by Amara Thornton
With the creation of the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan, the Mandate government began encouraging tourists to travel to the Middle East to see the archaeological sites now maintained and cared for under British authority. In his capacity as Director of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine and Director of the British School, John Garstang wrote "Digging in Sacred Soil", a series of articles published in the Illustrated London News in the early 1920s,
advertising the key sites in Palestine and Transjordan under his authority, the work being done to protect and research them, and campaigning for public support.
British governmental infrastructure in the Mandate meant that jobs were available for British men and women in both Transjordan and Palestine. These ex-pats became some of the initial post-war tourists – Norman Bentwich, the Attorney General in Palestine, and his wife Helen, were among a group of 20 tourists who went Petra in March 1923 and during their stay indulged in a rummaging round the tombs. Catherine Dixon, Secretary for the Palestine Department of Antiquities during the 1920s, also travelled through Transjordan with a few friends in 1925. Thomas Cook had established a camp within Petra, which is referred to in the diary.
By 1926, the Mandate governments in Palestine and Syria (under French control) considered sufficient progress had been made in security matters to invite representatives of international archaeological societies, universities and groups to tour around the Mandates' archaeological gems. The 26th International Archaeological Congress (the first since the outbreak of war) was duly held in the spring of 1926, but the initial route had to be revised due to unrest.
Petra was included in the tour, but only at the last minute, with the Emir himself ensuring the safety of the party. Travel writer Norah Rowan-Hamilton managed to attach herself to this archaeological expedition, and charted the voyage to Petra and three days stay there (in the company of Emir Abdullah, his retinue and her fellow scholar-tourists) in her book Both Sides of the Jordan.
Glyn, J. (Ed.). 2000. Tidings from Zion: Helen Bentwich's Letters from Jerusalem 1919-1931. London: I. B. Tauris.
Nielsen, D. 1927. The Site of Biblical Mount Sinai. Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society XIII: 187-208.
Rowan-Hamilton, N. 1928. Both Sides of the Jordan. London: Herbert Jenkins Ltd.
Thornton, A. 2012. Tents, Tours and Treks: Archaeologists, Antiquities Services and Tourism in British Mandate Palestine and Transjordan. Public Archaeology 11 (4): 195-216.