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Mon 9 Jul 2007 10:15 AM

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Visitors to Petra set to double

Tourist numbers could rise to almost one million a year following Petra's inclusion in New Seven World Wonders.

The number of tourists visiting the ancient city of Petra in Jordan is expected to double following its inclusion in the New Seven Wonders of the World, according to officials.

Currently Petra attracts around 400,000 visitors every year, but officials said this could increase to almost a million, giving a significant boost to the country’s tourism sector.

“The inclusion of Petra in the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World gives an indication that more tourists are going to visit Jordan and the city,” Faruq Hadidi, secretary general of Jordan’s Tourism Ministry, told news agency AFP on Sunday. “We expect the figure to double.”

Hadidi said Petra’s inclusion in the list, published on Sunday, reflects the importance of the city as a cultural, tourist and archaeological site.

Petra is also set to receive increased investment to capitalise on the tourism potential of the city.

Jordan Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit said the government is investing in the site and will build a convention centre near Petra to host major events.

The city’s ruins are located around two and a half hours south of Amman on the edges of the mountainous desert of the Wadi Araba.

Established around the 6th century BC, it is famous for the many stone structures that are carved into the red coloured rock of the mountains that surround it.

The city was voted for from a shortlist of 21 sites by around 100 million people across the world in an internet and telephone poll.

Petra was joined by the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal in India, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, and Mexico's Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza.

The poll was organised by Swiss corporation New Open World Corporation (NOWC), and the list is an alternative to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World identified by the Greeks over 2,000 years ago.

However, UNESCO, the UN body that oversees the World Heritage List, has criticised the poll, saying it sends out a “negative message to countries whose sites have not been retained”.

“All of these wonders obviously deserve a place on the list, but what disturbs us is that the list is limited to just seven,” UNESCO's press officer Christian Manhart told AFP.

Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza was removed from the voting list after the country complained, and was instead granted special status as an honorary candidate.

The Pyramids of Giza is the only surviving member of the original seven wonders, which include the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the Colossus of Rhodes.

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