It is hard to believe that it was only two years ago that Petra in Jordan was
officially named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Constructed around 100 years B.C., and not discovered by the Western world until the 1800s, the ruins of the city that was carved out of rocks has remained largely intact, withstanding thousands of years of wind erosion.
People flock to the site to witness the amazing innovation of the builders so many years ago. The color of the rocks is exquisite and nowhere else in the world can a traveler witness such a phenomenon.
Exquisite color (Photo: Elad Gershgoren)
Tourism to Petra began as early as the 1950s when Americans and Europeans slowly learned about the ancient wonder. However it was only after the peace agreement was signed between Israel and Jordan in 1994 that tourism to Petra and Jordan as a whole began to really flourish. Now, 1 million tourists a year are visiting Jordan for Petra alone. Tour packages offered can be as short as one day or last up to two weeks and can be arranged through many different companies.
There is an intense cooperation between the Israeli and Jordanian tour groups, proving that the peace between Israel and Jordan is solid and provides a positive boost for both economies. Jordanian tour guide Riyad Faddi of the Jordan Tour Guides Association says, “War is destructive and destroys the economy of any country involved. There are no winners in war, only losers and it hurts millions of people that want nothing to do with politics. Eilat and Aqaba are two cities living side by side in peace and that is how we want to keep it.”
Most major tours leave from Eilat where an Israeli tour guide picks up people and escorts them to the Jordanian border. From there he/she will call the Jordanian guide on the other side who conducts the tour of Petra. At the end of the trip the Jordanian guide will call the Israeli guide who takes the tourists back into Israel.
Tours leave early in the morning with hundreds of people from all over the world lined up at the Arava border crossing by 7:30 am. Since the border doesn’t open until 8, people can enjoy the flow of conversations in many different languages and accents including French, English, German, Hebrew, Spanish, Canadian English and South African English. Many of the young Jordanians who lead animal rides in and out of Petra have picked up on some of these due to tourism and can offer brief conversations in multiple languages.
Though a one day tour is enough to give you a brief taste of the ancient beauty Petra offers, Faddi says, “You need days to completely walk through Petra and see all of the monuments and even then there are still many caves which have yet to be excavated.” Right now there is a German group leading an excavation on some of Petra’s caves and as work continues there is more and more to see of the fascinating city.