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Al-Mawa, a local sanctuary for troubled wildlife in the Middle East

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Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife is a sanctuary in Jordan that ensures that wild animals, both local and from surrounding areas, have a permanent and safe home. (Photos: Ahmad Bani Mustafa/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Jerash, home to one of Jordan’s major tourist destinations, holds another less known attraction, Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife. Al-Mawa is a sanctuary dedicated to protecting animals rescued from conflict-torn regions in the Middle East and provides them with the necessary emergency relief.اضافة اعلان

The sanctuary is located in a mountainous and forested area called Jabal Al-Manarah near the town of Souf, which is 10km north of Jerash Archaeological Park.


Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife is a sanctuary in Jordan that ensures that wild animals, both local and from surrounding areas, have a permanent and safe home. (Photos: Ahmad Bani Mustafa/Jordan News)

Al-Mawa is the largest sanctuary in the Middle East. It was established in 2011 by the Princess Alia Foundation in partnership with the international animal welfare organization, Four Paws. 

To be able to offer emergency relief to rescued animals, the project included the New Hope Centre in Amman, which serves as their primary veterinary clinic and quarantine and rehabilitation facility for the rescued animals. 

This ensures that all animals receive the necessary medical care before being sent to the reserve. In addition, Al-Mawa serves as a permanent home to animals rescued and does not send them back to their country of origin or into the wild to ensure they are continuously taken care of. 

The reserve, which covers 110ha, is set up to ensure there is a suitable environment for all animals they rescue to live comfortably in terms of space, habits, and natural needs.  

Al-Mawa offers a protective solution to the illegal animal trafficking, smuggling, and unlicensed zoos present in the Middle East. Moreover, its location in Jordan is strategic as it is a crossroad between various countries. 


Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife is a sanctuary in Jordan that ensures that wild animals, both local and from surrounding areas, have a permanent and safe home. (Photos: Ahmad Bani Mustafa/Jordan News)

Beyond animals, Al-Mawa protects the existing greenery and the forest lands, which are an essential part of wildlife. The reserve provides a unique experience of the Mediterranean landscape with several species of flora, mainly Aleppo Pine, Oak, and strawberry trees.

This reserve is home to 34 animals brought from Syria’s second city Aleppo, Mosul in Iraq, and the Gaza Strip and other animals confiscated in Jordan.
The reserve is open to visitors throughout the year, on all days of the week except Mondays. Visitors are welcomed from 10am to 3pm and until 4pm during weekends (Friday and Saturday).

The activities at the site include walking inside the reserve accompanied by a guide to watch the animals and learn their stories.

The reserve is provided with all facilities that visitors need, including a rest house with food and beverage services and a terrace with a beautiful view of the mountains of Jerash.  

Animals of Al-Mawa

Sukkar and Loz are two resident bears brought to Al-Mawa by Four Paws after being rescued from Magic World Zoo outside of Aleppo, Syria, in 2017. Both are Asian Black Bears and are approximately 8 years old, and required extensive dental work upon arrival.


Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife is a sanctuary in Jordan that ensures that wild animals, both local and from surrounding areas, have a permanent and safe home. (Photos: Ahmad Bani Mustafa/Jordan News)

The shelter is also home to Max and Muna, a lion and a lioness that arrived from Gaza in 2016. These two cats were born in a zoo in Gaza then bought by a local because the zoo’s owners were worried about their capability to feed them.

As cubs, they were looked after by the person who bought them from the zoo until he gave them up to PAWS, who had them transferred to Al-Mawa in Jordan, where they now enjoy a safe environment and “trauma-free” daily life.

Most animals share a similar past of difficult lives and traumas resulting from living in countries that suffer armed conflicts. According to workers at Al-Mawa, all animals needed time to stop running inside their dens and pits when hearing a helicopter because of their traumatic past.   

In 2014, Sultan and Sabreen (male and female lions) were rescued from the Gaza Strip after a bombardment that caused animals to go 45 days with no water or food, severely damaging Al-Bisan Zoo and leaving around 80 animals dead.


Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife is a sanctuary in Jordan that ensures that wild animals, both local and from surrounding areas, have a permanent and safe home. (Photos: Ahmad Bani Mustafa/Jordan News)

Four Paws documented the rescue process, which took two weeks until they could move the two cats to Jordan.

Nine wolves have recently been moved to Al-Mawa. They all have different backgrounds and are currently living in two separate groups.
Al-Mawa has around 28 employees from the local community of the neighboring towns of Souf and Sakib.

Nearby attractions

Al-Mawa is close to several attractions that can be visited on the same day, including Dibben Forest Reserve. This 8.5km forest land is considered the driest place where Aleppo Pine trees grow naturally and the easternmost extension of this type of tree in the Mediterranean basin. In Dibeen forest, people can see hundreds of deer that live within a fenced shelter with a space of around 20ha.  


Al-Mawa for Nature and Wildlife is a sanctuary in Jordan that ensures that wild animals, both local and from surrounding areas, have a permanent and safe home. (Photos: Ahmad Bani Mustafa/Jordan News)

Another attraction is Beit Khairat Souf, a combination of a nature shop and a destination restaurant located in the nearby town of Souf. The place is originally a house that was built in 1881 by the local family of Batarseh. 

In 2016, it was renovated and prepared to host guests who seek to experience local food and other authentic produce. Beit Khairat is run by a local women’s society that aims to empower women and allow them to support themselves and their families financially.

Beit Khairat offers a wide variety of natural and handmade products, including a blend of jams, pickles, olive oil, vinegar, molasses, and a wide variety of healing herbs, such as rosemary sage, thyme, and other native plants to the area.

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