Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project

Summaga Café paves new paths for women in Ajloun

Nusaiba Al Momani

Nusaiba Al Momani, head of Al Kifah Cooperative Society, received approval in 2015 from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to run a restaurant at the Ajloun Castle Visitor Center.

While women in Ajloun were generally discouraged from entering the tourism sector, Nusaiba did it anyway, recruiting with her Umaima Al Momani, who was a 21-year-old college student at the time. The two of them worked together to run Summaga Café, which got its name from sumac, Jordan’s beloved red spice.

“People used to think it’s disgraceful for women to work in restaurants,” said Umaima, who has worked her way up to becoming the manager of the café. “But we overcame this culture of shame.”

“Summaga inspired other places in Ajloun to start hiring women!” added Nusaiba.

The restaurant offers local dishes made with ingredients straight from 25 Ajloun farms that are part of Al-Kifah. This benefits around 41 families in the area. Their organic products include labaneh, jams and preserves, herbs, spices, honey and greens.

USAID BEST supported the society in upgrading the space, designing a new menu and developing and marketing a new brand. Now, the restaurant is adorned with colorful ‘upcycled’ chairs and tables, ceiling lights made from old kettles, and dangling potted plants; all together complementing the farm-to-table concept that the cooperative was targeting through this outlet.

BEST also supported the listing of Summaga Café on the Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan, which was launched by the Jordan Tourism Board and Tourism Cares. This resulted in an increase of tourists to Ajloun, which previously lacked proper facilities where local and foreign visitors can relax and unwind while enjoying their tourism experiences.

“This opened so many doors for us, and many people started finding out about us,” said Umaima. “Tourists would make reservations before even arriving in Jordan.”

This exposure resulted in Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah visiting Al-Kifah Cooperative Society and Summaga Café on August 26, 2018.

The restaurant now has four full-time employees and two others who help during rush hours.

This was a big jump for us,” said Nusaiba. “It wasn’t easy at all to accomplish in Ajloun. We’re the first people working in this field.”

Summaga inspired community members to invest in their own small businesses, alleviating some of the burdens of poverty in the area.

“We want to expand and hopefully open a branch somewhere livelier like Amman and Aqaba,” said Umaima. She explained, “This way we can market the local products of Ajloun and Al Kifah and encourage those who don’t usually visit the governorates to come and see what we have to offer.”