As the Dead Sea shrinks, Jordan fights to win back tourists

(CNN) — On the shoreline of the Dead Sea, Jordanian comic and nationwide treasure Nabil Sawalha strides chest-deep into the water, with all the boldness of a swan to a lake.

“It loves you, the water here, it hugs you,” he says as he permits the ocean to gather his legs and buoy his complete physique to the floor.

"It's very sad." Jordanian comedian Nabil Sawalha laments the Dead Sea's decline.

“It’s very sad.” Jordanian comic Nabil Sawalha laments the Dead Sea’s decline.

The playwright, director and actor has taken the day to journey from his residence in Amman right down to the bottom level on the planet’s floor to expertise the mineral-rich waters nestled between Jordan and Israel.

“Nowhere in the world can you just sit on the water and feel relaxed and feel happy,” Sawalha says whereas having fun with his dip.

The Dead Sea is without doubt one of the saltiest our bodies of water on the planet, with round 34% salinity. Its identify in Hebrew interprets because the Salt Sea.

But the Dead Sea is dying, its waters vanishing at an alarming charge. With every passing yr, the opportunity of having fun with a go to to its shores retains receding.

According to environmental group EcoPeace Middle East, the water degree drops about one meter per yr.

“It’s sad, very sad,” Sawalha says, lamenting how considerably the water degree has dropped prior to now 15 years.

A view of the current shoreline of the Dead Sea shows where water levels have dropped over the years.

A view of the present shoreline of the Dead Sea reveals the place water ranges have dropped through the years.

The Dead Sea is fed from pure sources, primarily the Jordan River and its basin, however a few of these it depends on have been both dammed or diverted.

Meanwhile Dead Sea minerals, extremely prized for his or her therapeutic properties, are being extracted, additional contributing to the ocean’s shrinking.

Jordan woos vacationer circulate after arrivals ebb

Jordan's visitor numbers have fallen sharply in recent years.

Jordan’s customer numbers have fallen sharply lately.

AHMAD ABDO/AFP/AFP by way of Getty Images

Not in contrast to the Dead Sea, Jordan’s vacationer numbers had been drying up within the final decade earlier than nearly evaporating in the course of the Covid pandemic.

In 2020, tourism revenues fell to $1.4 billion, a fall of 76% on the earlier yr, in keeping with the UN World Tourism Organization.

The sudden plunge was a serious blow to Jordan, which had been attempting to reverse a droop which, in keeping with the World Bank, noticed vacationer numbers drop from 8 million in 2010 to 4.24 million in 2016.
In its newest effort to win again guests, Jordan’s Tourism Board has launched a brand new marketing campaign, branding itself the “Kingdom of Time.”
Nayef Al-Fayez, Jordan's tourism minister, says his country is on the vacation comeback trail.

Nayef Al-Fayez, Jordan’s tourism minister, says his nation is on the holiday comeback path.

Lloyd Sturdy/WTM

The nation’s tourism minister, Nayef Al-Fayez, used the current World Travel Market commerce occasion in London to trumpet Jordan’s push for extra guests.

“Jordan is back, ready to unveil its new tourism brand, as an authentic reflection of a destination which, within a land that can be traversed by car in less than a day, fuses together a dizzying collage of geological and natural diversity, historical richness, a tradition of spirituality and faith, and a contemporary Arabian culture of openness and warm hospitality that welcomes everyone for leisure, business and healing,” he told industry representatives.

Landscapes worthy of the massive display

Jordan's otherworldly Wadi Rum desert has been the backdrop for several big-budget Hollywood films.

Jordan’s otherworldly Wadi Rum desert has been the backdrop for a number of big-budget Hollywood movies.


There is little question that Jordan’s epic landscapes and archaeological websites are a serious vacationer attraction. In truth, they’re used commonly by filmmakers from Amman to Hollywood as otherworldly backdrops.

Most just lately, sandy sci-fi blockbuster “Dune” was filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert. Films such because the live-action adaptation of Disney’s “Aladdin” and “Star Wars: Rogue One” had been additionally shot on location within the desert plains within the nation’s south.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, half-brother to King Abdullah II, is the chairman of Jordan’s Royal Film Commission. Among many features, it is answerable for attracting big-name studios to Jordan — in addition to fostering native expertise and expertise.

Richard Quest sits by a campfire with Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan in his country's Wadi Rum desert.

Richard Quest sits by a campfire with Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan in his nation’s Wadi Rum desert.


“It’s important that we are developing our own film industry and it brings real benefits to people. It’s not about getting support or money into government. It’s about the people who work on the ground, the local communities all benefit from this wonderful industry,” Ali says.

“It’s a beautiful place. People want to see, they want to visualize, they want to understand what’s going on.”

Rediscovering Jordan’s misplaced metropolis

Professor Sami Alhasanat, a proud Petraen, is our information by this red-rose Jordanian metropolis “half as old as time”.

About two hour’s drive from Wadi Rum is arguably Jordan’s most iconic vacationer attraction: the traditional metropolis of Petra.

The Nabataean civilization carved town out of rock to create their capital over roughly 500 years from the fourth century BCE onward. Nomadic tribes turned merchants, they settled within the space to regulate commerce routes, provide safety, and gather taxes and tolls.

Today, there’s just one means into the archaeological marvel — by the winding rock canyon often called the Siq. The Nabataeans used the elevation of the canyon to create aqueducts to channel water right down to town beneath.

The journey by the Siq takes about 40 minutes by foot. At the top of it, the slim canyon opens into a large clearing — revealing Petra’s most well-known facade, The Treasury, a towering construction carved into the cliff aspect. The wonderment of it hits you want a slap within the face.

Petra's ancient Treasury established it as the capital city of the Nabataeans.

Petra’s historical Treasury established it because the capital metropolis of the Nabataeans.

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/AFP by way of Getty Images

Proud Petrean and professor on the Al-Hussein Bin Talal University, Sami Alhasanat insists this was no mistake.

“Location, location, location — this is what it was meant to be,” he says. “To be very impressive. It is to give you the first impression of ‘This is who we are.’ Just right by the main entrance, when you first encounter the Treasury, you get this impression that this is a great civilization.”

Despite rising up in Petra and dedicating his profession to sharing its significance with others, Alhasanat says the UNESCO World Heritage web site nonetheless astounds him.

Professor Sami Al Hasanat from the Al-Hussein Bin Talal University is a proud Petraen who has dedicated his career to sharing his childhood "playground" with the world.

Professor Sami Al Hasanat from the Al-Hussein Bin Talal University is a proud Petraen who has devoted his profession to sharing his childhood “playground” with the world.

Alasdair Skene

“It’s still impressive for me. Every day I see differently. To me it seems like concentrating on a picture. The more you focus, the more you see, the more you’ll discover this is a treasure. This place connects modern days with the past and future,” he says.

Petra was forgotten by the surface world for 1,000 years till Europeans got here digging in 1812 and unearthed its magnificent constructions.

While the trade-savvy Nabataeans aren’t any extra, their descendants are nonetheless ready to welcome guests to Petra.

Bedouin tour guides work within Petra.

Bedouin tour guides work inside Petra.

Leroy Ah Ben

Bedouin guides vie for the enterprise of vacationers as they spill out from the Siq. They provide donkeys and camel rides, private excursions and photographer providers for these eager to seize the second for social media.

Mostly wearing darkly coloured Western garments, however nonetheless capped with conventional Jordanian shemagh or keffiyeh scarves, the Bedouins of Petra are unmistakable. But it’s one thing they put on on their face that’s by some means probably the most noticeable.

Petra's Bedouin say they wear kohl, a type of eyeliner, to protect their eyes from the harsh sun and sand.

Petra’s Bedouin say they put on kohl, a sort of eyeliner, to guard their eyes from the cruel solar and sand.

Leroy Ah Ben

It’s darkish eyeliner or Arabic kohl — a means the Bedouins shield their eyes from the solar, the mud and the sand. “This is our sunglasses,” one information remarks. “I put it on you?” he provides.

Altogether it provides them a glance straight out of “Pirates of the Caribbean” — though they insist they had been first. “No, not Jack Sparrow. He take our style, my friend!” one other laughs.

That Bedouin attraction takes Petra from being a chilly historical wreck to a residing, respiration metropolis. And that heat, good spirit and hospitality that thrives on this land as previous as time is precisely what Jordan believes will name folks to discover as soon as once more.

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