Source AP ©

Jordan city of Petra can become one of new 7 wonders of the world

A flurry of advertisements proclaiming "Vote for Petra, world heritage" are flooding cell phones, radio, television and newspapers in final days of national campaign.

About 2 million of Jordan's estimated 6 million people have already voted for Petra by cell phone text messages or on the Internet. As voting for the contest approached its Friday deadline, the government and private businesses are stepping up efforts to convince the remaining 70 percent of the population to vote even setting up computer kiosks across this hilly capital city to receive online ballots.

"Petra's nomination to this international competition is an appreciation of this grand historic and cultural site, and shall place the rose-red city on its well deserved spot on the international tourism and heritage map, among other wonders of the world," said Jordanian Tourism Minister Osama al-Dabbas.

Petra, China's Great Wall and Rome's Colosseum are among the top 10 contenders for the "New Seven Wonders of the World," an online contest launched by the Switzerland-based NewOpenWorld Foundation a group which aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments.

Twenty sites around the globe are vying to be declared the new wonders of the world in the popular online contest. Contest organizers say more than 50 million votes have been cast so far, and the top seven winners will be announced Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal.

Petra most recently popularized by the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is known for its dramatic tombs and temple facades, including one that served as a church during Byzantine times. The city's inhabitants, Nabataean Arab nomads, carved the structures into the soft sandstone some 2,000 years ago.

The rose-red rock city was forgotten for centuries until Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burchhardt, disguised as a Bedouin nomad, went into the city to rediscovered it in 1812. The ancient city was hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains.

In an effort to boost tourism in Jordan, private businesses and the government are spending an estimated tens of thousands of dollars to promote Petra by urging people to vote for the contest.

Along with the print, radio and TV ad campaign, visitors to the Arab country have been handed leaflets upon arrival at Amman's airport, urging them to visit the city and vote for it.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, his wife, Queen Rania, and other members of the royal family took part in recent marches aimed at invigorating the campaign. Last week, tens of Jordanians rode their motorcycles across the country in a ride they called "The challenge marathon for Petra's sake."

A "Miss Petra" was even crowned last week 17-year-old Jumana al-Daaja, who was picked among 30 contestants.

"I voted for Petra because it's a world treasure and everyone should feel that way about it," said 11-year-old Farah Jilani, as she stood in line at one of the kiosks to cast her ballot.

Little criticism has been voiced about the government spending money on the campaign because the bulk of the funds comes from private companies. Jordan is a cash-strapped country, which lives of donations from the United States and rich Arabs to keep its fragile economy afloat. It also relies heavily on tourism.

Among the contest's other top seven contenders are Peru's Machu Picchu, India's Taj Mahal, Greece's Acropolis and Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer, according to latest tallies released by the poll's organizers last month.

The United States' Statue of Liberty, Cambodia's Angkor, Britain's Stonehenge and Australia's Sydney Opera House are among the sites in the bottom 10.

Egypt's Great Pyramids of Giza the only surviving structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world was taken out of the running after officials there scoffed at the contest, saying it was a disgrace that the pyramids should have to compete. As a result, the contest decided to honor the pyramids as the only ancient wonder remaining.

Latin Americans and Asians have been the most enthusiastic voters so far in the final round of 20 candidates for the world's top architectural marvels, but people from every country in the world have voted by Internet or phone, organizers say.