemoration

World Water Day is every year on March 22nd and is the day to bring light on the fact that right now, more than 844 million people don’t have access to clean Water and sanitation.

For last year’s World Water Day in the MENA region’s commemoration, Sopho Kharazi wrote in his Water Stress Poses Greatest Threat to MENA Region.

The most water-scarce region in the world is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where more than 60% of the population has little or no access to drinkable water and over 70% of the region’s GDP is exposed to high or very high water stress.

Water scarcity in MENA involves multiple factors such as climate change leading to droughts and floods, low water quality, and poor water management in the context of fragility, conflict, and violence. This is one of the reasons why at the World Economic Forum 2015, experts on the MENA region stated that the water crisis is “the greatest threat to the region—greater even than political instability or unemployment”.

Poor water quality in the region is caused by unsustainable water consumption, pollution and untreated wastewater. The cost of these in the region represents 0.5-2.5% of the GDP annually. This causes multiple problems, ranging from waterborne diseases to the pollution of fresh water necessary for ecosystem services such as fisheries. For this reason, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 17% of freshwater species in the region are on the brink of extinction.

Meanwhile, life carrying on, here is a story that happen to be part of everyday life in a country that had only a few weeks ago, very unusual heavy precipitations followed by heavy floods.

Jordan’s female plumbers

Mar 18, 2019

Safaa is one of Jordan’s few female plumbers. She runs her own company in Irbid, and together with her team of around 20 female plumbers, Safaa tries to raise awareness among her customers on the importance of preserving water in a water-scarce country like Jordan

While Jordan only has a small number of female plumbers, Safaa says demand for women in this profession is growing. “Having female plumbers has solved a big problem,” she said. “Women can now have repairs done in their homes at any time.”

Safaa also conducts her own training sessions for women in her field of profession. She recently jointed an International Labour Organization (ILO) Training of Trainers (ToT) programme to help her build better skills in coaching. The ToT programme provides participants with adequate learning methods, techniques and approaches that are needed to enable them to better transfer knowledge to other learners and apprentices.

Environmentally Responsible and Resource-efficient

Environmentally Responsible and Resource-efficient

Per Wikipedia, Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.

Environmentally Responsible and Resource-efficient

In fact, in the Middle East, concerns for anything green were second to that fundamentally frantic development of buildings and all related infrastructure to nevertheless greater and greater awareness of their various environmental impact.  As a matter of fact, the brunt of all development was and still is located in the Arabian Gulf where carbon footprints of any urban agglomeration were recently assessed to be at critical levels.  Elsewhere in the Middle East apart from the large conurbation of Cairo, Damascus, Bagdad, Beirut, etc. things were less acutely perceived but still not exactly as clear of any criticism as one would have hoped.  Hence this ecoMENA write-up that elaborates fairly well on the subject.
We republish Ruba’s article with our compliments and thanks to ecoMENA for such an enriching contribution.
We would also like to republish this InHabitat produced back in 2011 survey of 7 Gorgeous Green Buildings in the Middle East undertaken by Tafline Laylin. To our knowledge, nothing

Greener Built Environment in the Middle East

By Ruba Al-Zu’bi | July 24, 2017

The key drivers for greener built environment in the Middle East are economic in nature. Green and energy-efficient buildings are getting traction in the region due to increasing energy prices and the need for energy efficient and affordable energy solutions and practices within the construction sector. Large real estate developers find in this a new marketing and PR tool that contributes to their bottom line and to demonstrating their commitment to sustainable development goals and environmental responsibility. From the supply side, suppliers and service providers find new business opportunities in this market transformation and this has become a driver for new services and materials.

Key Drivers

Transformation in the built environment requires change on the demand side that triggers change on the supply side. Consumer behavior and preferences are the key driver in the market. Understanding what shapes the various consumers’ preferences in various communities and countries would help make the green change more sustainable. The data on buildings performance and the social, economic and environmental impact of such performance is hardly available.

Deploying ICT solutions to enable monitoring and verification is another market enabler and opportunity for local businesses and professionals. Finally, establishing a local green buildings industry is what would sustain the green movement. Leveraging local resources and guiding local innovation towards green building solutions should be the focus of the future.

Vital Ingredients

Awareness raising is usually the long-term investment in behavioral change. When it comes to greening the real estate sector, there are several target groups across the supply chain that require different forms of awareness raising. Starting from architects, designers and developers and passing by electro-mechanical and construction engineers, towards contractors, material suppliers and consultants.

Each of those has a different need and mindset and would require creative messages and tools to join the green movement. The financial implications on short and long terms are usually important to include in addition to other factors like health, comfort, and environmental stewardship. Communicators need to work with green professionals in order to design awareness campaigns that can lead to behavior change.

Situation in Jordan

Jordan is one of the non-oil-producing countries and is striving to achieve ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets to overcome its energy challenges. In addition, it is one of the world’s most water-scarce countries. Green buildings are one of the key enablers for green jobs, energy savings and clean tech innovation. Today, Jordan is the home for 19 LEED registered buildings of which 7 are already LEED Certified Buildings (4 Gold, 1 Platinum and 2 Sliver). The sector is attracting many professionals to get certified and penetrate local and regional markets as LEED professionals. To date, 164 LEED Green Associates and 53 LEED APs exist along with a Jordanian USGBC Faculty member; many of which are working on projects in the region.

Communicators need to work with green professionals to facilitate behavioral change.

The government as well as private sector and NGOs have strong appetite to enable this sector through advocating for greener building codes and effective enforcement of codes and regulations as well as building capacity and raising awareness among various target groups. Donors and international agencies are supporting these efforts especially within the energy sector support programmes through technical assistance and pilot projects. While cities like Amman embarked into green buildings as part of their sustainability strategies and adopted some incentive schemes to promote green building practices; the country still needs to move towards greening other cities and anchoring such direction within various municipalities.


Amman celebrates first Design Week

Amman celebrates first Design Week

Al Jazeera produced this programme titled “Amman celebrates first Design Week” and published it on September 9th, 2016

Design Week was a festival of juxtapositions, with different disciplines, backgrounds and styles joining together to create new possibilities in a place where design is still finding its feet.  It was held in the Jordanian capital across three major locations, and was a celebration of the city’s blossoming arts and design scene.

100+ exhibitors took part in this show, with renowned artists and architects from across the Arab world.  Organisers explored the links between contemporary and traditional Jordanian crafts, while revitalising disused spaces as creative hubs. Ordinary people who create art in their spare time were exhibited alongside international designers.

As per the UN HABITAT  Jordan is growing quickly. With high rates of population growth and a unique geography, Jordan is faced with both unprecedented challenges in managing the country’s lands and development and also offered exceptional opportunities in revitalizing the Kingdom. Jordan is one of the smallest and poorest economies in the Middle East, with 14 percent of Jordanians living below the poverty line. The country suffers from structural unemployment, as the economy fails to absorb the annual inflow of new job seekers. Moreover, Jordan’s active-to-total population ratio is one of the lowest in the world, with an average of four non-active individuals depending on a single worker. Unless this situation is reversed, significant economic growth and wealth will be difficult to achieve. With the current population growth rate and the economic status-quo, unemployment rates could well exceed 20 percent and could account for over half a million unemployed in the coming ten to fifteen years.

Added to the above is the recent influx of Syrians refugees of whom a certain percent managed to reach Amman to live in conditions that are far from any known standards.

The following article of Bethan Staton was posted on September 23rd, 2016.  It dwells on matter of urban design whilst looking at the Design Festival of Amman.  In fact, all participating artists hoped that Design Week, held in venues have long been neglected, would revive those empty spaces that AMMAN, the capital would need.

Azra Aksamija's Memory Matrix

Azra Aksamija’s Memory Matrix


Hashem Joucka combined digital technologies

Hashem Joucka combined digital technologies

Can design festival revolutionize Amman’s urban landscape?

When Rana Beiruti first visited the Raghadan Tourist Terminal in downtown Amman, she was intrigued by its story. A huge shopping center and transport hub, established in 2006 with spacious walkways and courtyards and a stone’s throw from the city’s ancient Roman amphitheater, it seemed the kind of space that Amman needed. But the venue had remained empty for years, a problem locals blame on poor planning.

“It’s an incredible area, and it’s got to be used,” Beiruti told Al-Monitor. “I always had it in my mind.”

In the first two weeks of September, the young curator’s hopes for the neglected space were realized. The Raghadan area was transformed into a crafts district filled with local pop-up stores, boutique eateries and art installations. During Sept. 1-9, the once empty space was thronged with visitors and decked out with color and sound.

The Raghadan Tourist Terminal, curated by Jordanian artist Dina Haddadin, was one of three main venues for Amman Design Week, which featured more than 100 artists in three main sites and dozens of smaller venues. The event gave a platform for the kingdom’s creativity. But it also revitalized places that were once forgotten, reactivating public space and turning Amman’s downtown into a cultural hub.

Imagined by organizers as “nodes” in a citywide network, the week’s major venues were all spaces that, historically, had been underused or neglected. Some 2 kilometers (roughly 1 mile) away from the Raghadan, is the Jordan Museum, an ambitious development of exhibitions showcasing the nation’s history — but that few in the country have visited. Nearby is a warehouse. Built in the 1930s to house Amman’s electricity generators, it was recently converted into a cavernous exhibition hall. The Hangar, as it’s affectionately called, has been a regeneration success, hosting conferences and concerts. During Design Week it was filled with the work of designers and artists from the region.

“They put a twist on the sites, which is really nice to see,” Nicole Shaheen, a 34-year-old local, told Al-Monitor as she explored exhibits. “Without certain attractions like this, you don’t have people coming to the places. But it shows how well they could be used for different things.”

For creatives and planners in Jordan, there is a special reason to be conscious of how events interact with the urban landscape. Amman is a city with a population that, according to 2016 government figures, has doubled in a decade, with a sizable number — some 174,000 Syrians by United Nations estimates — of refugees. There is a much-spoken-of divide between the wealthier west and poorer east of the city — areas roughly divided by a downtown area in a valley surrounded with steep slopes of vertiginous, crowded houses. Most of these neighborhoods are on the poorer side of the city’s economic divide, far from the luxury developments and diplomatic quarters in the west of Amman.

Though the center of downtown is packed, other areas — like the Raghadan — haven’t become the urban hubs some hoped for. The zone between the Hangar and the Jordan Museum is an area with untapped potential: a pleasant stretch of paved walkways, planted with flower gardens, surrounding a cultural center and a mosque. Yet at Design Week, many attendees and organizers told Al-Monitor they were surprised to learn that the area, known as Ras al-Ayn, had been developed at all.

The team behind Design Week wanted to address that knowledge gap. “We are reactivating these spaces that had been neglected before,” Beiruti said. “We wanted it to be a celebration of the city and for people to feel reconnected to their city.”

The way to do that, the team believed, was through programming. For the entire week, the Raghadan and Ras al-Ayn — along with other venues like art galleries, stores and cafes around the city — hosted workshops, talks and activities. In addition to exhibitions of local and international work, interactive installations invited Ammanis to learn 3-D printing or local crafts, and music performances were scheduled during evenings. On the walkway between spaces, rotating pop-up restaurants showcased food and became a space to linger. Suddenly, people had reason to visit the spaces, and a reason to stay.

“One of the most successful things about Amman Design Week has been to bring people down here, to make it accessible and free,” Ahmed Humeid, the head of a local design firm who delivered a talk at the Jordan Museum, told Al-Monitor. “It’s a statement: It should be a city for pedestrians. They created something in the city that was really refreshing.”

Humeid is especially invested in the relationship between design and the cityscape. He is one of the creators of Amman’s unofficial transport map, a graphic rendering of the city’s formidably tangled system of buses and shared taxis. In a notoriously car-centric city, this map is a crucial tool for those using public transport. But for Humeid, the map is also about using design as direct action. It showed the local municipality that some of the perennial problems of Amman’s cityscape could be tackled. It compelled them to take action themselves.

Design Week might just do the same. Amman’s local government cooperated in executing the festival, and a team of researchers committed to surveying the community about the changes they wanted to see. Those developments were often small: a free bus trundled through the festival’s downtown venues, and pedestrian crossings were painted on roads. But organizers hope those small tweaks will make a difference.

As the festival closed up, however, the challenge was just beginning. Urban design in Amman has a tendency to falter, a fact borne out by the landscape of underused buildings like the Raghadan. Now the life created by the festival has to keep going if venues aren’t to fall back into disuse.

“It is positive that this event did the prototyping, but what is scary about it is sustainability,” Humeid said. What is needed, he believes, is for programming to keep running throughout the year and for design to become important at the national level, supported by state institutions. At the event itself, visitors agreed. “It would be great to see cultural events like this happening all year-round,” Shaheen said.

Beiruti, meanwhile, knows that it will take work to make the Raghadan terminal a permanent fixture in Amman’s cultural life. But she hopes Design Week will set a precedent that can’t be ignored. “If you demonstrate the potential, even if it goes away afterward, you feel a void,” she said.

Read more on Al Monitor

Syrian refugees in Jordan turning to sci-fi tech and business . . .

Syrian refugees in Jordan turning to sci-fi tech and business . . .

The World Economic Forum (WEF) published this article on September 21st, 2016.  Ashish J. Thakkar, Chair, Global Entrepreneurship Council, United Nations Foundation and Georgie Benardete, Co-founder, Orchard Mile wrote it and it is about the desperate situation that can be turned around and in this instance how Syrian refugees in Jordan turning to sci-fi tech and business . . .

How Jordan’s refugee camps became hubs of sci-fi tech and booming business.

While much of the focus in the last year has been on those fleeing to Europe, there has been less attention on the overwhelming number of Syrian refugees that have sought refuge in neighbouring countries — primarily Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. With our colleagues at the United Nation Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council (GEC), we decided to visit Jordan to understand for ourselves the situation on the ground.

There are now over 655,990 Syrian refugees in Jordan, according to estimates by the UN Refugee Agency. For a country of just 8 million, the number is staggering and it’s putting a heavy strain on the national economy, public services and broader Jordanian society. Contrary to the popular perception of refugees, nearly 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas, not camps.

In many respects, it’s preferable to house refugees in urban environments than in camps, as it allows the newcomers better access to the local economy. They can earn money and build a better future. But many Syrian refugees do live in camps; most of them in Za’atari and Afraq, the two largest camps with roughly 80,000 and 54,000 inhabitants respectively.


Despite high unemployment, Middle East and African countries have the highest ratio of refugees and asylum seekers to total population

The outlook is hopeful. From a governmental perspective, earlier this year, the Government of Jordan and the international community came to an agreement known as the Jordan Compact, which aims to support Syrian refugees and Jordanian host communities through investments and job creation.

Within the camps, there is also hope. We were pleasantly surprised to find innovative technologies and entrepreneurial developments, and to discover that the UN was behind most of these world-class initiatives. Here are some of them:

Sci-fi tech

At the Za’atari refugee camp, the largest in the Middle East with more than 80,000 refugees, the UNHCR uses a next-generation Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS)   to link a person’s iris and fingerprint to their documentation, history and bank account. This allows them to withdraw money from local ATMs via eye scans. The system has also been implemented across the refugee receptions system, even in some of the most remote regions. To date, over 335,000 refugees have been enrolled into BIMS in five locations.

The death of cash

The other technological system that impressed our group was the World Food Program’s (WFP)  Cash Assistance Programme. Instead of communal food service, each refugee is given a debit card they can use in the camp’s two supermarkets. The card can also be used outside the camps in selected shops, thereby injecting cashflow into the host society. WFP is using innovative ways to deliver the assistance, such as scratch-cards or e-vouchers delivered to mobile phones by text message. This decentralized system is helping to change the narrative of refugees imposing a strain on host communities, to one of refugees bringing benefits to them.

With nearly three-quarters of Syrian refugees in debt of over US$1,000, the need to earn money is critical. The refugee populations within the camps have been remarkably entrepreneurial. In Za’atari alone, more than 3,000 small businesses have sprung up, and this has created a bustling shopping corridor on what’s known as the camp’s Champs Elysees. Here you can find stalls selling bicycles, falafel, bread, household appliances, furniture and more. Additionally, due to the easing of restrictions as a result of the Jordan Compact, there is now a goal to provide 200,000 more work permits to Syrian refugees over the next few years to help improve access to the formal economy.

Ultimate entrepreneurs

One piece not as widely discussed but just as important is “design thinking”. By listening and empathizing with the refugees, Za’atari’s camp manager, Hovig Etyemezian, is fostering solutions that are far from the bureaucracy you may think of when you hear the words United Nations. For example, the success of the 3,000 Syrian-run small businesses is largely due to refugees driving market-based needs and the UNHCR offering the space to let these micro entrepreneurs set up shop. With a philosophy that values dignity and compassion towards the refugees, many other self-led initiatives are also active in the camp, including important programmes around girls’ education and art.


A vision for the future

There are more than 65 million displaced persons living around the world today

In 2015, the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals and committed to leave no one behind. One year on, we need to start taking action to deliver on this promise. With our colleagues at the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, we believe that cultivating entrepreneurial ecosystems will make it easier for those refugees who are newly arrived to find and create jobs. This will alleviate the pressure on the resources of host countries.

Despite the formidable work being undertaken by the UN and international humanitarian community to improve lives in Jordan, we should remember that there are more than 65 million displaced persons living around the world today. And with global warming at our doorstep, millions more are expected to become climate refugees in the coming years.

Business leaders have a unique opportunity to support humanitarian and development communities as they tackle the refugee crisis and work to prevent future crises. Much more than funding, businesses and entrepreneurs can apply their knowledge and technologies to help meet the needs of refugees in a more sustainable and dignified way.

The authors are members of the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council and World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders. They would like to thank Josh Slusher, a Senior Associate, for his helping in drafting this article.

World Cities and Tourists’ Destinations

World Cities and Tourists’ Destinations

There are an increasing number of World Cities and Tourists’ Destinations studies in dedicated websites with eye opening reports generously provided on Cost of Living, Telephone and Taxi charges, etc.   We propose 2 websites with excerpts of each reproduced here.  The sites are and  .  Interestingly, the cost of a picnicking day out throughout the world cities was reviewed and the resulting ranking proposed for everyone’s enlightenment.  According to data collected by Expatistan’s Cost of Living Index, a picnic for two will cost just $22.14 in Dubai, a little over half of that of Paris’ $34.02. 

We propose here only the first 5 cities of the Ucityguides and a short introduction to the Expatistan.

The Top 10 Cities and Tourist Destinations in the Middle East

Although plagued by religious and social tensions, the Middle East is one of the most fascinating parts of the world, with some of the most breath-taking places and wonders anywhere.  Contrary to what may be believed by many in the West, it is perfectly safe to travel to large parts of the region (particularly Turkey, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Israel), and most of it really is a must-see destination at least once in a lifetime.



Although it’s currently a place to avoid, at some point the social and political turmoil will die down and Cairo will once again be one of the world’s must-go destinations. There’s the beautiful setting by the Nile, and amid all the chaos is faded grandeur in Paris-like architecture downtown. But it’s as a gateway to the Giza pyramids and the spectacular treasures of the Egyptian Museum that should place Cairo on anyone’s travel list.


IstanbulIstanbul, Turkey

It’s in Europe and in Asia and it’s the place that mostly mixes East and West in the Middle East. A great imperial capital for almost sixteen centuries, this is old Constantinople, still filled with architectural splendor. There’s the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and other great cultural attractions, but today Istanbul is also a cosmopolitan city that mixes tradition and modern sophistication. End your visit by overlooking the Bosphorus and the entire city from a rooftop bar.


PetraPetra, Jordan

All of Jordan (with the exception of the unattractive capital  ) is filled with magic and wonder, culminating in Petra. This ancient city hewn from rock is unlike anywhere else on earth, with great sculpted temples created by desert tribes. This is one of the most remarkable cities ever built, and it’s especially spectacular as the sun sets and at night.


DubaiDubai, Emirates

The city of the future is already a city of the present. It’s all about the new and the newer, the big and the bigger, and trying to outdo itself and the competition. Hoping to become the great modern metropolis, it’s now one of the world’s main city destinations, home to the world’s grandest hotels on a magnificent waterfront location. Visiting Dubai is getting a glimpse of the future.



Being in this fascinating city is going back 3000 years in history. It’s the spiritual centre of the world, holy to the three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Whatever your religion (and even if you don’t have one), you can’t help becoming intrigued by the life and architecture of the place, as you go through a maze of alleys and bazaars.

The rendition of its findings follow; the costs of a romantic picnic were calculated for a couple of people, in cities around the world and as you can see, below, differences are quite obvious in the infographic picture.