Dana Biosphere Reserve.
Nature lovers and those with a soft spot for heavenly views from atop will relish in Jordan’s hidden wonder, Dana Biosphere Reserve.
The little village of Dana perches on a shelf of the mountainside that drops down into the Wadi ‘Araba rift. The single approach road ends at the beginning of the village, and from there narrow paths – barely wide enough to walk in – run between the houses, whose flat roofs provide an easy venue for social communication. Built of stone and wood, and plastered with mud, the houses blend perfectly with the landscape.
The site has been occupied since ancient times, settlers drawn here because of its three abundant springs and good grazing. The spring’s still water the carefully made terraces on the hillsides, which are filled with all manner of fruits and vegetables.
The village we see today is of Ottoman origin, its houses recurrently restored to keep them habitable. But by the 1980s Dana had virtually died for many residents had moved to a new village, Qadisiyyah, by the main road on the plateau, seeking jobs at the cement factory. In the I 990s electricity was brought, and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature restored some houses and initiated income-generating projects – making preserves from the crops, and designing and making silver jewellery. These developments have brought many villagers back to their old houses.
When the outstandingly beautiful Dana Nature Reserve was created in the wild sandstone mountains on the other side of Wadi Dana, the villagers found more employment opportunities and became a vital part of its wildlife conservation mission.
What to do
Bedouin guides are available to fill your schedule with every possible outdoor activity. Highlights include canyoning, hiking, and mountain biking. Night-time activities include stargazing and a complimentary sunset hike.
A bit of history
In addition to the area’s magnificent natural landscape, Dana is also home to an Ottoman-era village, Nabatean tombs, Byzantine churches, Neolithic villages, and a Roman aqueduct. All landmarks are not to be missed and provide a more laid-back alternative to the more dare-devilish activities on offer.
Where to stay
Dana Guesthouse consists of 9 comfortable rooms, which are perched on the precipice of Wadi Dana. The lodgings offer traditional architecture mixed with modern amenities. The Campsite of Rummana was once a favoured Bedouin camping area, as it was the ideal spot for livestock grazing. Today, the site boasts 20 tents that can fit up to 60 people, with bathrooms, mattresses, and blankets for a good night’s sleep. Lastly, Feynan Ecolodge is an environmentally-friendly lodge with 26 rooms, where all facilities are powered by sunlight for the most part and the entire establishment is lit by candles at night. This spot is perfect for yogis, couples, and those looking to escape.