Sustainability at its best: Feynan Eco Lodge in Dana Biosphere Reserve Jordan
By the time you realize that the Arabian nights has 1000s of tales you are hooked. One story leads to another and there are so many subplots that you can keep whole of Hollywood and Bollywood directors busy in making movies on them, such is the complexity of these simple tales that in the end connect you to a world that now only exists in fairy tales or in pockets of exotica like Petra, Wadi Rum and Feynan Eco Lodge.
If you are like me you may have never heard of Feynan Eco Lodge. And if you are like me you are about to get mesmerized with Feynan Eco Lodge. Before we proceed further let me take you back to my post about Ajloun Forest Reserve, where we learned that Jordan is not only about history, culture and religion it is also very big on protecting nature and ensuring that the wild flora and fauna of Jordan is well protected as natural resources are scarce in Jordan.
Nestled in a quiet corner of Dana Biosphere Reserve, Feynan is designed like the Caravan Serai of yester years. Similar blending with surrounding architecture with formidable gates to deter the hostile visitors but welcoming the parched traders in caravans who could be en-route to any of the trading centers in the ancient world from Cairo to Rome to Kashgar in China on the Silk Route. But our visit to the real lodge had to wait for some time as we stopped on a hill before the Feynan Eco lodge to click some pictures of the Sunset. The photography was accompanied by liberal amount of habituating Bedouin tea that is extra sweet with extra cardamoms and was prepared literally on an open flame on the rocks.
It is here I met a few fellow travelers a Professor from Oxford with his wife and daughter who were all in to a serious research, a Jordanian couple who have left their kids home and were celebrating their marriage anniversary by hiking in the hills and some local Bedouin men who were too happy to share hot cups of tea and stories from the desert.
Feynan Valley for almost 3000 years was one of the few sources of that original precious metal: Copper before it was replaced by Iron only to regain its lost glory with the coming of Electricity. But today the mines in Feynan have very little copper left and it is uneconomical to exploit it. One of the reasons to start the eco-lodge in this area was to give employment opportunity to local men and women. So the lodge actively supports candle making, quilt making and other handicrafts that support the local economy.
The Feynan Eco lodge is very big on recycling and using green energy so the only power they use is solar and it is used in the Kitchen and bathrooms. Rest of the lodge is illuminated by wax candles just like the Caravan Sarai’s of historical times. Yes you read it correctly
“The Feynan Eco Lodge is illuminated by candle lights every single evening, and these candles are made by local Bedouin women, helping create sustainable employment for local population.”
When we reached the lodge it was dark, and by dark I mean to my city eyes used to work in offices that are evenly lit round the clock. But to those used to the ways of a lost world the Feynan Eco-lodge was covered in golden glow of handmade candles, and a silvery moonlight filtering from the clouds and the trees in the courtyard.
Each flickering candle not only casts a shadow but also a spell on you as you chase shadows that sometime grow into a beast and at other time shiver with fear of the desert wind that has plans of its own.
We were welcomed at the reception with our name cards displayed attached on a needle and a stone with secret symbols.
My room was very rustic yet tastefully done with two beds, and an en-suite bathroom, with the sole electric light of the room. 4 cleverly carved shelves in the wall with glass tiles multiplied the candle light in the room, instantly converting my room into a Rang Mahal of a maharaja, or the tent of a Bedouin, the choice was with me about what to consider the room to be.
I explored the surroundings of the Feynan Eco lodge and clicked a few pictures in the night with the moon and stars around, adding to the charm were candles wrapped in paper bags that lit the path, leading to the lodge, a perfect fairy tale setting.
But the best part was yet to come, at dinner time I learned that Feynan Eco Lodge is a 100 % vegetarian facility as they believe that vegetarian food is more sustainable and earth friendly. Later the lodge manager reconfirmed the same by commenting on my blog post about Vegetarian Food for travelers in Jordan
“”Hi! Great to hear you enjoyed the food at Feynan and on the rest of your tour around Jordan. Food is such an important part of Jordanian culture and hospitality – you often can’t avoid being invited for food with people here! I just wanted to clarify that Feynan is a 100% vegetarian lodge – we don’t serve any meat or fish because we believe it’s the sustainable thing to do so you can come back any time to enjoy our veggie cuisine —-Feynan Eco Lodge ””
We thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian food cooked by the chef at Feynan Eco lodge in Jordan, outside in the porch, listening to the rustling of leaves caressed by desert winds while the candles cast their spells on the weary travelers.
After dinner I explored the lodge and clicked a few pictures in the candle light both inside as well outside the lodge.
But sleep was the last thing on our mind and soon we all collected on the rooftop, where a powerful telescope was waiting for us. We did some star-gazing and checked the craters on the surface of moon. I even clicked a few pictures, using my cell phone. (BTW Have you read my post about Blood Moon? And if you are wondering how to click close up pictures of moon using Cell phone then here is the answer: You place your cell phone camera on the eyepiece of the Telescope and click with a steady hand, the telescope does the rest. Only you need to have a powerful telescope like they have at Feynan Eco Lodge).
Most of the night we were at rooftop enjoying the cool breeze and chatting about travel, Jordan food and sharing travel stories.
In the morning I got a bit early to take some more photographs of the Feynan Eco lodge in the morning light, and explored the nearby areas on foot.
While my expedition was limited within earshot of the lodge, the Feynan team actually organizes various hiking and exploration visits to nearby Bedouin villages, abandoned copper mines and trails that lead to various parts of the reserve forest. You can also go exploring nearby on bicycles, you can pick trails from bird watching to local village life exploration and join one that suits your interest.
My stay at the Feynan Eco Lodge was a very short one but full of excitement, and discovery of not only Jordanian Vegetarian Cuisine, but also that even in modern times you can run a successful Eco Lodge with 100 % sustainable methods without depleting the natural resources. I think Feynan Eco Lodge is a model eco lodge with some wonderful sustainable practices in water management, waste management and using local resources, while also providing employment to local Bedouin villagers from employing them as staff, cooks, guides etc, to training them to make sustainable products like quilts, candles and hiring their vehicles for guests. As we were getting ready to leave, one of the Bedouin elder who came to pick us up in his vehicle was kind enough to pose for us for pictures.
If you are in Jordan and are looking for a very unique experience in the lap of nature while enjoying the desert wind and gazing stars Feynan Eco Lodge is the place you want to visit.
Here is a link to their website for more information, prices and bookings: Feynan Eco Lodge.
Trivia: Feynan Eco Lodge is a part of RSCN or Royal Society of Conservation of Nature of Jordan and and was first of its kind Eco lode in wild setting in Jordan when it started in 2005, it is run by EcoHotels since 2009. Feynan Eco Lodge was designed by well-known architect Ammar Khammash
How To Reach Feynan Eco Lodge: Feynan is in Dana Bioshphere Reseve, which is spread over many Square KM, so follow these directions to reach without any hassles, as it is in a remote area so please stick to the instructions other wise you may take longer than planned.
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