The wonder of Petra.

Author:Luxner, Larry
Position:MOSAIC - Jordan's archaeological site

THESE DAYS, NO visitor to Petra can escape it. Jordan's all-out campaign urging tourists to "vote for Petra" is as relentless as the scorching summer heat and the local T-shirt vendors camped out permanently at the entrance to this ancient, 3,000-year-old Nabatean city in the desert.

A tent set up outside the Petra Visitors' Centre is equipped with nine PCs, with a banner in English reminding visitors they can vote for Petra not only by logging onto the website but also by calling a special toll-free number or even by sending an SMS from their cellphones.

Just in case the message hasn't gotten through, another nine PCs crowd the visitors' centre itself. Tourists are politely asked to "use the computers only to vote for Petra"--while a not-so-subtle flyer reminds them that it's allowed to vote more than once.

One can hardly blame the authorities for their enthusiasm.

After all, Jordanians have long considered this "rose-red city half as old as time" their nation's greatest tourist attraction, and possibly the best cultural heritage site in the Middle East.

Now they want the rest of the world to agree--and are hoping a worldwide campaign to identify the seven "new wonders of the world" will put Petra on the global tourism map.

The entire campaign is the brainchild of Bernard Weber, a Swiss-born filmmaker, museum curator, aviator and explorer.

Seven years ago, Weber came up with the idea of choosing seven new wonders of the world, with the final selections being made by millions of people using the Internet.

According to Weber, the commonly known seven ancient wonders of the world were all man-made monuments selected by Philon of Byzantium in 200B.C.

"His selection of wonders was essentially a travel guide for fellow Athenians, and the stunning sites were all located around the Mediterranean basin, the then-known world," said Weber, whose foundation is based in Zurich.

The monuments Philon chose--to be remembered in perpetuity--were the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and Egypt's Pyramids of Giza.

All had been built between 2500 and 200B.C., but today, only the Pyramids of Giza remain.

"The renowned ancient wonders belong to antiquity and with the exception of the Pyramids, none remains in existence," said Weber. "There has never been any true public consensus of opinion on the last 2,000 years of human achievement....

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