Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Jordanians return to Petra as the archaeological city reopens to domestic tourists

The Unesco World Heritage Site has been closed to tourists since March 16

Three months after it closed to tourists amid the coronavirus pandemic, the archaeological city of Petra has reopened.

On Tuesday, June 16, Jordan's Unesco World Heritage Site began welcoming domestic tourists to explore the rose-red temples once again, and they have been taking full advantage of the unusually quiet conditions.

Petra, located 280 kilometres south of the Jordanian capital of Amman, typically welcomes more than 1.13 million tourists annually, 1 million of which are international visitors.

Last week, ahead of its domestic reopening, it was reported that Covid-19 had been "catastrophic" for the estimated 200 guides, 1,500 horse and donkey owners, hotels, restaurant and tourist stalls workers who remained at the ancient city without a fixed revenue coming in from tourists.

"It's the first time I've seen this place so empty. Usually there are thousands of tourists," said Nayef Hilalat, 42, who has worked as a guardian at the ancient archaeological site for a decade.

"Every year at this time the place would be buzzing with people ... today all we can hear is the birds singing."

Jordan welcomes some five million visitors a year, and tourism accounts for 14 per cent of the country's GDP, employing about 100,000 people.

Updated: June 21, 2020 03:27 PM

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