Olga Zenker


  • Seit 2022 Kollegiatin am DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 2227 „Identität und Erbe“ an der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
  • 2021-2022 Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin an der Orient-Abteilung des Deutschen Archäologischen Institut, Außenstelle Damaskus
  • 2016-2020 Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Fachgebiet Bau- und Stadtbaugeschichte der TU Berlin
  • 2008-2016 Studium der Architektur (B.Sc. & M.Sc.) an der Technischen Universität Berlin
  • 2007-2008 Studium der Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie an der Freien Universität Berlin


Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
Fakultät Architektur und Urbanistik
DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 2227 „Identität und Erbe“
D-99421 Weimar

Sitz: Prellerhaus | 3. OG | Raum 303
Geschwister-Scholl-Str. 6 | D-99423 Weimar

100 years of building and living in Umm Quays The forgotten heritage of a 19th century ‘Jordanian’ village

The planned PhD project is dealing with the so-called ‘Upper Village’ Hara Foqa of Umm Qays, located in the extreme northwest of Jordan near the border to Syria and Israel and just next to the ancient city of Gadara. The village was probably built in the late 19thcentury using the remains of the ancient city as building material. Until 1984 the inhabitants were forced by the Jordanian government to leave their houses. While the initial intention was to demolish the ΄younger΄ buildings in favour of exploring ancient Gadara, there are currently plans to promote Hara Foqa as a ΄Jordanian΄ heritage site for tourism. 

In this process of valorisation, the identity of the site is also being renegotiated. In favour of the interests of national and international institutions the position of local actors is increasingly losing influence, while the question of the actual history and origin of the architecture and its former inhabitants remains unanswered. 

The aim of the dissertation project is to systematically investigate the building and housing history of the village using building research and ethnological methods. It is intended to collect the remaining knowledge about the building culture practiced in the village in its constructive and social dimensions and thus to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the village and its historical development. 

A study of the architectural and cultural characteristics of the buildings in connection with the once existing intercultural relations of the village within the region will help to identify the actual significance the village’s cultural heritage has for the groups involved in the negotiation process. For the ongoing political discussion on how to deal with the built heritage of the 20th century, such an investigation could provide important information. It also allows to question the conventional hierarchies of knowledge about architectural heritage in general.

Current Publications

F. Keshk, B. Schäfer, O. Zenker (2021): Privacy in a Rural Settlement. Open Spaces in the Nubian Villages of Bigge Island, in: Salgirli, Saygin (Hg.): Inside/Outside in Islamic Art and Architecture, Bloomsbury.

H. Schlimme, B. Schäfer, O. Zenker, C. Bieber (2020): The Nubian village of Balle: Social and spatial structure explained using a virtual model, in: Scires-IT, Volume 10, Issue 1.

B. Schäfer, O. Zenker (2017): Die nubischen Dörfer auf Bigge. Vorbericht über die bauhistorischen und ethnologischen Forschungen, in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo, Band 73.