Authorities introduced 10 e-carts to transport tourists to and from Petra, the fabled ancient site in Jordan. Foreign tourists pay $35 for the round trip from the visitor centre to the archaeological site. The head of the horse owners' association, Mohammad Amarat, said those operating the electric carts earn more than 300 Jordanian dinars ($423) a month.
Ten electric carts have replaced 12 of the more traditional animal-powered carriages that transported tourists to Petra, an effort by the authorities to address concerns over animal abuse.
The move to replace the horse-drawn carriages was agreed on with the horse owners' association. Its chief, Mohammad Amarat (above), said he prefers the new vehicles because previously the horses "were tired, their income was less and the journey time was longer".
The change has helped to make the Unesco World Heritage Site far more accessible to elderly and disabled visitors. Austrian tourist Rudy, 43, who uses a wheelchair, said he had repeatedly postponed a visit because of the Covid-19 pandemic and was now "very happy" to have made the trip.
"There is no pollution or smoke" and the change has "reduced the cases of animal mistreatment", said Suleiman Farajat (above), head of the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority.
Animal rights group Peta, which had criticised the use of the often scrawny and overworked draft animals, has described the project as a "major first step to protect working animals". The group hailed the "game-changing vehicles" and said its hopes to work with officials "towards the day when there will be only animal-free transportation at Petra".
Camel rides to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan are popular with tourists. Jordan's tourism industry is recovering from the blow of Covid-19, having previously relied on holidaymakers for more than 10 per cent of its gross domestic product. The pandemic led to a sharp reduction in revenue, from $5.8 billion in 2019 to $1bn last year.