Jordan, August 19, 2017
Petra diner closed temporarily for ‘overpricing melon’

The Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA) on Wednesday decided to extend the closure of a tourist restaurant over an over-priced bill of a watermelon.

A photo of the bill went viral on social media sites, triggering both angry reactions and mockery.

PDTRA President Mohammad Nawafleh told The Jordan Times on Thursday that the restaurant, whose rent contract had already expired on July 15, will be closed for two months for selling a water melon for an unreasonably high price and serving food items that are not listed on its menu.

PDTRA has formed an investigation committee consisting of the Tourism Police, the Tourism Directorate and the Department of Legal Affairs at the authority, which interrogated the owners and employees of the restaurant, Nawafleh said.

The results of the investigation and the recorded video showed that the watermelon dish consisted, in fact, of eight serves for eight people, and that the customers did not file any complaint with authorities. They even offered a tip to the restaurant.

Nevertheless, JD8 for each serves remains too expensive, according the authority, and in addition to the other violations of regulations, the closure of the restaurant was a justified decision, according to PDTRA chief.

Zaki Al Fodool, the restaurant manager, in a phone interview with The Jordan Times on Thursday, denied any foul play.

He recalled that eight Pakistani tourists came to the restaurant on July 10 and ordered seven shawerma double-meals, one fish meal and two large plates of water melon,

“The tourists did not question the prices or complain; they even paid JD15 as tip,” Fodool said.

Because one person paid the bill, the waiter had to combine all of the orders in it without enough details, he added (the law makes it mandatory on restaurants to detail bills).

Reportedly, a Jordanian national met with the group later in Hungary, obtained a copy of the bill from them, and shared it on social media.

The manager of restaurant, which is located within the vicinity of the Visitors Centre in Petra, has no choice but to sell at this cost, citing monthly operational cost of his restaurant stood at
JD14,000, including rent, labour and other overhead expenses. The landlord is PDTRA, which leased at minimal price (JD600 a year) to the Capital of the Nabataeans Cooperative Society (CNCS), which, in turn, leased the facility at JD78, 000 per year to owner, according to an informed source, who preferred to remain anonymous,.

On its Facebook page, CNCS blamed the bidders for the high rental price, as they competed to win the lease contract.

Commenting on the issue, Tourism Expert Sami Hasanat said that such overpricing would harm the “already deteriorating” sector in the Kingdom.

Authorities have to ensure that prices are always within the “reasonable” levels, as prices would affect the turnout of tourists, added Hasanat, a former MP.

jordantimes