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Claiming the Past: Petra’s Tourism and Contested Identity

Claiming the Past: Petra’s Tourism, Contested Identity and Sense of Place

في حضرة الماضي: السياحة في البتراء, الهوية الجدلية والاحساس بالمكان


The ancient Nabatean city of Petra in southern Jordan has been the centrepiece of the nation’s tourism since its UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription in 1985. It has become a key signifier of cultural “Jordanian-ness” and the Jordanian state. Through an examination of the relationships between heritage, tourism and national identity, this lecture discusses the multiple senses in which Petra has come to be a mediator of nationalist discourses. It addition, it will explore how local and global identities in relation to Petra have emerged.

Petra constitutes a stage upon which local identities can contest official discourses of state power. In addition, the involvement of international organisations in its development and representation has given it a global identity and has made its role more complicated. It is argued that the production and reproduction of these identities are determined by an array of socio-economic and political factors. Consequently, the construction of national identity in Jordan is a dynamic process in an increasingly multi-cultural world, in which the Nabateans and Petra help construct Jordanian national identity, and also encompass the potential to suggest a powerful pan-Arabic nationalism.


Suleiman A.D. Farajat is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Tourism Management at the University of Jordan where he has been a faculty member since 2013. Suleiman completed his PhD in Tourism Studies from Leeds Becket University (UK). He has an MSc in Tourism Management (Distinction) from Sheffield Hallam University (UK), a Diploma in Tourism Management from Linz University (Austria), and a BA from Mu’tah University (Jordan). He was awarded a highly competitive centenary PhD studentship from Leeds Beckett University (formerly, Leeds Metropolian University) and has also received sponsorship from the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) for his research.

Before embarking on his academic career, Suleiman worked in tourism in Jordan, Germany and Austria. Alongside his PhD research, he worked as a teaching assistant and researcher at the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change in the UK. Suleiman’s research interests lie in the area of tourism, heritage and national identity. In recent years, he has focused on destination management and marketing in times of crisis. He has presented at several international conferences and has been actively involved in the organisation of specialised conferences and workshops on diverse aspects of heritage and tourism.