We have been working in Jordan since the Princess Alia clinic opened in Petra in 1988 and started to transform local community attitudes towards their working animals and improve equine welfare. Confident that the changes we have brought about are sustainable, we are now entering the final phase of our work here.

Jordan at a glance

Jordan flag

Population: 7.5 million
(HDI, 2015)
Equines: 9,795
(Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), 2011).

The largest concentration of equines (1,350) are in the Petra region with 700 working regularly in Petra Park.


Jordan is a relatively small country and has one of the smallest economies in the Middle East. It's largely dependent on foreign assistance and tourism. On 7 July 2007, Petra was elected as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, making it a prime tourist attraction. However, tourism numbers have been declining in recent years due to the political unrest and uncertainty affecting the region.

Working horses and donkeys in Petra

Horses and donkeys are used to transport tourists in and around the site. Donkeys and mules carry tourists up and down the 900 steps to the monastery while horses carry tourists on a 2km round trip from the entrance of the ancient city. Finally, carriage horses with two-wheel vehicles take tourists from the entrance up to the Treasury and back.

Before the Princess Alia Clinic was established, thin, exhausted horses, donkeys and mules were a common sight. Accidents and injuries were all too frequent and standards of animal welfare were low. Basic equine services were unavailable.

Painful and ineffective traditional practices included killing of colts at birth, the use of car oil for treating injuries and wounds, firing to cure lameness and nostril-slitting to help breathing. Overworking, whipping and overloading were common, along with improper harnessing, stabling, nutrition, shoeing, a lack of access to water and a shortage of trained vets. Welfare issues ranged from lameness, hoof problems and saddle sores to dehydration and colic. Severely ill or injured animals were often abandoned.

How we helped

Situated at the entrance to Petra Park, our clinic provided free treatment for the horses of Wadi Musa. Donkeys and mules of Umm Sayhoun were served mainly by a mobile clinic which started in the 1990s.

Free treatment was needed because the tourist industry was in its infancy: incomes from horse and donkey rides for tourists were meagre and the need for veterinary services was high. Over the years the provision of free treatment, combined with awareness-raising and training, raised equine welfare standards considerably. Incidences of harmful traditional practices are now virtually non-existent, and malnutrition, dehydration and exhaustion have been dramatically reduced. As tourism grew in Petra, so did the income of those engaged in providing services to tourists – including equine owners.

Everyone has the power to prevent a working horse or donkey from suffering and Brooke is now on hand to help caring travellers and tour operators make responsible choices.

By following our straightforward advice you can quickly assess the condition of a horse or donkey and help to promote better working conditions and a more comfortable ride for you and the animal.

I believe working animals in Jordan will be thankful to the Brooke forever.

Suleiman Mashaleh, last Country Manager of Brooke Jordan

What's happening now

Along with our partners, we concluded that most of the remaining welfare problems (minor wounds, beating, poor-fitting harnesses, use of nose chains, etc) required owners to take better care of their animals through improved husbandry and preventive care rather than the provision of free treatment. Changing owner and user behaviour and attitudes towards their animals was the biggest challenge we faced in Jordan - in some cases it still is.

In April 2010, we handed over the running of the clinic to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and changed our focus to transferring animal welfare knowledge and building capacity and responsibility of all animals owners, users and health service providers (including the Park authorities). After the handover, the clinic vets completed a two-year Brooke training programme to maintain standards.

Today, professional farriery is provided by the Horse Owners Association (HOA), and harnessing and saddler services have been introduced. Local owners now have a good knowledge of first aid, how to prevent illness and injury and how to care for their sick animals. The water troughs and shade shelters we provided are now managed by local authorities and humane euthanasia is carried out on severely ill equines.

Care for Petra campaign

In October 2014, the Care for Petra tourism campaign was launched. The campaign aims to raise awareness and foster responsible attitudes, initiatives and actions from tourists and the tourism industry on three main issues:

  • the conditions and welfare of working animals inside the park;
  • child labour within the park;
  • damage to Petra's archaeological heritage and monuments by people and working animals

The campaign and materials produced provide tourists with simple messages to help them make the right choices to improve animal welfare, secure the future of children and protect the archaeological heritage.

Care for Petra was initiated by the Brooke but developed and steered by a Campaign Taskforce, formed in 2013 and chaired by the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA). In addition to the PDTRA, the taskforce consists of 11 government and non-governmental organisations.

Related news

An international taskforce coordinated by global equine welfare charity the Brooke has today launched a multi-faceted responsible tourism campaign to address common problems seen at the Petra UNESCO world heritage site.

I received good knowledge on how to take care of my horses and how to know if they are in pain, sick or unhappy. I also learned what factors and features make for good stabling and built a stable for my horses accordingly. I can treat simple wounds now and perform horseshoeing professionally. Without the Brooke's training and support by the Brooke team in Jordan, I wouldn't have gained all this experience.

Ahmad Hasanat, Brooke trained farrier for Jordan's Horse Owners Association

The future of Petra

In 2014, an independent review showed we had successfully achieved lasting positive change to the welfare of working carriage and riding horses in Petra Park. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of local authorities, partners and owners, we can now enter the final phase of our work here.

In this phase we are prioritising the welfare of working donkeys where further improvements are still possible. To achieve this we are funding a part-time community engagement post with the PDTRA based within the donkey owning community of Um Sayhoun. The primary aim of the post is working in the community to support donkey welfare initiatives.

We are also funding a part-time campaign coordinator post with the PDTRA to develop the next stage of the Care for Petra campaign to reach more tourists before they arrive.

As there was no longer a need for a Brooke office in Petra, it closed at the end of 2015-16. This was a major step forward in empowering local authorities and sustainable working equine welfare services for generations to come.

If you have any complaints or concerns about working animals in Petra, please contact PDTRA.

Brooke partnerships

We operate in partnership with a variety of organisations to extend the range and impact of our work.