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Self-reliance is essential

Aug 08,2020 - Last updated at Aug 08,2020

My family and I have had the fortune of being at Petra twice within a month. Petra had always been a favourite destination for us, but in recent years we have not been going there as much due to several considerations, one of which is the bad condition of the Desert Highway.

The first time we went this month, there were very few people in Petra, largely due to the suspension of international travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We enjoyed the trip tremendously but felt saddened because of the scarcity of visitors, who usually bring with them a lot of excitement but also economic benefit to so many businesses and families, making a living as a result of tourism.

The second time, over the Eid holiday, the situation was entirely different. A lot of visitors were there: children, young people and women and men of all ages and walks of life. They came in large numbers, and they can be seen at all hours.

As a matter of fact the alleys and open squares of Petra were as full of people as the city centre in Amman is on busy days.

The weather was conducive to a pleasurable visit, and the atmosphere was festive and vibrant, not only to the visitors, but to the Petra and Wadi Musa residents.

You could see the excitement and joy on the faces of people. They were chatting excitedly, taking photos, or standing looking at the various wonders of Petra.

To children and young people who were coming for the first time, it was also a learning experience about one of the most successful and impressive civilisations and cultures in human history.

But there was also a lot of commercial activity: people buying cold water, juices, T-shirts, headdresses, and a lot of other souvenirs. And they were riding donkeys, horses, camels and go-carts.

Many restaurants were busy, and so were some of the hotels. The hotel where we stayed was full capacity.

Most of the visitors were Jordanian, and this testifies to the idea that local tourism is worth investing in and ought to be given a priority, not just at this point in time when international travel is almost suspended because of the pandemic, but at all times.

And this perhaps is what should be stressed here: the country needs to rely on itself a lot more than it has done in pervious years, and it needs to think of creative and smart solutions.

Certainly, the idea of attracting locals to Petra, and attracting them in such big numbers and with such a successful outcome, is an epitome of creative and smart solutions which can be applied in other sectors and settings as well.

Such creative, smart solutions will definitely help us weather the storm of COVID-19, but will also help us in coping with similar future challenges as well.

Self-reliance is essential, now and at all times.

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