Our next two nights would be at the Dana Eco Camp at Dana Biosphere Reserve on the edge of Wadi Dana (Dana Valley). As you’ll see, both the landscape and the village are stunning. This is a small, out of the way place that has been somewhat recently noticed by conservationists and tourists. There is evidence of many building projects, but much of the ancient walls of the previously abandoned town are evident still. It’s a farming community with three hotels and an Eco Camp, which is where we stayed. From the Wadi Dana Eco-Camp website: “Wadi Dana Eco-camp is working towards eco-status. It has been created in a way that is sensitive to the natural environment and local heritage. This has allowed the land to remain within the Bedouin families that have owned and protected it for centuries. It is a joint venture between a group of local farmers and the Dana Cooperative, and roosts in the mountain about 1 km from Dana village. The camp is ‘off-grid’, and has a peaceful atmosphere to allow guests to listen to nature. In the evenings, it is lit by candlelight.”
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, encompassing 119 square miles (309 sq km). The highest elevation is about 4900 feet (1500 m). The reserve is important because of the huge variety of flora and fauna here. Apparently there are Nubian Ibex here, but we didn’t see any.
We arrived in early afternoon and eyed the canyon dubiously. It is a looooong way to the bottom and without any knowledge of what to expect, we decided not to try it in the afternoon. We asked if there was a shorter hike, and one of our hosts had great English and gave us another option: hike laterally along the hill from the Eco Camp to the village of Dana. We happily set off, and after a couple switchbacks, lost the trail entirely. You see, the whole hillside is covered in goat and sheep trails, and it’s very easy to take one of those instead of the foot trail. We got bogged down inside some brambles, had some farmers and some kids greet us in a “Hello? But why are you walking through our farm?” sort of way. We were hopelessly off the trail when two teenage boys, who had a few words of English, called up the slope to us, then pointed the way we needed to go, to get back on track. We clambered over rocks and bushes (some bushes bite, some don’t), and finally emerged on the trail. The boys asked “Do you want photos of us?” We didn’t, but they were so sure we would, that we took photos of them anyway. Then they asked for selfies of them with us, which I think may have been the impetus for the whole scene. It was a fair payment for the rescue!!
We made it into Dana village, which is rustic and appealing. This area has been settled since 4000 BCE by the Nabateans, Romans, Egyptians, and there are even paleolithic remains. Remains from the settlement of a local tribe from 400 years ago are most prominent, and there is a women’s group in Amman that is working to help restore the fallen down structures. So far about 70 have been rebuilt, allowing some of the Al Ata’ata tribe to remain and work the land. I am sure that tourism will quickly grow and add more money to this community – although not as conscientiously as the Eco Camp and the women’s group. Restoration, construction, and expansion are evident in every direction. So, while the village in it’s current state looks tiny and mostly abandoned and wrecked, my guess is that it will not last long in this state.
We chatted with some locals, explored some of the ruins, then made our way back to our tent at the Eco Camp. Instead of braving the biting plants along the goat trails again, we just took the road. Ha ha!! I mean, it’s all still wonderful, even if we don’t take the authentic goat trail.
All the Eco Camp guests gathered for dinner, and we ate together in one room. The camp uses solar power for electricity, so they cut usage when possible. Thus, our tables were lit with candlelight for dinner. It was economical as well as atmospheric. Our hosts explained that the food is cooked by “local women” in Dana Village, and brought over in a truck. We eagerly awaited the arrival of food! The long banquet table was eventually heaped with traditional foods, and in no time we were invited to fill our plates. Everyone had been hiking, and we were all starving. The food was amazing. Margaret and I agreed it was the best food of our entire Jordan trip. Even the flatbread was out of this world. There was enough for us to take as many helpings as we wanted. We mentioned this to the hosts later and they said tourists say that to them all the time, that it’s the best food the people had anywhere in Jordan. The first night we ate baked chicken with rice, two kinds of fresh salads of finely chopped vegetables, meatballs, and bread.
As we were winding down to get ready to sleep, Margaret glanced up and looked out the tent door to see a lovely sunset. I took a few nice shots from the doorway of our tent with my fabulous camera.