This article explores the history of an ancient well that had been a vivid milieu de mémoire, in Pierre Nora's term, for hundreds of years. In the 1950s water pipelines were connected to many houses in the town of Baqa al-Gharbiyya, where the well was situated, and within a few years the well was deserted. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century the well had been forgotten as waste piled up where once an ancient source of life had flourished. This article focuses on the circumstances of a recent conservation project intended to rescue the well from a careless municipal 'development' plan, and to preserve the site for the benefit of the local population. The new lieu de mémoire of the well deserves scholarly attention because it was built 'from the grass roots,' by ordinary men and women who conceive of their cultural heritage as an important part of their identity and oppose the 'acceleration of history,' as Nora put it. The interpretation of the memorial site is carried out in a contextual symbolic analysis of its spatial and artistic characteristics, alongside written evidence concerning the initiative, as well as oral testimonies relating the history of the well since the 1930s. This multilayered interpretation revolves around the gap between memories and relics of an essentially rural culture, and complex urban, social, and political realities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes