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Petra under Siege

Surviving for more than 14 centuries in the Jordanian desert, the ancient city of Petra is no stranger to invaders. This former capital city of the Nabataean dynasty has withstood Roman conquest, natural disasters, and Swiss bulldozers. A majestic city intricately carved almost entirely out of the canyon’s vibrant pink rock walls is bound to attract attention, and today, it is this attention that brings Petra’s modern woes.

The number of hotels near Wadi Moussa, the town nearest to the site, has increased rapidly to support the influx of tourists. In the last decade alone, the number has doubled from 30 to 60 hotels (1), this after a reported 173% increase in travel by Americans and a 213% rise in travel by Canadians to Petra in 2005 over the previous year. (2)

What remains to be seen is what long-term effect, if any, this flood of tourists will have on the ancient site’s 800 monuments. A management agency, the Petra Regional Planning Council (PRPC), has been set up by the Kingdom of Jordan in order to prevent any further development in the immediate area and to oversee the site much like a National Park. The east side of Petra is already being reforested to its former state, and the west side will become a natural park. (1)

However, as the rise in tourism has given the sector an unprecedented boost, visitors will undoubtedly remain a valuable commodity in Wadi Moussa. Those keen to live out their Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade fantasies will find innumerous tour operators and outfitters ready to meet their needs. Just don’t expect to be a lone crusader; more than 3,000 visitors make the trek into Petra each day. (3)


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