Why Charles and Camilla’s support for Jordan’s ancient sites goes a long way in the Middle East

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are on their first international visit in two years. Credit: PA

In a country where tourism has been hit hard by the pandemic, Prince Charles and Camilla did their bit to highlight Jordan’s ancient sites on the second day of their Royal Tour here. They travelled to the northern tip of Jordan, to Umm Qais, which dates back to the 4th century BC. It’s the site of the ancient city of Gadara, and while it's less well known than Jordan’s other tourist spots like Petra and Jerash, the Prince and Duchess were shown the ruins, amphitheatres and other archeological gems from the Hellenic and Byzantine eras.

Tourism accounts for 12 per cent of the Jordanian economy but following the closure of borders over the past two years, that vital source of income has all but vanished. The US and UK are big donors to this country, where the economy is struggling. The West, however, needs a stable country in this extremely volatile region and it’s part of the reason why the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are giving Jordan their support this week.

The site at Umm Qais offers spectacular views to the north but the view also helps to explain how Jordan fits into the politics of the Middle East. Charles and Camilla were looking out over Israel, the Sea of Galilee, the Occupied Golan Heights and Syria. And it is from Syria that an astonishing 700,000 refuges have fled into Jordan since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. To put that into perspective, it’s nearly 10 per cent of Jordan’s population and additional to the refugees they have received from Iraq and Palestine. British diplomats say it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of a stable Jordan. They refer to it as a “beacon of stability” and even suggest Jordan - despite all its problems - is a key reason why this region has not imploded. Royal visits are often about showing the love and improving the ties between countries. When the Foreign Office asked Charles and Camilla to come here, they had that regional stability in mind.