Jordan aims to relaunch tourism with security and hospitality
At 10:30 am, the light is at its best on the facade of Petra s Treasury, one of the world s most extraordinary archaeological beauties who was rendered even more famous by the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The area in front of the temple carved into sandstone cliff faces in the capital of the ancient Nabatean empire is at that time filled with tourists snapping selfies or being photographed on camels. Shortly afterwards, that same area is empty.
After years of crisis due to tensions in the region, first and foremost the war in Syria and the huge inflow of refugees crossing the border, Jordan is raising its head, although the situation in front of the Treasury is fit to describe the status quo. Visitors are starting to return but only take short visits to the most famous sites, like the biblical Mount Nebo, while missing the numerous beauties of this Middle Eastern country.
The country however now wants to invest on its least-well known beauties and its ability to welcome visitors in security with impeccable hospitality.
The data on tourism in 2017 is encouraging: visitors increased by 14.5% in the first half of the year and the rest of the season appears to consolidate this trend thanks to a rising number of tourists from Europe and North America. Asian tourists are also on the rise.
The operation to promote the country as a safe and welcoming place has included a recent event, tenor Andrea Bocelli s first concert in Jerash, the magnificently preserved Roman-Hellenistic city with hundreds of colonnades that have resisted for centuries.
And the country has many others sites that are not visited enough, besides Jerash. One of them is Beida, known as the Little Petra . If the more famous Petra (located 14 km from here) was a city, this site, which is similar due to the narrow canyon (siq) between rocks and constructions carved from the mountains, was a point for caravans on the incense route to stop. Well-preserved frescoes can be admired, among other things, on the ceiling of rooms where the wealthiest traders slept. Near Mount Nebo is also the UNESCO site of Umm ar-Rasas.
Almost nobody visits the remains of the ancient Roman-Byzantine caravan city where 56 churches were built. The city prospered from 665 AD until 900 as a stopover for goods and people also under the area s Islamic rule.
An earthquake destroyed the city, which has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2004, but only a small part was unearthed thanks to excavation work.
Jordan also has formidable natural beauties and many reserves. The most famous of all is the desert of Wadi Rum, which is so beautiful that 12 movies were filmed here, including Lawrence of Arabia, Transformers 2 and The Martian with Matt Damon. Indeed the red hue of the rocks and sand bring Mars to mind. Here, visitors can sleep in tent camps in the surreal silence of the desert, like in Hasan Zawaideh. A veteran Jordanian tour guide, Ziad Al-Kurdi, said that the parking lot at the entrance of the natural park used to be crowded with buses while there isn t even one today, although September is the ideal month for Wadi Rum. We can use any help to relaunch tourism . Visitors, mostly locals with a few Saudis and Israelis, mostly come for a day or a short visit.
Jordan also has resorts on the Dead Sea or the hotels in Aqaba on the Red Sea, which are so safe that many Israelis visit for the weekend.
Mariangela, a chef who works at the restaurant of a hotel on the large salty lake dividing Israel and Jordan, said she feels safer here than in Europe right now. Also, there is no petty crime .