In 1978, RSCN established Azraq Wetland Reserve to conserve the uniquely precious oasis located in the heart of Jordan’s eastern desert, between a limestone desert in the west and a basalt desert in the east. It has an area of 74 km2. It is distinguished by lush marshland and natural water collections that form glittering pools and streams, giving Azraq its name, which is the Arabic word for "blue".
In 1977, the Ramsar Convention declared Azraq Oasis and the adjacent mudflat (Qa) as a major station for migratory birds on the African-Eurasian flyway. A variety of birds flock to the reserve each year, stopping for a short rest along their migration routes, staying for the winter, or breeding within the wetland. The Azraq wetland is the only oasis in the Arabian Desert with a self-replenishing system that has allowed it to sustain itself throughout the years. In 2018, the reserve joined the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.
Unfortunately, the wetland suffered an environmental disaster because of abuse and overuse of water from the Azraq Basin. Due to excessive pumping of water from the oasis to large urban areas and the illegal drilling of artesian wells for agricultural purposes, water levels have steadily dropped over the course of 50 years, starting to decrease significantly in 1981 and reaching alarming rates in 1993. These high levels of water extraction resulted in the extreme depletion of this natural oasis, drying up massive areas of invaluable wetland equaling over 25 km2. In 1992 the main springs which were feeding the wetland had dried out and water level reached a depth of 12 metres below ground level. The water body that used to be a thriving ecological hotspot has dwindled alarmingly to cover 0.04 % of the area it used to cover in the past; the effects of which can be clearly seen in declining numbers of birds stopping over in Azraq wetland on their migratory route.
Before water pumping dramatically increased in the 1980s, the oasis provided a sparkling blue jewel in the desert, attracting up to a million migrating birds at one time, as it marks one of the major bird migratory routes. At times, an upwards glance at the Azraq sky would find it teeming with masses of birds, blocking out the light of day. By 1993, the extraction of water was so great that no surface water remained and the oasis’s ecological value was virtually destroyed.
With international support, RSCN began a rescue effort in 1994 and managed to restore a significant portion of the wetland, and aims to increase depleted water levels by 10 percent. So far, this target has not been achieved due to continued water pumping, lack of manpower, and a lack of experience in wetland management. However, thanks to RSCN's efforts, many birds for which Azraq was once renowned for are coming back, and special boardwalks and bird hides have been constructed to enable visitors to observe and enjoy them.
Azraq Wetland Reserve is a location of rich biodiversity, containing Azraq Killifish Aphanius sirhani, the only true endemic vertebrate species of Jordan. In addition to two-thirds of the bird species records in Jordan, with 350 species of migratory and resident birds. There are also more than 133 species of plants, and there are more than 163 species of invertebrates, 18 species of mammals, 11 species of reptiles, 15 species of dragonflies, and two types of amphibians.
Azraq Ostrich Egg Design Workshop
Uniquely designed, hand-painted and carved Ostrich eggs, beautifully crafted by the women of Azraq, using a special dotting technique on infertile Ostrich eggs.
Azraq Silk Screen Printing Workshop
Silk Screen-printing is a stencil method of printmaking in which a design is imposed on a screen of silk, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and the ink is forced through the silk onto the printing surface. This is our way of customising your gifts one by one.
Azraq Packaging Workshop
We make our handmade products stand out by using our own hand crafted creative packaging. With no restrictions on shape or size, we will create the best package to fit your gift.
Azraq Educational Toys Workshop
Who said learning couldn’t be fun? We have a wide selection of toys, which both adults and children can enjoy while simultaneously learning. Our version of Wild Monopoly is a family favourite!
Azraq Recycling Workshop
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” Khalil Gibran
We have not, and so we recycle. We offer a wide range of recycled corporate material for you so that you can show how much you care about the world we live in.
Azraq Tailor Workshop
For the hip, conscious adventurers of today we have just the right combination of products. Whether a camera bag or a water bottle holder, Azraq bags are both handmade and durable, and have our famous RSCN nature icons Silk-screen printed on them in order to spread our message “helping nature, helping people”. The local women at the workshop are also especially good at producing customised messenger bags for workshops and other special events.