My Experience at the Feynan Ecolodge
In the heart of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, is the Feynan Ecolodge. Nestled in the heart of the Great Rift Valley of Jordan, this off-grid Ecolodge is world-renowned. Featuring all inclusive packages, this hotel helps you experience what life in the desert is truly like.
Feynan Ecolodge was designed to operate in harmony with its habitat and is operated in a way which minimizes the impact of tourism on the surrounding natural environment. It is the most advanced ‘eco’ accommodation in Jordan and employs a wide range of different technologies and programmes aimed at leaving the smallest possible environmental footprint.
On my recent trip to Jordan (check out my itinerary here), we stayed at Feynan for one night and it was the most incredible experience. Being an Ecolodge, Feynan is committed to sustainable hospitality and supporting the local communities.
Our guide, Suleiman, lived just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the lodge with his family and many, many goats and sheep. The lodge employs local people from within the Dana Biosphere Reserve, and other community members offer unique experiences for guests to take part in.
Making Arabic Coffee
On our day of arrival, Suleiman took us to a local family to learn to make traditional Arabic coffee. This experience was probably my favourite part of the whole trip to Jordan. We sat in a tent that the woman of the family weaved by hand from goat hair and roasted coffee beans on an open fire. The family did not speak any English but it was clear that they were happy to have us there and enjoyed teaching us about their culture.
Making Arabic coffee is only done on special and celebratory occasions, so when it is made is an exciting time for anyone around. Grinding the beans in a copper mortar and pestle makes the sound of a bell-ringing and anyone who hears it is invited to come and have coffee. So, all of the neighbourhood kids ran to the tent to enjoy it with us.
When the beans were ground, with cardamom, we put them in a traditional Dahallh (copper pot) with water. The coffee is not filtered so it is very strong. During the steeping process, Suleiman told us of the various coffee drinking traditions:
- you must accept the coffee with your left hand and you must drink the first cup all at once (you are only given a little more than a sip at a time, because it is very strong and hot).
- if you do not want more, you simply hold the cup up and shake it slightly.
- you can have three cups total, unless you plan to seek revenge for your tribe; in which case, you take a fourth cup and when you are finished, you leave right away and are not allowed back until you have fulfilled your task.
- drinking coffee is often part of a business negotiation (or a marriage proposal). If the person you are negotiating with does not drink the coffee, the answer to your request is no.
The coffee was quite strong so I only had one cup, but my partner really enjoyed it, so he had the full 3 cups.
Just before dinner (which was delicious by the way), we went on the sunset hike. Suleiman took us for a short walk, introducing us to his goats and sheep who were just having dinner, and showed us more of the community.
We got to a beautiful little spot to watch the sunset and he started brewing some Bedouin tea. We chatted with him and watched the crimson sun go down over Wadi Feynan and sipped our tea. Some goats even joined us to watch.
After dinner, we went up to the roof of the lodge to gaze at the stars. Because the lodge is completely off-grid and only lit by candles at night, there is no light pollution. We had the perfect night to look up at the stars too – no rain or clouds, and a lovely temperature.
Suleiman pointed out various constellations and stars before bringing out his big telescope to look at the moon.
The next morning, we sat outside soaking up the sun and playing with some desert cats before taking part in an Arabic cooking class.
We started the class by making Manakish bread, a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with zaatar (mixture of Middle Eastern herbs) and feta cheese. Delicious! Then we moved on to the main event – falafel. I ate falafel everyday while we were in Jordan and it is now one of my favourite things.
We ground up chickpeas with cilantro, onions, garlic and jalapeno, and then deep fried the little balls off goodness.
After spending the morning laughing and making our own Middle Eastern food, we sat outside and enjoyed the final hour of our stay at Feynan.
Seriously if you go nowhere else in Jordan, you should go to Feynan. You will get an authentic experience and thoroughly enjoy your time. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the staff, the food, the rooms, everything.