So, are you exhausted yet?
We went at a pretty good pace visiting sites around Jordan. We’re not done yet!
Up early to get a move on to head several hours down the road to the Feynan Ecolodge inside the boundaries of the Dana Biosphere Reserve (Dana is pronounced like banana -ana). We were to have one day there, but oh my! What a day was in store for us.
We deliberately chose the Ecolodge because it sounded like an interesting experience. It’s practices of being completely eco-friendly and off the grid was intriguing. The place is run on solar power. At night the place is candlelit and if you need a fan in your room it works on a timer to keep the electricity use to a minimum. We made the right choice.
We arrived at the reception gate. You don’t drive all the way up to the lodge. You are picked up by a Bedouin and driven out to the lodge. The Bedouin community are an integral part of the lodge and the reserve. So we transferred our overnight bags into the back of a truck and were driven out to the lodge. How they navigate the roads is a feat in itself – wow!
Our Bedouin driver pointed out the school teacher’s house, the school, the small mosque for those that camp near the lodge. As a teacher, and the daughter of a teacher, it was really lovely to see the school. Jordan requires that children attend school for at least 10 years. It’s not so different from the rules of America where we require children to go to school for at least 10 years, more or less depending upon the state on lives in.
We were met by the warm and welcoming staff of the Lodge. Two young ladies from New Zealand were waiting in the reception area to be picked up and taken back out. And to the delight of AEB there was a young mamma cat and a few kittens. They were getting big, but still small enough to be adorable and furry purry. We sat in the reception area and were treated to chilled hibiscus juice which was really tasty.
Our room was lovely and very comfortable. Spacious and a little balcony overlooking part of the reserve. We has time to rest and relax before our other activities. Once the young ladies left we were the only guests in the lodge. We had the run of the whole place and we treated like honoured guests. It’s nice to just be the only ones at a far away place, you get the opportunity to chat with the staff and get to know their stories. That doesn’t happen when the place is full and everyone is vying for a word here, or a request there. AEB made herself at home all over the place and enjoyed the company of one small kitten she named “Tiger”. I availed myself of the lounging bench in the reception area for a nap and mum found a nice corner to do some writing. With the go-go-go-go-go schedule it was nice to just have a bit of down time before doing the next fun thing. It’s especially nice when you’re travelling with a child. They can go and go and go, but then they get cranky, cranky, cranky and that’s not fun. So, the rest was much appreciated.
While staying at the lodge there are many activities in which to participate. There are hikes, biking, cooking, spending the day with a shepherd, and lots more. We were up for one of the Bedouin experiences where you get to go to one of the tents and learn about one of three things – roasting coffee, making bread, weaving tents, or making eye kohl. Coffee is part of the traditions of Bedouin life. It’s served not quite as often as the tea, but more important when going visiting. The coffee is roasted when you arrive because it’s made to suit the specific drinker of the coffee. Each serving is carefully prepared just for the drinker – now that’s hospitality! We opted for the bread making experience so we went out with our guide, known as Ali 2 since the duty manager is also Ali. He’s a member of the Bedouin community as are all of those that work for the lodge. He pointed out his family’s tent as we hiked out to the family that would be showing us their bread. As we walked we talked about what we’d be experiencing and he explained about picture taking. He knew that we’d want to take pictures, but he wanted to know the limits and the rules regarding his community. We could take pictures of the bread making, but only the hands of the women and not the whole person. The men we could take pictures of the whole person. The children we had to ask permission, but not necessarily to expect a “yes” for an answer. It was good to know. I found that I just wanted to experience our time together more than take pictures of it.
We were greeted by the women who would be working on showing us the bread making and offered tea. With AEB with us we soon found that children were coming out of the woodwork to check her and us out.
One of the women brought out a big bowl of flower and salt, and then added the water to it mixing it all by hand. This type of bread, which was to be baked in the hot coals is known as “tab-banna”. It had to rest once it was kneaded enough before being shaped and put among the coals. It looked a lot like a cross between pizza dough and naan. Once the coals were hot enough our host pushed back the coals to lay the bread right on top of the coals and then covered the bread with the coals that had been pushed back. We were told as we watched the process that the coals were last year’s goat dung dried and saved. I suppose for many western tourists this can be a big shock. It was not really for us. We think of the use of thing based on need and supply. If it burns and it helps – why not? Wood is rather hard to come by in the desert and if you think about it, the solid dung burns well and clean. The coals are hot enough to not pass along any germs that might be in them and if the food is hot enough in the baking process there shouldn’t be anything to worry about in the eating of the food. If there are doctors out there waiting to debunk my unscientific theories on this – Shush! Shhhhhh. Let me live in ignorant bliss. I survived this, perhaps I’ll survive other adventures as well.
Anyway, once the bread gets cooked on one side it gets flipped and covered again. When it finally is done the crust is beaten so that it will be easier to tear apart to share and eat. It was lovely. After we had the bread making and eating AEB was trying to communicate with the girls about her age. I thought she and I could teach them one of the hand clapping games we know. As we sat there I started thinking back to my time in Zambia as a child and learning how to play with the children of the workers for the missionaries in the compound where we lived. So she and I clapped and then AEB turned to try and teach the girls. Laughter abounded as mistakes were made – there’s nothing like the giggles to form bonds between peoples. I asked about taking a picture. I was given permission to take a picture of the one girl but not the rest. What a gift to be given. Here is the result…
Then it was time to start the trek up the hill for the sunset. Ali 2, our guide, wondered if AEB wanted to stay and play with the girls since they were having such a great time. She immediately said, “yes!” so she stayed to run off with the girls and mum and I headed up with view the sunset over the reserve.
Once we got up to our viewing spot Ali built a fire and started tea while mum and I watched AEB run around with the goats, chance the others around and generally just enjoying herself. What a feeling of freedom and joy!
Once the sun had hidden itself behind the hills it was time to head back to the lodge for supper. As we reached the lodge the place was lit by candle light. It was a different sort of warm and welcoming feel than we’d had elsewhere along our journey. There was an incredible in up of tasty foods for us to try and enjoy out on the porch outside the dining hall. The staff was trying to let us enjoy the cool of the evening and keep our food safe from the cats who were wanting a treat or two.
After supper the staff shared with us a presentation about the lodge, its history, the activities it offers, its sustainability, and more. It was a well done presentation. Then it was up to the roof for star gazing. Wow!
Feynan Ecolodge has a pretty awesome telescope for star gazing. We didn’t see quite as many stars with just our eyes as we might because there was a moon that was just about full lighting up the night sky, but still there were an impressive number out there. In the book of Genesis God tells Abraham that He will make his descendants as numerous as the stars – looking out that night – that’s a lot of descendants! Through the telescope we got to see Mars, the Moon, and Saturn. We saw the rings of Saturn! It was amazing! Ali 1 got a great picture of the moon on my phone camera…
After having our fill of star gazing it was time for bed. Mum and our girl opted to sleep out on the roof among the stars. I slept in the bed down in out very comfortable room…
Everyone slept well. AEB was awakened by a tiny nose and a purr. It was then time to pack up and head out to the next stop on our adventure.