Resurrecting Lawrence of Arabia

Ali reckoned he had guided them all through Petra: heads of state, U.N. ambassadors, even royalty. His proudest moment, however, was the day the Iron Lady came to town. "I was selected to show Margaret Thatcher around the site," he says with pride. "What a woman! It was 40C and she still turned up in an immaculate twinset and high heels."

Nowadays, however, Ali is lucky to be guiding a handful of backpackers, let alone world leaders in inappropriate attire. On a good day, Petra—the ancient city of the Nabataean kingdom that ruled Arabia 2,000 years ago and...

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