Dana Biosphere Reserve
If you’re not familiar with Biosphere Reserves, they are similar to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but instead of a property recognized as being exceptionally natural or cultural, they are sites where the goal is to connect people with nature and promote sustainable development – they are not protected under UNESCO, just designated. Some Biosphere Reserves are also World Heritage sites.
There are over 700 Biosphere Reserves in the world and Jordan has two – Mujib Biosphere Reserve and Dana Biosphere Reserve. During my trip to Jordan (itinerary here), I had the opportunity to spend a night in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, at the Feynan Ecolodge (read my experience at the lodge here).
Managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, the Dana Biosphere Reserve encompasses all four bio-geographical zones in Jordan, Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian, so there is an amazing amount of diversity in its wildlife. Dana has over 800 species of plants and almost 500 species of animals. The reserve also supports the local Bedouins who live there for part of the year.
While it might not be on all the standard Jordan itineraries, Dana definitely should be added to your bucket list if you like hiking, history or diverse cultural experiences.
Regardless of your accommodation, there are numerous hiking opportunities – from easy to intermediate to difficult. You can read up on all the guided and self-guided hikes on the Wild Jordan website.
We took part in the sunset hike and the plants hike – however, it was not the best time of year for the plants hike because none of the plants were flowering yet.
The Dana village area has been occupied since 4000BC. Throughout history, it has attracted Paleolithic, Egyptian, Nabatean, and Roman civilizations have been drawn to the area by the fertile soil, water springs, and strategic location.
The area of Feynan also has an incredible history. While research is still taking place, it can be said Feynan has one of the longest sequences of human settlement in the world.
It was an extremely important place during the Roman Empire because of the discovery of copper in the area. Vast deposits of copper were mined and processed at Feynan. You can explore the various mines on the Copper Mines hike offered at the Feynan Ecolodge.
The local Bedouin are goat herders, and their community living in the reserve told us that they live down in the wadi in the winter because it is warmer and then they move up into the mountains during the summer months because it is cooler up there.
Staying at Feynan, we met some of the local Bedouin and they taught us about making traditional Arabic coffee life in the desert (read about it here). We were only able to spend a day at the Ecolodge, but there are many other cultural experiences you can participate in, including, spending the day with a goat herder, making Arabic bread, and making Kohl (Arabic eye liner).