Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

PETRA This Ancient 'Forgotten City' Has Been Thronged by Tourists Eager to Discover It Ever since Last Fall's Israeli-Jordan Peace Accord

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

PETRA This Ancient 'Forgotten City' Has Been Thronged by Tourists Eager to Discover It Ever since Last Fall's Israeli-Jordan Peace Accord

Article excerpt

BACK in the 1960s, Israeli authorities outlawed a romantic ballad entitled "The Red Rock" to discourage adventurers from illegally crossing Israel's border with Jordan to visit the ancient city of Petra.

Those Israelis who touched the red sandstone of Petra became heroes and part of a secret, elite club that was talked about only in hushed tones.

Some were shot and killed, or injured, by Bedouins guarding the narrow, 600-foot-deep cleft that presents the most viable approach to the ancient ruined city. At most, Petra club members were counted in dozens or scores.

But today, since the signing of the peace accord between Israel and Jordan in October 1994, tens of thousands of Israelis have poured over the Jordan River by the busload to visit the land that was off-limits for so long.

The vast majority have visited since the beginning of this year, when the Jordanians increased the quota of Israeli tourists. According to the agreement between the two countries, Israelis may travel only with organized tours. Plans are under way to allow private Israeli vehicles to cross the borders.

The sudden influx has left the Jordanians in a state of shock.

"People have been told for so many years how bad the Israelis are," says Mekhled al-Zyoudey, author of the play "Madrid, Washington and Back," which spoofs the Middle East peace talks. "Ordinary Jordanians had virtually no say at all in the sudden peace with Israel. Now they are expected to change their attitudes to Israelis overnight," he says.

Another play that has attracted large audiences in Amman, entitled "Hi Citizen," is a fairly barbed send-up of Israeli tourists who are negatively stereotyped in the Arab world.

"For me, Israelis are just like anyone else. I have them as clients and the preconceptions have fallen away," says Jaffer Amer, who takes small groups to Petra and other places of interest. "But the average people have just not been prepared for the huge avalanche of Israeli tourists," he says.

Jordanians' attitudes are gradually changing, and resistance to Israeli tourists is giving way to curiosity born of an awareness that business is business. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.