Harper sees beauty and struggle on Middle East trip

David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 3:13 PM ET

AMMAN, Jordan — Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up his first trip to the Middle East Friday with a taste of both the ancient joys and modern sorrows of the region.

Harper and his wife Laureen spent the afternoon in the south of Jordan, visiting one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, the fifth century BC ruins at Petra.

The night before Harper's visit, a Bedouin guide at Petra said he was pleased the prime minister was going to visit because he hoped it would boost flagging tourist numbers. Before the Arab Spring, he said, as many 900 visitors a day would tour Petra. Now, some days it's barely 100.

Harper started his final day, though, getting a firsthand look at the humanitarian crisis sparked by the Syrian conflict on Jordan's northern border. The Harpers visited Zaatari Refugee Camp. Its 100,000 inhabitants make it one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

There he announced an additional $150 million in humanitarian assistance for those affected by the Syrian crisis, bringing Canada's total aid commitment to $630 million.

"We talk in terms of hundreds of thousands of refugees and millions of displaced persons. It's sometimes easy to forget that these are all individual lives. We are touched by this," Harper said. "This is the reason we provide food and shelter and sanitation and education and security, to do what we can."

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