Most agri-tourism destinations promote a
single product such as a winery, a farm, a dairy, and so
on. Feynan Eco Lodge promotes and supports an entire eco
culture. The oh-too-short time I spent there was the most
sustainable life style I ever experienced.
Feynan Eco Lodge is located in Wadi Feynan,
the heart of the Dana Biosphere Reserve’s magnificent mountains.
It’s built on what was once the old trade route for camel
caravans and designed to resemble the old
stops along the route, where the drivers would stay and replenish
their supplies, get a good rest, and keep their animals in the
|Feynan Eco Lodge blends totally into its
Our guide, Mohammad, brought us to the
visitor’s center where we transferred our gear to some pickups
driven by local Bedouins. I later learned that the Eco Lodge
supports local families not only by hiring them to act as
drivers but in many other ways.
The route—it couldn’t accurately be called
a road—to the lodge was rough and bumpy. Each mile we traveled
into Dana Reserve took us that much farther from
civilization as we know it.
It was after dark when we arrived. The lodge keepers
welcomed us and showed us where we could plug in our phones and
tablets. Our rooms had no electric plugs. To keep it
sustainable, solar energy is used only in the office, the
kitchen and for a light in our bathrooms. The rest of the lodge was
softly lit with luminaries. Our
hosts showed us to our rooms.
I found myself in a simple room.
Two beds dressed in plain white with mosquito nets and a
brightly covered pillow and woven bed runner with end tables
built into the wall as a part of the beds; a small desk, a shelf
with a clay water bottle, and some candles comprised the main
part of the room. In front, there was a catty-corner vanity with
a lavatory built in to it, and sectioned off from the main room,
a small bathroom.
By candlelight it had a soft kind of beauty. Leaving my room I
felt I had entered a magical Arabian Nights story. The
luminaries flickered and created strange shadows which blended
with the moonlight as I transcended the corridors and courtyard.
|Food is good and plentiful
Down in the dining area there was a
large selection of food, all vegetarian. Still it was surprisingly
good. Water was again in those little clay jugs. I learned that
the lodge purchases most of its food from the nearby village.
The little clay jugs are made by a women's cooperative close to
Petra where local women make them and other pottery items. All
those candles that brought such a soft feel to my room and lit the
lodge at night are made by an onsite candle workshop as are all
the leather furniture items around the lodge.
I met a few of the
resident cats who make themselves very much at home. They looked
smug and well fed. I didn’t see any mice or insects in the lodge
so I guess the cats earn their keep.
One more part of the eco
system preserved by the lodge.
|She's not earning her keep here.
Just enjoying breakfast along with us,
After dinner, Suleiman Hasaseen, one of the
staff, led us to the roof for a stargazing adventure. There were
comfy mattresses we could lie on and gaze upward. We embarked on
a heavenly trip from the Milky Way to the Big and Little Dipper
and on to Orion’s Belt. He showed us the Seven Sisters used by
Bedouins since prehistoric time to navigate a trackless desert.
The stars were so big and bright here, a big plus to being so
far from civilization. Suleiman is another of the local Bedouins
who are supported by the Eco Lodge.
Back in my room for the night, I found the water was as hot as any supplied by my expensive water
heater at home. There were no outside traffic or city noises and
the bed was surprisingly comfortable. I fell asleep instantly
with the soft candlelight flickering and the moonlight bright
outside my windows. I was beginning to see the charm of this
|Solar panels supply all the
electrical needs at Feynan Eco Lodge
When I awoke in the morning and gazed out
the window, I fell in love with the beauty around me. What was
not visible when we arrived last night was the magnificent
mountains surrounding the Eco Lodge. It was enclosed in a bowl
of buff colored rock with a bit of greenery, some unknown trees
and shrubs, and here and there oleander bushes with red
blooms against dark green leaves added a touch of bright color. The entire landscape
was covered with a perfect blue sky. I later learned that the
Bedouins boil the poisonous oleander leaves in water for a flea
poison for their animals.
When you live in a country with sparse resources, you
make use of the ones you have so that you learn to use things
others might pass over.
|The rear of the lodge is where
We all regrouped on the back patio. That
sweet Bedouin tea with its jolt of caffeine made me even more
aware of the beauty of the surroundings. The courtyard is
enclosed on all sides by the building but open to the sky.
The sand colored lodge has flat stones jutting out from
the walls. I later found they had a purpose. In winter they
absorb the sun’s heat to help warm the lodge and in summer,
offer shade to the windows below them. No matter where you are
at the lodge you are surrounded by nature. As a friend and I sat
finishing our breakfast in a tiny, tree shaded nook, a herd of
goats with their shepherd and some of the lodge guests who were
partaking in the “Day with a Shepherd” experience drifted right
around us. They
looked like they were having a very good time. A few others were
preparing for one of the variety of hikes offered by the lodge.
Wish I had time to try out those experiences too.
|Some of the goats that rambled
by as we had breakfast
After am excellent vegetarian breakfast shared
with the Eco Lodge cats, Ali Hasaseen, another of the local
Bedouins who work as guides here, took us on a special "Bedouin
Experience." We met his family and learned about the Bedouin way
of life. Learned the coffee making traditions and watched and
sampled the traditional earth-baked bread. (See
As we walked the mile or so to his family’s
camp, I noticed the black plastic piping running along the track
to carry precious water to make the family gardens fertile and
produce most of the food we had eaten. I will never take my
Florida rainfall and humidity for granted again when I plant my
small veggie garden.
Some of the other eco experiences available
at the lodge besides meeting the Bedouin family and learning the
coffee making tradition and bread making are a Jordanian Cooking
Class where you learn to make the vegetarian dishes served at
the lodge; a demonstration of weaving the goat-hair tents which
is a seasonal activity usually done in early summer; and making
Kohl, the traditional Bedouin eye makeup they feel protects and
strengthens eyesight. These are all wonderful ways to understand
the local Bedouin culture.
|The office is the only place
where we could plug in our phones and tablets.
Feynan Eco Lodge puts you squarely in the
lap of sustainability and makes you love it. National Geographic
rates it one of the top 25 eco lodges in the world. That’s a
natural conclusion considering that it is entirely
solar-powered, with natural ventilation, and its water coming
from a local spring plus the fact it supports one of the few
remaining pastoral Bedouin tribes left in Jordan. Sustaining a
culture that is one of the most ancient on earth ranks almost as
important as sustaining the earth’s resources.
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