Dana Village

Mountains and valleys as we approach Dana.

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.

Autumn crocuses along our path. In the distance you can see a road heading down into the Reserve from the village.
Close up of a crocus.
Looking down into the valley we choose not to explore this afternoon.
Looking up at the top of the mountain – 4900 feet at the summit.
Scenes while looking for our trail.

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!!

This donkey tried to come to us, but it was tied to a tree.
These boys rescued us, then offered themselves up for photography. What suave poses!
Along our route we saw ruins of the 400 year old settlement.
I saw my first pomegranate tree up close!!
Lots of prickly pears with no pricklies.
Looking back at the camp that we left. Click the image to enlarge. The arrow points to the buildings and tents tucked into the side of the hill.

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.

The single road through Dana Village.
The mosque is in golden stone, and matches all the other buildings.
Looking the other direction on the single street.
Some of the crumbly buildings on the edge of town.
It’s funny to see the fancy shiny cars parked beside medieval stone construction.
Jordanian Wildlife
Even the structures that had not been rebuilt were charming.
A hotel in the center of the village.
This room opened to the street and looked very inviting! Against the wall you see the shisha pipes. Shisha is smoked everywhere, and it’s common even among women. Only rarely do they include hashish. It’s mostly flavoured smoke. I will include a better picture of one of these pipes in my next post.

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.

Though the valley remained permanently hazy while we were there, it was still stunningly beautiful.
A view that shows more clearly the interesting rock formations.
Dana Village is lit up in the evening light as we walked home along the road.

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.

Setting sun. This is the astonishingly beautiful view from the doorway of our tent.
Setting sun in Wadi Dana.

5 thoughts on “Dana Village

  1. Those young men did not look like teenagers! Glad you found someone to set you straight on your path though. That could have been a much longer walk. I notice a haze all over in the air. Is that because of dust blowing? I like the idea of building eco-friendly. We should do more of it but most of us like our creature comforts rather than think about the planet’s comfort. Nice shots of all of it. Now, I’ve been to Jordan. 😉

    1. You may be right, they might have been around twenty. There was a whole group of them gathering sticks for a fire. They invited us to join them. I would have, but Margaret said “No WAY!” ha ha.

      I asked about the haze and it was explained as humidity in the air? I guess that could be the case. In New England, the skies were always murky from humidity. Yes, I think the Eco Camp is a GREAT idea, and will appeal especially to the more earth-aware travelers of today. It wasn’t our choice, but our driver’s choice, to put us there. I am grateful.

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