Jordan’s iconic destination Petra is seeing its horse carts being replaced by a fleet of new electric vehicles to drive tourists, for the well-being of animals and much to the relief of animal-rights groups.
The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan’s most attractive destinations for travellers. Located 262 km south of Amman, it is one of the most important archeological sites and tourism attractions in the Middle-East, and is visited by tourists from all over the world. In 2019, the pink-stone city for the first time passed the 1-million visitors mark.
Petra remains an architectural masterpiece of an astonishing ancient civilisation. More than 2,000 years ago, the Nabataean Arabs perfectly carved the grand urban structure into the mountains. The magnificent carving made Petra one of the new seven wonders of the world.
However, there has been a source of concern for quite some time for visitors. Many felt sorry about the horses and mules used to draw tourists to the site in carts all day long. The concern of animal rights movements drove a project to start replacing them with electric vehicles. The delivery of 10 electric vehicles (e-buggies) is a serious effort made by authorities to address criticism over animal abuse.
The small fleet of 10 rechargeable e-carts now takes visitors through the rose-coloured gorge leading to the famed capital of the Nabateans replacing 12 horse carts. Talking to the French press agency AFP, Suleiman Farajat, head of the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority, spoke about the positive aspects of the change.
Protecting the environment and the animals
“There is no pollution or smoke” and the change has “reduced the cases of animal mistreatment,” he said to AFP.
The golf buggy-style vehicles have less impact because “sometimes the carriage wheels hit the sides of the Siq (gorges) while the horse dung caused a bad smell in the place, and cleaning it was not easy. It was an unpleasant experience for the tourists, the horses and us,” added Farajat.
Replacing horse carts by electric buggies has been agreed with the horse owners’ association. Some have been trained to become drivers for the new buggies. Prices for a return trip are fixed at 25 dinars (US$35) for foreign visitors and JOD15 (US$21) for Jordanians. The association receives 75% of the income, while 25% goes to the Regional Tourism Authority, Farajat explained to the French news agency.
The head of the borse owners’ association, Mohammad Amarat, declared to AFP that those operating the electric carts earn more than $423 per month, an improvement over the horse ride. Electric vehicles can take up to five passengers instead of two in the horse-drawn cart.
An improvement for disabled travellers in Petra
AFP reports that the animal rights group PETA hailed the “game-changing vehicles” and added that it hopes to work with officials “toward the day when there will be only animal-free transportation at Petra”.
Animals will indeed not totally disappear from Petra landscapes. Some of the horses will continue to be seen “to preserve the character of the place, as it is a world heritage site”, stresses the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority.
The change also brings another positive change. It finally makes the UNESCO world heritage site more accessible to elderly and disabled visitors, and helps in protecting the site from further pollution.