Rihab marathon: a community run to discover a hidden gem of Jordan

60 people, Jordanians and Syrians, took part in the first run organized in Rihab, northern Jordan, where AVSI promotes socio-economic development through the promotion of cultural heritage.


Tucked away in Jordan's Mafraq Governorate, the main refugee destination and home to the world's largest refugee camp for Syrians, is one of the country's lesser-known but richest cultural destinations for mosaics and Byzantine churches: Rihab.

Rihab is a village in the north, off the tourist routes that draw most of Jordan's visitors each year - Petra, Wadi Rum, Jarash. Here AVSI has been working since 2019 to encourage socio-economic development with interventions to protect and safeguard the most vulnerable Jordanians and Syrians and to promote cultural heritage.

On April 23, 2024, AVSI organized for the first time in Rihab's history a run open to all residents that featured adults and children. The mini-marathon was made possible by funds from  Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) under the emergency initiative “Mujtamai Amani II: My community is my safety.” The initiative was organized in collaboration with the Municipality of Rihab and under the patronage of the Province, which have been collaborating with AVSI for years for the development of the area.

60 participants, including children, teenagers and adults from the local Jordanian host community and Syrian refugee community took part in the run. Two routes were mapped out by AVSI: the first one, more challenging, for the more athletic, and the second one within the reach of younger children and people living with disabilities.

Local authorities welcomed the initiative and encouraged community participation. Given the positive outcome of this first edition, they hope the run will become an annual event.

“The run had a twofold purpose,” explains Nicola Orsini, head of AVSI in Jordan, “on the one hand, it was intended to raise awareness of the importance of social and community moments, especially if they promote a healthy lifestyle, such as sports, and broad participation. On the other hand, the tourist trail built with dedication and passion by the working men and women of Rihab was formally inaugurated.”

In Rihab, a route among ancient houses and Byzantine churches

One stop of the run was the tourist trail built in Rihab by AVSI as part of the project “Jodhour: support for employment and entrepreneurship in the cultural heritage, agricultural and tourism supply chain in Jordan” also funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS). Through the cash-for-work initiative, 60 local workers were involved in the restoration of four archaeological sites located in the historic center and in the creation of a Trail, a real tourist route linking the recently discovered ancient Byzantine houses and churches.  Along the trail, urban artworks made using the mosaic technique were installed by a group of women involved in the project.