A Traveller's Tale: Jordan - A Land of Milk, Honey & Phosphates

Jordan's tourist and phosphate industry is booming. But it still has financial problems, says Nick Hood.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Middle East is divided into the have-oils and the have-nots. The other delineator is proximity to Palestine and Iraq.  Jordan lacks oil, and has the misfortune to border both the troubled land so viciously disputed by the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the devastated former home turf of Saddam Hussein.

But arriving in Amman is to experience a country with rising affluence, based on a thriving export trade in organic phosphates and a burgeoning tourist trade. There is abundant land, facilitating the development of prosperous suburbs with magnificent family villas - often housing three generations of the same family.

Travelling is made by easy by good roads, notably the King’s Highway which follows part of the iconic Silk Route. Side turnings take hordes of visitors to exquisite ancient sites - most prominently to the splendour of Petra, truly one of the great travel experiences. Tourism is up 35% from a year ago, despite the persistent attentions of Bedouin urchins with their fake silver coins and trinkets, and herds of sway-backed, braying camels.

The Jordanian economy has seen some impact from the global recession. Growth has slowed from around 6% previously to just 2.8% in 2009. The construction sector has done best of all, surging by 12.8% on the back of a building boom - especially noticeable in Amman itself.

The situation is the result of a fascinating two-way pull between competing externally-imposed influences. The first is the negative drag of an impoverished 400,000-strong Palestinian refugee community, much of it still trapped economically in camps after over 50 years (although the original tents were replaced many years ago by low-grade housing). Much government effort and resource goes into improving the lot of these poor souls.

But ironically, the Iraq wars have brought unexpected financial benefits to Jordan... [CONTINUED]


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A Traveller's Tale: Jordan - A Land of Milk, Honey & Phosphates

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