Ghor es-Safi

Ghor es-Safi (also known as Ghawr as-Safi) is an area in the Jordan valley, located in the Wadi al-Hasa. It is situated between the governorates of Karak and Tafilah, near the southern Dead Sea.[1] The location is depicted on the 6th-century Madaba map as "Zoara."[2]

Sugar cane factories at Ghor al-Safi
Another view of the sugar cane factories at Ghor al-Safi

Ghor as-Safi is perhaps best known for its historical sugar cane factory.


Sugar Cane FactoryEdit

Many excavations were facilitated by the Hellenic Society for Near Eastern Studies (HSNES) and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan since the 1990s, and Dr. Konstantinos D. Politis directed most of these archaeological projects.[3][4][5][6][7] Archaeological work was ongoing as of at least 2017.[8] Efforts were mostly focused on learning about a sugar factory located at sub-site Tawahin as-Sukkar (also known as Tawahin es-Sukkar or Maṣna‘ as-Sukkar).

There is both an eastern and western pressing room which helped archaeologists understand the settlement and agricultural patterns at the site since 12,000 years ago. The pressing rooms are accompanied by a penstock used for irrigation and water resource management.[7] It is believed that a building nearby to the pressing rooms was used to boil the raw sugar cane in order to make refined sugar, based on sugar fragment evidence displayed at the site.[7] Sugar and molasses pots were among the materials recovered during excavations.[8]

Locally-produced sugar would have been sold as an export throughout the world;[9][10] sugar is considered by some scholars to have been the "cash crop" of the southern Levant during the medieval period.[11]

Archaeological investigation at this and other sites in the area suggest "a population with a Nabataean character living on the south-eastern shores of the Dead Sea from the 1st-6th centuries A.D."[12] Finds at the site suggest presence of human settlement for several different historical eras: 8th to 9th, 12th to 14th, 15th to 16th, and 20th centuries (including the Early Bronze, Byzantine, and late Islamic Periods).[13][14][7][8]

Lot's CaveEdit

Also near this location is Deir 'Ain 'Abata / Saint Lot's Cave.[15][16][17]


Ghor es-Safi also houses the Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth, which displays many archaeological discoveries from the surrounding area. Since 2014 especially, work has been done to conserve the Tawahin as-Sukkar archaeological site and make it accessible to visitors.[1] Agro-tourism is a growing source of employment in Safi, such as through the Jordan Southern Ghawr Company.[18]


The area of Ghor es-Safi is characterized by the Saramuji conglomerates dating back to the Proterozoic,[19] somewhere between 595 and 600 mya (million years ago). The area's geological origin could be associated with similar conglomerate formations from the Upper Proterozoic, such as those in Shammar and several areas of the Arabian-Nubian Shield.[20] The area around Ghor es-Safi is composed of alternating horizons of boulder conglomerates and arkosic sandstone (the latter with green impurities due to chlorite and epidote from early metamorphism).[19]


  1. ^ a b "Tawahin El-Sukkar". Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities (MEGA Jordan). The Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund. 2010. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  2. ^ "The Story of SCHEP 2014–2018" (PDF). USAID SCHEP. ACOR. 2020. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  3. ^ Jones, R.E.; Tompsett, G.; Politis, K.D.; Photos-Jones, E. (2000). "The Tawahin as-Sukkar and Khirbat ash-Shaykh `Isa Project Phase I: The Surveys". Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 44: 523–534 – via
  4. ^ Politis, Konstantinos (1998). "Survey and Rescue Collections in the Ghawr as-Safi". Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 42: 627–634 – via
  5. ^ Photos-Jones, Effie; Politis, Konstantinos; James, Heather; Hall, Alan; Jones, Richard; Hamer, Jerry (2002). "The Sugar Industry in the Southern Jordan Valley: An Interim Report on the Pilot Season of Excavations, Geophysical and Geological Surveys at Tawahin as-Sukkar and Khirbat ash-Shaykh `Isa, in Ghawr as-Safi". Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 46: 591–614 – via
  6. ^ Politis, Konstantinos; Sampson, Adamantios; O'Hea, Margaret (2009). "Ghawr as-Safi Survey and Excavations, 2008-2009". Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 53: 297–310 – via
  7. ^ a b c d "HSNES: Current Projects". Retrieved 2020-03-12.
  8. ^ a b c Politis, Konstantinos (November 2018). "Ghawr as-Safi (2016–2017)". Archaeology in Jordan. 1: 63–64 – via
  9. ^ Politis, Konstantinos (2016-02-03). ""Sugar, Safi and SCHEP" [Video Lecture]". ACOR Jordan. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  10. ^ Politis, Konstantinos (2013). "The sugar industry in the Ghawr aṣ-Ṣāfī, Jordan". Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan. 11: 467–480 – via
  11. ^ Jones, Ian (2018-02-01). "Southern Jordan's Medieval Copper Industry". ACOR Jordan. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  12. ^ Politis, Konstantinos (2020-02-27). "The unexpected discovery of Khirbet Qazone and the revealing of Nabataeans on the shores of the Dead Sea". ACOR Jordan. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  13. ^ Meimaris, Yiannis E. Inscriptions from Palaestina Tertia. Kritikakou, K. Athens. ISBN 978-960-7905-22-2. OCLC 62309678.
  14. ^ Waheeb, Mohammed (1995). "The First Season of the an-Naq` Project, Ghawr as-Safi". Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 39: 555–557 – via
  15. ^ "Deir Ain Abata". Middle Easter Geodatabase for Antiquities (MEGA Jordan). Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund. 2010. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  16. ^ Politis, Konstantinos D. (2012). Sanctuary of Lot at Deir ʻAin ʻAbata in Jordan : excavations 1988-2003. Beech, Mark (Mark J.), Farrant, James M., ACOR (Center). Amman, Jordan: American Center of Oriental Research. ISBN 978-9957-557-04-1. OCLC 825173931.
  17. ^ Byzanz - das Römerreich im Mittelalter. 1, Welt der Ideen, Welt der Dinge (PDF). 1. Daim, Falko. Mainz: Verl. des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums. 2010. ISBN 978-3-7954-2347-6. OCLC 705538804.CS1 maint: others (link)
  18. ^ Jordan Southern Ghawr Company (2019). Visit Safi: Community Based Tourism (PDF). ACOR/USAID SCHEP.
  19. ^ a b Moumani, Khaled; Abed, ِAbdulkader M.; Ibrahim, Khalil M. (2011). Geology of Jordan- Field Guidebook (Second ed.). Jordanian Geologists Association. p. 10.
  20. ^ Moumani et al. (2011), p .11

Further readingEdit

  • Politis, K. D. et al. (forthcoming 2012) Archaeological Landscapes of Zoara: Results of the Survey and Excavations in the Ghor es-Safi (Jordan) from 1997 to 2010. Palestine Exploration Fund Monograph X, London.
  • Politis, K. D. et al. (2005) Survey and Excavations at Ghawr as-Safi 2004. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 49: 313–326.
  • Jordan Southern Ghawr Company. Visit Safi: Community Based Tourism. ACOR/USAID SCHEP. 2019.