Modern day travel books are very comparable to the travel reports that travellers of colonial powers wrote about economic, cultural and historical differences in their colonized countries. These reports were very often fueled by their interest in differences as well as backwardness of the colonies about which the travellers reported in an authoritative way. Furthermore, the colonial times were a period where the big international powers sought the exploitation of the colonialized territories and taking advantage of the latter’s weaknesses.
Whilst not in such a drastic extent, however very noticeable, is the big impact that USAID (United States Agency for International Development) had and still has in Jordan. On our visit to the main office of USAID in Jordan we were shown all the projects that the agency started in the country, such as achieving standards for hygiene, the opening of a culinary school and the placement of US Rangers in Petra, and many more. While the intent to help improving the country’s sights, tourism management and market may be a good intention, it seems to me that the changes that are made have a rather authoritative character and convey an image of backwardness for Jordan.
Firstly I believe that instead of placing US rangers on an important sight such as Petra, it would be more advisable to train the local staff and provide jobs for the local community, so that the latter can profit form the benefits their tourism brings. Moreover, while a lot of the funding may come from the agency and the United States to support Jordan, without which it could not have gotten this far, this strong Western influence will eventually cause the Jordanian culture and oriental organizational spirit to change. As a consequence visitors will find a more and more ‘westernized’ Jordan, which I believe is not very positive for a country that is especially culturally and socially so different to the United States or Europe. Furthermore, I share Dr. Suleiman Farajat’s opinion that while foreign investors and agencies are indispensible to make costly changes possible, they will at the same time not make the same effort and promote the country as passionate as locals would. Thus, I believe that the way in which Western countries and especially USAID have left marks all over the Jordanian tourism sector, can be compared to neocolonialism, as their ‘good deeds’ will support them in creating a positive and altruistic image and ease international relations.
Tim Edenson, ‘Tourism’ International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2009), 301.
|USAID signs in Petra - one of many 'Western footprints' in Jordan|