The Middle East’s first particle accelerator has officially been inaugurated in Allan, Jordan, in a ceremony attended by King Abdullah II and Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO. According to UNESCO’s the official name of the facility is Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME – the password used in Ali Baba’s time to open the gates to unimaginable treasures.
The $90m laboratory’s mission is: “Enabling world-class research in its members in subjects ranging from biology and medical sciences through materials science, physics and chemistry to archaeology.”
It aims to build “scientific and cultural bridges between neighbouring countries, promoting mutual understanding and tolerance through international cooperation, and fostering a regional community of scientific users who will work together”.
SESAME is located 35km north of Jordan’s capital, Amman, and was built emulating the institutional structure of CERN – the world’s largest particle accelerator in Switzerland.
The project aims to provide state-of-the-art technological equipment to researchers in the region, helping stem brain drain to northern countries.
The need for an international synchrotron light source was first identified in the 1980s by renowned scientists such as Nobel Laureate Professor Abdus Salam. In 1995, the Middle East Scientific Cooperation group (MESC) started organising meetings and advocate for the cooperation project.
In 1997, MESC took up one proposal from scientist German Gustav-Adolf Voss, who suggested using components from a facility in Berlin that would soon be decommissioned in order to start a project in the Middle East. The German government agreed under the condition of UNESCO patronage.
SESAME was formally founded in 2004 and today the project has eight full member states and 17 observers.
This article was originally published by Al Jazeera