Resorts did not heed the warnings of Egypt attacks

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The Independent Online

Guests entering the main Egyptian hotels have to negotiate concrete blocks at the entrance, taxi drivers are questioned, and car boots checked. Armed guards accompanied by sniffer dogs are on hand. But the lesson does not seem to have been learned in Jordan, a major draw for tourists from around the world who visit the ancient city of Petra and the Dead Sea and follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia at Wadi Ram.

Regular travellers to Amman say there are virtually no security precautions, although soldiers sometimes stand around in hotel lobbies, where businessmen and tourists gather.

Although security at the airport has been stepped up, until yesterday there were no luggage checks by hotel management, and no signs of stepped-up surveillance.

Jordan has long been the crossroads of the Middle East. It shares its borders with Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. But, as a major US ally, the same as Egypt, Jordan must have expected to be a prime target of the radical Islamic groups operating in the Middle East. Two American ships were fired on in August in Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba.

Many hotels were built in an economic boom fuelled by the signing of a peace treaty with Israel. The influx of Iraqis since the fall of Saddam Hussein has brought a new wave of prosperity. The arrival of as many as half a million Iraqis caused a real estate bubble but that could burst if ever they return home en masse.

Last night's attacks will deal a blow to tourism, one of the kingdom's main sources of foreign currency, given its lack of oil. King Abdullah II, the son of the diminutive King Hussein who ruled Jordan for 46 years, was already grappling with the challenge of maintaining stability while heeding US calls to accommodate political reforms.

He only acceded to the throne after a deathbed change of heart by his father, who had long planned to be succeeded by his brother, Prince Hassan.

The army-trained King Abdullah stepped into the breach, reaffirming the relationship with Israel and with the United States, taking on his father's role as the voice of moderate Islam, and embarked on economic reform during his first year in power.

The Hashemite king has also maintained Jordan's historically close relations with Britain, where he trained at Sandhurst, as did many of Jordan's senior military officers.

His wife Rania, is a Palestinian, which is seen as a political asset in a country with a large Palestinian population.

Amman, until yesterday, felt like the most relaxed city in the Arab world. King Abdullah, 43, now faces the toughest and challenge of his six-year reign.