Who They Are
Deep in the heart of the mountainous Jordanian desert, in a place known as the Wadi Feynan, lies an idyllic lodge quite unlike any other. Set against this glorious landscape, Feynan Ecolodge has 26 gorgeously simple rooms that all face the wadi. Because there is no electricity, light comes from candles – and we mean lots of candles! – and the showers are solar-powered. Spacious terraces, one on the roof, give you a view of the startling terrain by day and stars by night.
Situated about 215 km. south of Amman, off the Dead Sea-Aqaba highway, Feynan is not far from the famous archeological site of Petra and is in one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. The archaeological ruins date back more than 12,000 years, and there are some 100 sites are in the area, many under excavation and others still unexplored. Bedouin live traditionally in their tents in the surrounding valleys.
A short walk from the lodge are Neolithic ruins that illustrate the shift from nomadic to village lifestyles are some of the oldest copper mines in the world, where Christian slaves were later worked to death by the Romans, a Roman aqueduct and mill, and remnants of Byzantine churches.
Feynan is also situated in the 300-sq.-km. Dana Biosphere Reserve, which encompasses the four different bio-geographical zones of the country: Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian. Owing to its diverse elevations and geographical formations, Dana hosts a wide array of flora and fauna – more than 800 plant species, three of which are unique to the area, and 449 different animals that include threatened species such as the sand cat, the Syrian wolf, the lesser kestrel, and the spiny-tailed lizard. Dana also falls within the Dana Important Bird Area.
What They Are Doing
Feynan employs its staff from the local Bedouin community, whose only alternative is to herd goats, which seriously damage the fragile environment. Part of Feynan’s revenue is allocated to helping conserve Dana and protecting endangered species. Water is sourced from nearby springs and is used carefully and under strict controls. Food excess and waste are composted to reuse as fertilizer.
The solar-powered lodge illuminates its rooms with candles, which are made on site by Bedouin women. Other women work at an annex creating leather goods that are sold at Feynan and other reserves in Jordan. All transportation to and from the lodge, Petra, Aqaba, and elsewhere is provided by Bedouin using their own pickups, providing income to some 40 families. Feynan is introducing extracurricular programs to teach English and other subjects in English to local children at the community school.
The lodge is operated by EcoHotels and owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, a nongovernmental organization established in 1966 under the patronage of the late King Hussein and devoted to the preservation of Jordan’s natural resources. The RSCN introduced its people-centered approach to the management of protected areas in Dana in 1994.