Petra is a fantastic place. It really is. I want to emphasize that before you continue to read. Petra is also one of the worst places I have ever visited. Petra is a place where there is a decent chance of you facing death – in form av a tourist riding a donkey.
Petra attracts a lot of visitors every year, and I think even more so since it became one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” back in 2007 (see below). During my 25 years of travel, I have made it to all but one of these “new” wonders… Petra was the last one.
There is a 2,5 km long walk from the entrance to one reaches the Treasury, the iconic image of Petra. The latter half of that walk is spent in the siq, the narrow gorge meandering its way thru the mountain. During this 30 minute slow walk, I had “you want ride donkey?” or “you want horse?” shouted to me more times than anyone should have to experience in a lifetime. I heard more than one visitor fending this off with “Leave me alone!” The whole situation was just … sad.
Worst part, it didn’t stop there.
Inside Petra, there is a main road that cuts thru the entire site. You constantly have to keep an eye on the road to make sure you jump out of the way when the horses with their little chariots or tourists on donkeys are coming your way, fiercely cheered on (and whipped) by the owners. (Animal cruelty is a recurring critique from people visiting Petra, and it is still happening.) The primal urge to survive prevents visitors from fully enjoying the scenery. While walking down from High Sacrifice, a great viewpoint a couple of hundred steps above Petra, a donkey almost knocked an American woman off the stairs and into the deep gorge behind her. The woman sitting on the donkey had absolutely no control over what happened. At least that how she excused herself. The guy in charge of the donkeys, walking a few steps behind, hardly noticed.
– You have to understand. Petra is run by the mafia. They don´t care about Petra. For them, it is only about money. Nothing else.
I want him to be wrong. I hope that one day the authorities in Jordan come to their senses and treat their contribution to the seven wonders’ list with the same respect and care as Peru does with Machu Picchu or India with Taj Mahal. I would like to walk around in Petra in awe, not in fear.
The New Seven Wonders
In 2000 a Swiss foundation launched a campaign to determine the New Seven Wonders of the World. Given that the original Seven Wonders list was compiled some two thousand years ago—and that only one entrant is still standing (the Pyramids of Giza)—it seemed time for an update. The New Seven Wonders are: The Great Wall of China, Chichén Itzá (Mexico), Machu Picchu (Peru), Taj Mahal (India), Petra (Jordan), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil) and Colosseum (Italy). The Pyramids of Giza (Egypt) made this list with “honorary status”.