Amin K. Kawar

Amin Kamel Kawar
(1894 – 1965)

Amin Kawar was born in 1894 in Nazareth. He studied in the Bishop's School in Jerusalem and subsequently graduated from the America University of Beirut (Faculty of Pharmacy) in 1916. After two years of compulsory military service with the Ottoman army during the First World War (1914-1918), he worked as a teacher in the Teachers Institute in Nazareth. He then joined the cadres of the Mandate Government in Palestine until 1926, when he came to Amman based on the advise of his younger brother, Baz Kawar (God rest his soul) who was one of the ten seconded persons who came from Palestine to Transjordan to partake in the establishment of various governmental institutions and departments. Actually, Baz was appointed as Director General of the Postal department in the era of His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah the First Bin Al-Hussein (God rest his soul).

Amin Kawar established the first pharmacy under the name of (The Arab Orient Emirate Pharmacy) whose name changed with the change of the name of the emirate to the East Jordan Emirate. Accordingly the name of the pharmacy became "The Emirate Pharmacy" which was located in Al-Sa`adah street in downtown Amman. His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah the First Bin Al-Hussein chose him as his private pharmacist and conferred on him the title of "Bek."

At the outset of the decade of the 30s, Amin Kawar felt that work as a pharmacist was too simple, and that through it he can do grander things which would be beneficial to the Emirate, and which would be more rewarding for him, morally and materially. Oil in the Middle East in those times was the hot topic of the hour, written about in newspapers and magazines. He petitioned the British Commissioner, who was then his friend Eric Kirkbride. The latter told him that exploring for oil is the monopoly of international British companies. He then proposed to him to search in the folders of the mandatory authority for references to other resources. Accordingly, Amin Kawar started to realize that there is the possibility of the presence of phosphate in Jordan in general, and on the Hejazi railroad in particular, where the layers of the minerals became in evidence as a result of the excavations which were performed to build the Hejazi railroad in the beginning of the previous century.

In his intensive efforts to discover phosphate, he rented donkeys with their jockeys, equipped with primitive digging equipment. He perceived clearly the rock layer atop of which was a layer of fine soil of grey color above and below the rock layer. He took samples of the soft soil layer and analyzed it in his pharmacy. It became evident that the soil contains P205 with a proportion of 72%. To ascertain this, he went to his university- the American University in Beirut- and he took the phosphate samples and found that the proportion of P205 is in excess of 72%. And to verify this at an international level, he dispatched a sample to a laboratory in Britain named Bernard Deyer (which still exists) . The findings confirmed the earlier results. He was presently certain that there is a future for this mineral. The first discovery of phosphate was registered on 31/10/1935 at the site in Ruseifeh.

After this discovery, he established a company by the name of the Jordan Phosphate Company with a capital of 3000 Palestine Pounds, and he enlisted the aid of his friend Wafa Dajani and a British lady of advanced age who resided in Jerusalem and who possessed a fortune and whose name was Ms. Newton. Each one them bought a share of one thousand pounds.

The phosphate mine in Ruseifeh was inaugurated, and they embarked on transporting the phosphate in sacks upon the backs of donkeys using the known carts of the Circassians, which cows pulled through the valley to the railroad in Ruseifeh. The first shipment of 300 tons was transported to Haifa port in 1938, where it was shipped by sea to Fison Fertilizers Company in Liverpool (Britain), which bode well for the future.

Ms. Newton used to support the Palestinian rebels who were demanding independence for Palestine, which evoked the wrath of the British Mandate authorities who expelled her to Britain. Upon the eruption of World War Two, she entrusted her attorney in Haifa to sell her share to Amin Kawar who thereby became the largest shareholder.

During WW2 1939-1945, the Palestine market was open to phosphate, which was sold to a company that used to produce superphosphate which was an essential fertilizer for citrus fruits, oranges and other crops. The phosphate project was considered by the Economic bureau for the Middle East as an economic venture supporting the war effort.

The export of phosphate to Palestine continued throughout the years of the war. Consequently the financial position of the company improved, and the future of this vital project became palpable after the end of the war in view of the rising global demand for phosphate.

During that period, Amin Kawar decided to convert the company from a private company to a public shareholding company. Thus he founded the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (W.L.L.) which was registered in Amman in 1946. Many prominent businessmen bought shares from among those who amassed huge fortunes in the years of WW2. Actually, the capital of the company increased to 125 thousand Palestine pounds. After the Arab Israeli war broke out in 1948 Beirut port was the only port available for exporting phosphate to the markets of Czechoslovakia, Italy, Austria, and otherwise. Amin Kawar faced immense difficulties to convince the Hijaz Railway in Syria and Lebanon to accept this merchandise, but with resolve and determination he succeeded in convincing them.

In 1952 work started in Aqaba Port to build the desert road from Amman to Maan (the road was paved from Ra`s Al-Naqab to Maan and Aqaba during WW2) when Rommel was in Al-Alamain. The Allies were studying a plan to retreat in the event the German Army arrived from Libya to the outskirts of the Suez Canal. Thus they built a military port to receive vessels in Aqaba, and to unload and load goods in barges. From here the first consignment of phosphate (3000) tons was shipped, packed in sacks, and they used to be loaded in the barges and thence raised and unloaded in the cargo decks by laborers. The vessel was affiliated with Euxine Shipping Company whose agents were Abu Zaid and Nazzal Company who were the contractors for circulating the merchandise in Aqaba, and the vessel unloaded its cargo in Brindisi port in Italy in favor of Montecatini Company.

In 1953, the Government became a shareholder in the company when the latter offered 150000 shares for subscription worth 150000 Dinars. The Government acquired a majority of the shares thereby becoming a major shareholder. The export of phosphate continued via Beirut and Aqaba, until the storage and loading of phosphate became mechanical (automated) in Aqaba and the present phosphate pier which receives vessels whose cargo could weigh 50000 tons and at a loading speed amounting to 1500 tons per hour. When the name of Jordanian phosphate began to shine in European markets, and demand for it intensified, this forced the company to increase its capital several times to enable a mechanization of mining. The production of phosphate in Ruseifeh and thence in Hassa was in large commercial quantities, which amounted in the past year to around 3.5 million tons.

The late Amin Kawar retired in 1965 bequeathing, as he did, Amin Kawar and Sons Company which is managed by his sons and grandsons. The company's activities presently span shipping agencies companies in Aqaba, trading, industry, tourism, and travel and information technology.

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