Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Lost City of Stone

The Lost City of Stone-Petra has been described as 'a rose-red city half as old as time' (1). Indeed, so famous is its beauty that millions of people go to Jordan just to see the wonderful, beautiful, glorious structure.
Omar, being as excellent as always, gave us a history and description of the place. He mentioned that it might have been established as early as 400 BC and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has now been named as one of the seven wonders of the world and is flooded with tourists.

As Petra is always full of tourists, the local community has well adapted to the situation and have made tourism a huge industry. There are shops to buy souvenirs, postcards, food and handicrafts. Interestingly, there are also a variety of services offered, one of them being a chance to undergo a "Real Bedouin experience" with an exotic looking man, clad in traditional clothes and wearing a thick layer of make-up!

As a child when I used to think of Arabia, images of camels, horses and caravans sprung into my mind. In Petra one can ride a horse, camel or carriage, giving tourists like me a feeling that they were in "The Arabia". This lead me to think of how commodified tourism in Petra was.

Commodification commodities are objects produced for the purpose of being exchanged

and commodification is the process in which both measurable, like goods and intangible and immeasurable ( experiences) (2).
Meethan (3) argues that commodification occurs in two closely related ways: first as an initial representation of the destination in the images that are promoted through travel brochures and the media (figure 1 and 2); and, second, through the ways in which local culture is represented in the tourist experience of the destination (figure 3). I agree completely with this, having seen this in Petra.

Figure 1: Initial representation of destination image is often by means of Internet 

Figure 2: Publicity of a place is increased through the circulation of books and brochures

I believed that the commercialization of the touristic encounter extends to the point of commodification not merely of the handicrafts and the photographic image, but to the people of the place. A example of this visible in the dress, make-up and behaviour of the men in Petra. 

Figure 3: The Bedouin men of Petra (4)

I must say, I did not enjoy Petra so much as I expected to. Perhaps the hype created around it made it hard for me to do so when I was actually there or perhaps I needed more time to appreciate its entire beauty. Nevertheless I thoroughly cherished the experience and found the sights to be breathtaking.


1) Burgon, John William (1846). Petra, a Poem: To Which a Few Short Poems Are Now Added (Second ed.). Oxford: F. MacPherson. pp. 17–39. Retrieved 9 June2011.

2)Cohen, E. (1988) ‘Authenticity and commodification in tourism’, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 15 (2):371–86.

3) Meethan, K. (2001) Tourism in Global Society, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

4) The red-rose city, Bedouin Brothers’ Ecolife, and the sand bottles tradition. Imagge. Available at: