It is quite common to see tourists riding horse carriages and donkeys in most parts of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The BBC published a recent article exposing the mistreatment of these animals.
That articles that “Horses, mules and camels carry tourists to the city and through it - some pulling carriages and carts - enduring beatings and lack of food and water as they do so.”
This is true. While I was there, I did not see one bucket of food or water in any of the waiting areas.
PETA carried out an investigation in the ancient city and issued a report in April 2018 showing ample evidence that would discourage any animal lover from riding the animals there.
As an alternative, the report promotes the use of modern forms of transportation like segways and electric bikes. Another idea would be to hire golf carts if available. We did see one from a nearby hotel, so it might be fun!
Local Efforts to Protect Wildlife in Jordan
I was amazed to learn that, not so many centuries ago, Jordan had its own wild lions and cheetahs. This is not surprising, I guess, given the fact that it is very close to Africa. Today, the only lions that live in Jordan are captive ones.
There are, however, other wild animals in this part of the world that seem to be thriving. One of them is the oryx, which is Jordan’s national animal.
These antelope can be easily recognized by their very distinctive horns, which are very pointy and hardly curled at all. The species is called the Arabian Oryx, which is the type found in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Arabian Oryx was listed as endangered about a decade ago. Today, they are no longer considered to be endangered.
The IUCN estimates that there are about 80 oryx living close to the Wadi Rum desert. It is thanks to captive breeding efforts in the region that the oryx population has stabilized. Through Wild Jordan, a USAID-funded local organization, you can book a tour and have a closer encounter with these animals.
How to be an Animal-Friendly Tourist in Jordan
Supporting a legitimate wildlife sanctuary like Al Mawa helps fund their operations and the long-term care of their rescued animals. Some of the activities that they carry out include medical treatment, transportation, enrichment and conservation. You can also follow or donate to organizations like Four Paws International that carry out emergency work in dangerous areas around the world.
Visiting Al Mawa alone or with a small number of friends is a good practice so that the animals do not feel overwhelmed or disturbed by the presence of humans.
If you go to Petra and Wadi Rum, keep your eyes open and be ready to take photos and share your impressions of what you witness. Your involvement will hopefully help others think twice before they ride animals there.
Do not partake in the touristy activities that rely on the services of working animals. This will help curb the demand and the abuse. Even if their handlers tell you that the rides are free. They will!
Working animals of Jordan and in other developing countries are usually overworked and undernourished. Their mistreatment is not apparent to most tourists, who hire them without taking a closer look at their working and health conditions.
Other Ways to Help the Animals of Jordan When You Visit
Eat vegan food in Jordan! One of the most effective steps you can take to help animals is to boycott the industries exploit them, namely the meat, dairy and egg industries.
There’s a whole array of vegan-friendly traditional foods that you can easily find when you visit Jordan. Here are my top three places that everyone should visit.
Vegan Jordan Restaurant Recommendations
Shams El Balad - If you want a taste of delicious dishes of Arabic cuisine with a twist, then you should definitely visit this popular farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant.
It is very vegan friendly, and, although vegan items are not labeled on the menu, the following items have been tested and tasted several times and will not disappoint: foul mdammas (fava bean stew), roasted cauliflower and sweet potato salad with tahini dressing, glazed carrots with fresh dill and, of course, their fresh hummus.
If you want an amazing non-alcoholic drink, then order their rosemary lemonade.
Pepper and Pine - Located in the posh area of Abdoun in Amman, this vegan-owned restaurant will feel like a breath of fresh air.
If you come for lunch, order their WTF -What To-Fu Bowl. It’s a mix of wild rice, tofu, seaweed and edamame. It’s quite filling and delicious!
If breakfast is what you’re craving, then get their Açaí Bowl of Relief. It’s made with chia seed pudding, homemade berry compote, homemade chai granola and fresh blueberries. I’ve never had an açaí bowl this good anywhere else.
Primal - Just a few meters away from Pepper and Pine, this upscale restaurant offers unique dishes and is not to be missed.
One of my favorite dishes is their eggplant caprese, which by the way doesn’t look or taste like salad. It’s made with grilled eggplant slices and layered with pesto, cashew cheese and a homemade marinara sauce.
Just recently they added vegan ice creams to their menu: vanilla salted caramel and vanilla raspberry. You can have both flavors in one order! I can attest that these are the best vegan ice creams in town.
Now that you know where to go and what to avoid, let me say that if you decide to come to Jordan, you’ll be very impressed by its beautiful sites, the pleasant weather and the diversity of the food.
A visit to both Wadi Rum and Petra is a must. I don’t exaggerate when I say that you’ve probably never seen anything like these places before. They’re majestic. Breathtaking.
Just keep in mind that, by being a responsible tourist, you will create a better world for animals, in Jordan and around the world!
This article first appeared on The Nomadic Vegan . Here’s a link to the original article: https://www.thenomadicvegan.com/animals-of-jordan/