Is Petra, Jordan in Tourism Danger?

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Indiana Jones would weep at the lack of attraction the ancient city of Petra is receiving these days. Due to their violent neighbors, the peaceful country of Jordan is declining in tourism.

When the world rang in the new millennium, Petra saw more than 700,000 visitors a year. Now the world wonder receives 425,000 per year. Locals and archaeologists believe this decline started after the Arab Spring in 2010 and has continued since the civil wars in Syria.

“Before the Arab Spring, 70 percent of guests were international and 30 percent local. “Now it’s 40 percent international and 60 percent local,” said Sebastien Meriette, general manager of Kempinski Ishtar hotel.

Most archaeologists believe 80 percent of Petra is still underneath the dirt and dust, waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, the lack of funding makes it nearly impossible for Jordan to fund its own excavation. The country is mostly relying on outside help.

“The dip in income from tourism means there’s no money for development,” said Mohammad Abdelziz, the curator of the Petra Archeological Park since 1988. “We still get missions. This year Brown University is excavating but the funding for these digs is usually international.”

Indeed, this year some buried treasures of Petra have been revealed. In June, a drone discovered an Olympic pool-sized monument that dated back to the second century.

Another announcement came out last week that a pool and ancient gardens were found after 2,000 years, revealing a fascinating irrigation and water storage system made by the Nabataeans.

So while Petra may be receiving fewer international tourists these days, it’s safe to say the wonders beneath the red dust of the ancient city are still eager to be restored to their former glory.

McGee Nall is a travel intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.