In Jordan, two stone sphinxes overlook the remains of the Temple of the Winged Lions, one of the most important temples in the ancient city of Petra. Wind and rain have eroded the temple’s sandstone, and natural decay threatens its structural integrity.

But thanks to a generous grant from the U.S. Embassy in Amman through a program that preserves cultural heritage, American and Jordanian organizations are teaming up to stabilize and repair the temple.

The program, called the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, awards approximately 50 grants annually for the preservation of cultural heritage in developing countries. U.S. embassies apply yearly to qualify for grants to work on projects in their host countries.

Remaining wall of Great Mosque on Kilwa Kisiwani (ECA Cultural Heritage Center)
Remaining wall of the Great Mosque on Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania (ECA Cultural Heritage Center)

In Tanzania, the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam and the World Monuments Fund are collaborating to protect what remains of two great medieval East African port cities, Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara. The money also goes toward rebuilding an ancient cistern that will provide clean water to island residents.

Ceremony with people in rows and tall candlesticks (Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Kees Sprengers)
Ceremony with four Yao Mien candidates for ordination (Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, Kees Sprengers)

Not all of the projects supported by the Ambassadors Fund involve historic sites. Some preserve other types of heritage, such as traditional music, dance, crafts, and indigenous languages. 

In Laos, a grant from the Ambassadors Fund made possible a two-year project to document the Taoist rituals of that country’s Yao minority. 

The more than 850 projects that have been supported by the Ambassadors Fund since 2001 reflect a belief in the importance of all cultures’ contributions to humanity. This support stands in sharp contrast to such incidents as the destruction of the 6th-century Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001 and recent threats to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple In Central Java, Indonesia, by ISIL sympathizers.

In coming weeks, ShareAmerica will be looking at projects underway worldwide with the help of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.  You can also explore this map of Ambassadors Fund projects at World Heritage sites to find out more.