Azraq Wetland Reserve – A Story of Demise and Rebirth

The Azraq Wetland Reserve is located in Jordan’s Eastern Desert, with a lime desert on one side and a basalt desert on the other side. It is only a short distance from the town of Azraq, and covers an area of 28 square kilometers.

Footbridge in Azraq Wetland Reserve, Jordan

Footbridge in Azraq Wetland Reserve, Jordan.

Established in 1978, the reserve is best known for the many species of birds which stop there every year during their migration from Europe to Africa and from Africa to Europe.

Azraq Wetland Reserve – A Brief History

The history of the Azraq Basin goes back more than 250,000 years, when the area became inundated with water that came from several natural aquifers. Soon, a vast area was covered in mudflats, marshlands, and vast pools of beautifully clear water.

This abundance of water led to the town of Azraq being established, and before long, it grew to be the most important oasis town in all of the Levant.

With so much available water, the area soon became an indispensable stopover, not only for migrating birds, but also for the countless traders and their camels transporting herbs and spices between Syria, Mesopotamia, and Arabia.

At one point, the area which is now home to the Azraq Wetlands Reserve was virtually an extension of Africa. Many animals which are now associated only with Africa, once lived in this part of Jordan too.

Sadly, human development in nearby Amman and the ever-increasing need for water in the city, has essentially led to the demise of the Azraq Basin.

Despite being declared a wetland reserve in 1978, the last remaining natural springs dried up in 1992, as did the aquifers that once gushed millions and millions of liters of water.

As a result, much of the land which was once covered with water is now dry and parched. Most bird species disappeared, and most of the animals which once lived in the area have now gone extinct.

The Rebirth of Azraq Wetland Reserve

The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature has been fighting a continuous battle to save the Azraq Wetland Reserve since its creation in 1978.

Every year, the Jordanian government pumps an estimated 10 million cubic liters of water into the Azraq basin, but this has only managed to restore it to 10% of its original size.

With help from the international community, the RSCN renewed efforts to restore Azraq Wetland Reserve to its former beauty. Their goal is to restore water levels by 10%, although this goal has not yet been achieved. However, progress is being made, and many migratory bird species are starting to return.

The RSCN has also constructed a 1.5km-long wooden boardwalk which is called the Marsh Trail. This raised pathway runs above dry ground, as well as above the water, and it includes a few bird hides where visitors can sit to enjoy the tranquility of the area while bird watching.

In fact, when you’re sitting in one of these hides, and you can hear the gentle sound of wind blowing through the reeds, it is easy to forget just how close you are to the desert.

Another huge bonus for the area arrived in 2017 when a new project was launched to save another basin in the area, with funding coming from Switzerland. Already, fauna and flora are starting to reappear in an area which had been barren only a few years ago.

Visiting Azraq Wetland Reserve with Us

At Egypt Tours Plus, we feel very strongly about sustainable tourism, and the importance of protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy. Tourism in Jordan, and particularly mass tourism, can often have a devastating impact on the environment.

However, there are times when tourism can also help to save the environment, and the Azraq Wetland Reserve is a perfect example.

While you won’t find the Azraq Wetland Reserved featured in all of our Jordan tour packages or our epic Egypt and Jordan tours, we strongly recommend visiting this site if you are able to.

Not only will you be able to enjoy some quality time in nature, but you will also be supporting a good cause in helping to revive this incredible place.