Last update - 17:26 08/07/2007
Jordan celebrates Petra's pick as one of 7 wonders of the world
By The Associated Press


Jordanians rejoiced Sunday over the inclusion of the ancient city Petra in the new seven wonders of the world, celebrating their victory with a fireworks display in the capital and dancing in the early morning hours.

Petra came in second behind the Great Wall of China in a massive global online poll and phone campaign in which more than 100 million people chose the world's top architectural marvels among 20 entries. The contest was launched by the Switzerland-based NewOpenWorld Foundation - a group that aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments.

Brazil's Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Peru's Machu Picchu, the Chichen Itza Pyramid in Mexico, Rome's Colosseum and Taj Mahal in India are also among the New Seven Wonders of the World, announced late Saturday at a gala ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal.

"This will really put Petra on the map of choice tourist destinations," said taxi driver Bassam Kabbalani, who was among the early morning revelers at the King Hussein Gardens, a popular family spot in Amman. "Before Petra was known to some, but now it's known to all."

"I'm sure Petra's win means that even more tourists will visit Jordan," said shopkeeper Farouk Tanhammi. "That's exactly what our economy needs right now."

Petra - most recently popularized by the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" - is known for its dramatic tombs and temple facades, including one that served as a church during Byzantine times. The city's inhabitants, Nabataean Arab nomads, carved the structures into the soft sandstone some 2,000 years ago.

The rose-red rock city was hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains for centuries until it was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burchhardt in 1812.

It was officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

Public and private companies in Jordan pulled out all the stops to ensure Petra's victory with a huge advertising campaign, and even the country's royalty lent its support. Ads flooded cell phones, radio, television and newspapers in the final hours before the contest's Friday deadline, while Jordan's ruler, King Abdullah II, and Queen Rania led rallies to garner the needed votes.

Jordan's Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Osama Dabbas led an official delegation to Lisbon to receive the award at a star-studded declaration ceremony that included British actor Ben Kingsley and American pop singer/actress Jennifer Lopez.

The event was broadcast live on screens set up on hilly Amman's highest point, the Citadel, as well as at Petra's striking Treasury, the site's signature monument.

Jordan Television ran continuous programing from Petra, where thousands gathered to hear the results and enjoy a night filled with Arabic music and traditional dancing.

On Sunday, Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit presided over a conference in the ancient city entitled Petra, the Center of Human Culture to honor its new title.

The Great Pyramids of Giza, the only surviving structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world, kept their status in addition to the new seven. Egyptian officials had scoffed at the contest, saying it would be a disgrace to have the pyramids compete for a spot on the new list.

The campaign for the new seven wonders was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the world.

The list of candidates was narrowed down to 21 by the start of 2006, including Egypt's Pyramids.

Original article: Haaretz
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