Building maintenance training program in Umm Qays restores 'Madafeh' roof

Nordfassade der Madafe
(Photos: Handout from German Archaeological Institute DAI)
AMMAN — Since 2016, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has been implementing training programs lasting several weeks in ancient Gadara and the neighboring modern Umm Qays in cooperation with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to impart stonemasonry techniques and basic knowledge on topics related to building maintenance and security.اضافة اعلان

Since 2019, the courses have been taking place in a partially destroyed courtyard in the historic core of the upper village of Umm Qays, the so-called Hara Foqa, which is gradually being repaired as part of the training courses. 

Training and further education measures 2021

As part of the German Federal Foreign office's "Cultural Heritage Saviours" initiative, the training and further education measures were continued with great success in 2021. The program's aim, which will run until 2024, is to develop and establish a training and work center for craftsmen in the field of building maintenance, especially stonemasons and carpenters.

As part of the courses, the participants and their trainers are supposed to repair a historical courtyard and become familiar with historic and modern construction techniques. The workshop was used as an anchor point for training programs in building maintenance and security and will radiate into the region.

The program, which ran from September to October 2021, included the restoration of the former guest and assembly building, the so-called "Madafeh". The focus was on rebuilding the almost destroyed north facade and reconstructing the historical roof structure, following a previous evaluation of the building structures.

The plans had already been coordinated with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities in 2019 so that the work was able to begin immediately. Men from the local neighborhood and Syrians who had fled to Jordan took part in this year's program and were instructed and trained by four experienced craftsmen — Tobias Horn, Ronny Brühl, Peter Sistig, and André Gravert.

10 workers who had already taken part in one or more training courses in previous years were responsible for the construction work. Another eight young men that completed this year's basic course were trained in stonemasonry techniques.

The simultaneity of the training and building maintenance program resulted in mutual synergies that promoted productive cooperation meant great added value for the work and the course participants. For example, the participants in the stonemasonry course were able to gain insights into the complex repair and reconstruction work of the courtyard and their training on the stone and were actively involved in the construction process if necessary.


The completed north facade of the Madafeh is based on historical models from the immediate structural context and — in its design as double-shell masonry — on the existing building. To make the restored areas easier to read, only new stones were built into the outer shell of the facade.

A machine prefabricated the basalt and limestone blocks required for this in the appropriate size, machined (hewn and sharpened) on the construction site as part of the basic stone course. Finally, it moved in the facade masonry by the experienced workers. During the construction process, the processes were consolidated to such an extent that the course participants could ultimately carry out the work independently.

The restoration of the historic earth roof construction posed particular challenges for the team. Although the exact structure of the roof structure was known from previous detailed investigations, there was a lack of technical knowledge of the construction processes.

An initial test setup helped assess the material's behavior. In close coordination with the consulting engineer Axel Seemann, the individual steps as well as the mixing ratio of the layers were gradually optimized during the construction process, and thus lost building knowledge was redeveloped and rehabilitated.

Two on-site course participants were involved in the entire construction process in order to ensure long-term follow-up care and to bind the knowledge generated about the construction and the necessary care of the roof on-site. Both the facade and the roof structure were completed in the intended time.

According to European tradition, the topping-out ceremony was celebrated on October 7, 2021, in the presence of important local representatives and everyone involved in the construction.

In the coming year, the interior is to be completed, as well as the installation of doors and windows. The approximately 60m2 room is to be used as an exhibition space in the future, in which the work carried out in the workshop will be illustrated both in temporary exhibitions and on the building itself.

Organization of the training program

The project was part of the "Cultural Heritage Saviors" initiative anchored at DAI and was financed as a sub-module with the title "Planning and Concept Development: Building Preservation as a Training Program" through funds from the German Federal Foreign office.

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