The challenges of conceiving, constructing, commissioning and operating a large-scale research facility are immense. This is all the more so when the facility - the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) light source hosted near to Amman in Jordan - is the first major international science centre in the Middle East and neighbouring regions. The European Union has been an active partner and contributor to SESAME's story for this exciting project, which was conceived initially to promote regional cooperation in science. OPEN SESAME is one of the latest chapters in the work of the European Union with SESAME and its Members in the Middle East and neighbouring regions. Driven by Europe's open and collaborative spirit, and its wish to build durable bridges between Europe and the Middle East and neighbouring regions, the three-year programme of OPEN SESAME, which started in 2017, has as its objective support for SESAME and its user community during the final commissioning of the accelerator and first beamlines and the facility's initial phase of user operation. The OPEN SESAME project is a consortium of eleven partners in eight countries (seven in Europe and one in Jordan). It consists of seven light sources (CELLS, DESY, ELETTRA, ESRF, INFN, SESAME and SOLEIL), a high-performance computing centre (The Cyprus Institute), a European structural biology network (Instruct), a national research agency (CNRS) and CERN. Two of these facilities, ESRF and CERN, have intergovernmental agreements at their basis, as does SESAME. The partners have brought to SESAME their experience and know-how in running a synchrotron and in exploiting the unique photon and X-ray beams for research. OPEN SESAME's training and support is composed of three pillars of activity: 1) Training of SESAME's staff which is allowing SESAME to benefit from the pool of European experience through a two-way staff mobility programme between the European partners and SESAME. 2) Building regional researcher capacity that is empowering researchers across the SESAME Members through high-quality training and education activities. 3) Integration of SESAME into public and socio-economic landscapes that is targeting stakeholders and researchers and is designed to build awareness of SESAME as an international science centre in the Middle East and neighbouring regions, thereby helping to assure the Centre's longer-term stability and sustainability. After three years of work, OPEN SESAME will conclude on 31 December 2019. The project has supported over 200 staff from SESAME and researchers from the Middle East and neighbouring regions in mobility and training - more than 20,000 hours in total will have been provided. But, perhaps, OPEN SESAME's enduring legacy will be in the researchers from the Middle East and neighbouring regions and Europe, who have worked together, crossing international and cultural divides and have been inspired by SESAME itself, to help ensure that the SESAME light source gets off to a flying start in its user operations.
synchrotron, Middle East, diplomacy, training, lightsource, mobility, capacity building