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DANA BIOSPHERE RESERVE, JORDAN
According to Forbes magazine, Feynan Ecolodge is ‘a shining star among the green lodges of the world’. Sitting deep in the mountainous 79,000-acre Dana Biosphere Reserve, Feynan is a symbol of Jordan’s commitment to protecting its natural landscapes. Run by EcoHotels and partnering with Jordan’s not-for-profit Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, the emphasis of this 25-room lodge is to provide visitors with an experience bedded in local culture and nature.
Owing to the range of elevations and geographical formations, Dana Biosphere Reserve hosts diverse flora and fauna and natural, historical and cultural sites that are unique to Jordan. Over 800 plant species thrive in the reserve, three of which are endemic. 449 different animal species have been recorded, including the threatened sand cat, Syrian wolf, lesser kestrel and spiny-tailed lizard. Running entirely on solar energy and candlelit by night, the environmental footprint of each guest that visits Feynan is minimal.
The founding concept of Feynan Ecolodge was to provide an alternative economy to grazing and copper mining, which both have a detrimental impact on the landscape. Employees are all from the immediate area and trips and excursions revolve around local Bedouin experiences — taking tea with a family in their goat-hair tent or watching leather and candles being moulded at local workshops. 80% of supplies are purchased from the nearby community, including bread baked in the traditional way by just one lady. Approximately 80 families from the local community benefit directly from the lodge.
Feynan Ecolodge joined The Long Run in 2014 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
Feynan Ecolodge lies in the 79,000 acre Dana Biosphere Reserve, an area of tremendous wildlife, geological and landscape variety. Owing to the range of elevations and geographical formations, Dana Biosphere Reserve hosts a diversity of flora and fauna, natural, historical and cultural sites that is unique in Jordan.
Over 800 plant species thrive within the reserve, three of which are endemic to the reserve. 449 different animals have been recorded, including threatened species such as the sand cat, Syrian wolf, lesser kestrel and spiny-tailed lizard. The biodiversity at Dana is of global importance and the reserve has helped protect important populations of a number of threatened species such as the Nubian ibex and Syrian serin finch. Dana Biosphere Reserve comprises part of a larger area identified by BirldLife International as the Dana Important Bird Area (IBA). In addition to the many bird species to be seen here, a large number of raptors migrate to the reserve every spring.
To help conserve this unique and fragile environment, Feynan was built as an ecotourism project aiming to provide a sustainable alternative income to grazing in the area and also as an alternative to restarting damaging copper mining in the area. To further cement Feynan’s contribution to the natural environment, a proportion of all revenue paid by guests at Feynan Ecolodge goes directly to the RSCN for conservation programmes in the Dana Reserve.
The design and operation of Feynan Ecolodge also conforms to high environmental standards. The lodge is designed to merge in with its environment and is based on the typical caravanserai design using an integral courtyard linked to outer patios to provide soft breezes and shady spots to rest. It also generates its own electricity exclusively from solar photovoltaic (PV) power and uses solar heating for all its hot water needs. As much waste as possible is recycled or composted and disposable plastic water bottles have been eliminated from guest rooms, replacing them with clay jars, made by a local community cooperative near to Petra.
Working directly with local villages and Bedouin communities, income-generating projects have been created that utilise the Reserve’s natural beauty and wildlife to generate income opportunities.
In line with EcoHotels’s mission and Feynan’s raison d’etre to provide opportunities for local communities, Feynan Ecolodge has an entirely local team working on site. This helps create the uniquely authentic atmosphere in the lodge, while generating much needed income for surrounding communities. Local Bedouins are also employed by Feynan to guide guests on hikes, mountain bike tours and cultural experiences, to discover the unique natural, historical and cultural elements of the Dana Biosphere Reserve and the surrounding areas and communities.
The wellbeing of the community has always been at the heart of Feynan. In total, over 80 families from the local community directly benefit from the Ecolodge. For instance Feynan is home to one candle-making and one leather workshop that provide five women and a man with the opportunity to help support their families and showcase their art. All the candles used at the lodge are produced in these workshops, thus directly supporting the community. The delicious bread served to guests is baked in a traditional way by a local Bedouin lady from her goat-haired tent and Feynan is her only client. Transport for the final 8km to the lodge along an unpaved track is provided by members of the local community in their 4×4 pickups in their spare time. All the money for this journey goes directly to the drivers and provides additional income for another 45 families.
Feynan also helps many more families indirectly by ensuring that its suppliers are as local as possible. Over 80% of all supplies are purchased from the nearby community and in 2013 55% of the money paid by guests at Feynan stayed in the local community. The shop at the lodge sells items such as jams, spices, handicrafts and other goods produced by artisans and farmers that are members of local communities within Jordan’s nature reserves. A recycling initiative is also underway that placed recycling bins within the community, making Feynan’s local Bedouin community the first in Jordan to recycle its waste.
During their stay at Feynan, not only can guests discover the most diverse flora and fauna in Jordan, but they also that the opportunity to unearth the history of an ancient land, and unlock the mysteries of native Bedouin life through the warm welcome of this humble native community.
Almost 100 archaeological sites can be found within the reserve continuously inviting guests to explore and experience the history of Jordan. The early village settlements in Wadi Ghwayr are some of the oldest examples in the world of people moving from nomadic hunter gatherer lives to living in settlement. The ruins of Wadi Khalid and Umm al-Alad are also particularly interesting as these copper mines date back 6000 years and provide an unparalleled insight into the mining that dominated this area from the Bronze to the Roman periods.
As well as hiking through the beautiful landscape, Feynan offers unique cultural activities, such as spending a day with a shepherd or a full Bedouin experience which provides a unique interactive way for guests to experience local traditions. During the experience guests can learn about the Bedouin’s way of life including coffee making, goat-hair tent making, bread baking and kohl (Arabic eyeliner).
Owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) and operated by EcoHotels, Feynan Ecolodge integrates conservation and socio-economic development while promoting the importance of the natural environment.
Constructed by renowned architect Ammar Khammash in 2005, Feynan Ecolodge offers up to 60 guests an unparalleled opportunity to experience Jordan’s wilderness, meet its native people and explore its ancient history, with minimal impact on the environment.
Hiking, mountain biking, cultural experiences and relaxing in the peaceful calming surroundings are the main activities guests can engage in whilst at the lodge. There is a wide variety of landscapes and sights to explore, from many archaeological sites near Feynan, the green hills of Wadi Dana or the striking canyon of Wadi Ghwayr. With virtually no light pollution, at night the uninhibited glory of the night sky reveals itself, making stargazing on the rooftop one of the most relaxing and breath-taking experiences at Feynan.
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