A visit to Petra Jordan, and its ‘horse mafia’

“You want a horse? You wont make it five feet” – This was the advice of a young man who is part of the “horse mafia” that operates here in Petra.  If you go into Petra as a group you have to pay an additional 7 JOD on top of the large sum of cash you already dished out.  This money goes directly to the horse mafia in order to keep them off your tail and to allow you to ride a horse if you wish.

The above quote coming from a recent Travel Post that along with describing the once-in-a-lifetime thrill that is visiting Petra, some of the not-so-thrilling aspects of the local tourist enterprises.

In my first visit to Petra, I noted the same – where a number of soot covered boys would come right up next to me and holding strands of cheap bracelets and necklaces in my face would shout out sales pitches into my ear – often including empty flattery about the U.S.A. – which they correctly (and probably easily) guessed as my country of origin.

But that was benign and almost cute. What wasn’t was the horses running up and down the Siq – an awe-inspiring spectacle of geology almost 0.825 mile (1.3 km) long, 600 foot (182 m) story high. It is through this rose-red gorge one walks through before arriving at the Treasury – with an awe inspiring view similar to that seen in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) that I captured and posted to YouTube my second visit … but I digress …

It is also through this cavern that I and others have almost gotten run over by … as another blogger describes: “Untrained horses with untrained kids racing the horses down a rocky trail …

And it is this safety issue, along with a health issue one confronts while climbing the long set to steps up to the Monastery … avoiding the odorous ‘presents’ left by mules some tourists take to the top … and then are taken at the top by the ‘donkey mafia‘ when they discover the negotiated 2JD price for riding up is taxed with a surprise 10JD to be let off the animal!

Hopefully, the recently announced plans at Petra to regulate services & enhance visitor experience will remedy such incidents as they tend to distract somewhat from the experience … though I have my doubts if there is any truth to this snippet from another Petra blogger also commenting on the infamous horse mafia:

At Petra the horse mafia rule the roost. They’re so cunning that they hold the King to ransom and force him to include the price of their terrible horse ride into the entry price to Petra. And when the King tried to change things, they threatened to blow up Petra with dynamite… long story.

Still, with increased travel to the historic site up over the half million mark this year alone, something is going to have to change before a fatal accident and/or a health issue ruins it for everyone.

BUT please, don’t let these descriptions of the horse mafia, the donkey mafia, the bands of junk jewelry hawkers and other minor distractions deter you from visiting Petra. They are annoyances at best, usually quickly forgotten moments after experiencing fantastic and incredible sites such as:

Trust me, as time passes and one looks over the photos of Petra, you don’t think too much about them crazy kids racing them rickety carriages up-n-down the SIQ.

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