AMMAN, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Visitors who now go to the ancient rose-red city
of Petra in southern Jordan have to brave freezing morning and night
temperatures and baking desert sunshine.
It, however, would not hold back the footsteps of the tourists who want to see for themselves the city carved
into soft sandstone and surrounded by towering hills which gave the city
some natural protection against invaders.
Ali, a Bedouin guide, stands on the edge
of a rock high above the al Khazneh (Treasury) in the ancient city of
Petra Aug. 30, 2007. The Treasury is Petra's most famous monument, whose
name reflects the local legend that the urn on top of the monument held
the pharaoh's treasure. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Resting in front of Petra Archeological Museum, Uzula Steich and her
husband, both German, said they never thought it was so beautiful.
Wearing a white scarf to give herself some shade, Steich said they have
visited a lot of scenic spots in Europe and the United States and that the trip
to Petra, the first time in the Middle East, was "fantastic."
"The caved buildings are wonderful and the rock is colorful," which ranges
from pale yellow or white through rich reds to the darker brown of more
resistant rocks, she said cheerfully.
A three-hour drive from Jordan's capital of Amman, Petra was founded by a
nomadic Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans who settled on the edges of the
mountainous desert of Wadi Araba more than two millennia ago.
The site was designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1985 when it was described as "one of
the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage."
Steich is only one of the over 3,000 visitors who throng to Petra every
Khalad Hlalat, 45, manager of Jett Bus Company in Petra, said Jett Bus, the
most popular bus company in Jordan, alone sends at least 50 buses with 40 seats
The manager who has worked in Petra over 20 years said the number of
tourists is increasing every year, especially in recent years.
"The visitors are mixed and most of them are from Europe, the U.S., Russia,
Japan and South Korea," he said, adding that Chinese, new comers, started to
come here two years ago.
The number of visitors to Petra this year approached 500,000, which is a
record-breaking number in the history of the city, Director of Petra Tourism
Department, Malek Al Amrat said.
Director of Petra Hotel Mohammad Al Tweisi said the tourism movement
improved by 20 percent this year compared to previous years, adding that Petra
chosen to be one of the New Seven World Wonders had a very good impact on its
Petra was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in Lisbon on July
7, 2007, along with the Great Wall of China, Brazil' s Statue of Christ
Redeemer, Peru's Machu Picchu, Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid, the Colosseum in
Rome and India's Taj Mahal.
The World Monument Fund, the foremost private, nonprofit organization
dedicated to the preservation of endangered architectural and cultural sites,
has regularly listed Petra as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature
also estimates that 50 percent of the animal species in Petra are threatened.
Salem Hammed, 23, a Bedouin guide stands
on top of the urn at the peak of ad Dayr (The Monastery) in the ancient
city of Petra Aug. 31, 2007. Ad Dayr has the largest facade (45 by 50
metres, or 130 by 164 ft) in Petra, Jordan. (Xinhua/Reuters
Experts said that Petra was threatened by erosion, seismic damage,
pollution, environmental degradation, and the pressure of international tourism.
Archaeologist Tarawneh Fua'd, 43, did not believe Petra is well protected,
saying that "we lost a lot of monuments every year."
The most serious threat facing Petra is water erosion, especially in the
winter rain season, he said, adding that increasing number of tourists also did
some harm to Petra's environment.
Dressed in a blue suit, Dr. Fawwaz Khraysheh, Director General of the
Department of Antiquities, said in Amman that Petra is unique in terms of
archaeological, architectural and cultural values.
In order to protect Petra, the Jordanian government has installed many
management plans, including monument preservation, water engineering and public
awareness promotion about of the importance of Petra, according to Khraysheh.
Moreover, one of the principal tasks of the staffs in Petra is to prevent
tourists from writing, climbing and breaking the monuments there, he added.
As an expert who believes even excavation is destructive to an
archaeological site, he is also aware of the impact of the booming tourism on
"But we can't avoid this," because Petra is a precious resource for Jordan, Khraysheh said, noting that "what we have to do is keep a balance between making profit from Petra and protecting the site."