Today we said goodbye to our resort hotel and set off on our long drive south. We’re heading for the tiny hillside village of Dana in the Feynan area of central-western Jordan. The village is perched high on a hill overlooking Wadi Dana, a large natural canyon, with views over Wadi Araba; it now forms part of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, one of Jordan’s first nature reserves.
Our drive took us along the length of the Dead Sea, and once we’d left the resort hotels behind the landscape rarely changed over the hour or so of our drive along the Dead Sea Highway. It’s a landscape dotted with factories and power pylons with the road nestled between the mountains and the sea, interspersed by the odd small town or fields of courgettes and tomatoes.
We were stopped at a checkpoint, like before they took a cursory glance at our passport and waved us on but we decided to take the opportunity to park up and have a look at the dead sea salt, forming in white crystals along the edge of the sea and the shore. Apparently, due to over irrigation, the water level now drops a staggering 1 metre a year and that drop is clearly evident along the shoreline. I checked the altitude on my app, a sign says that we are at the lowest place on earth at 439m below sea level.
We’ve found driving easy here, outside of the cities the roads are quiet and generally in good condition. Drivers are generally courteous and google maps takes us where we need to go. There is though one oddity. There are lots ( seriously lots) of sleeping policemen. We’ll be diving along at 80km or 90km and suddenly everyone brakes and we all slowly bump along over the really large speed bump and then we all carry on again. Sometimes it makes sense, there will be a road merging or the entrance to a small village but other times it’s random, there will be no obvious reason and they catch you unaware. Gerry has become an expert at spotting them… so far! And so far he’s had an unblemished record… until today. We hit our speed bump at around 85 kilometres an hour. Gerry says he saw me launch out of the seat. Our rucksacks flew off of the back seat, water bottles scattered and flew around the car and the parcel shelf bounced out of its position and headed forward. Our poor little car flew over the bump and landed with an almighty thud. I expected some cartoon crash, with the doors all falling off and the engine falling out. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Gerry is still laughing at the expression on my face and seeing me sitting in mid air as the car took off. I know he was thinking about it as occasionally he started to chuckle! Thankfully no harm was done to the car or its passengers but its not an experience I’d like to repeat.
At the end of the sea we turned left and headed inland. Following a truck full of sheep, we wound our way up and up into the mountains. At first we climbed steadily but then much more sharply. Sometimes there was a crash barrier and sometimes not. Sometimes there was a small shoulder that allowed vehicles to pass and sometimes the road just fell away and you prayed that nothing was coming around the bend; it was an interesting journey and we were both very very happy to turn onto the Kings Highway, another of the major routes running from North to South Jordan.
Thankfully the last hour of our drive was uneventful and we arrived at Dana to meet the man from Monte Carlo car hire. Our little Suze (Suzuki Alto) was handed over in one piece and with a full tank of fuel. We’re on foot from now on, or using local transport; we felt a little sad to see the car drive away. We were apprehensive when we first collected her but it’s been amazing, giving us so much freedom to travel and explore.
The ‘modern’ village of Dana has been occupied for approximately 500 years but it’s thought that it was originally built by Bedouins from Hebron who settled there during the Ottoman period. And like a lot of this area, there has been around 6,000 years of prior human occupation including Palaeolithic, Edomite, Assyrian, Egyptian, Nabataean, and Roman cultures, taking advantage of its easily-defensible position, fertile soil, and water supplies.
In recent years The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan initiated a project to protect the nature surrounding the village and promote sustainable development and tourism and as a result families are slowly starting to return and the ruined houses are slowly starting to be renovated for use as tourist accommodation (although Covid has halted this progress).
When booking this section of the trip I had the option of staying in the posher accommodation offered by the RSCN or stay at the accommodation in the old village of Dana. We try to keep our costs down when travelling and we kind of like to be a bit more authentic, however, the reviews for the Dana Hotel really weren’t that great. I ummed and ahhed a great deal but in the end decided that we could cope for 2 nights. We arrived early but that wasn’t a problem. We were invited into a little room on the roof and shared hot sweet tea with our host (and his friends) whilst our room was being prepared. The tea was very welcome because gosh it’s absolutely freezing today. We’re at 1565m above sea level and the wind is biting. It’s meant to be warmer tomorrow… thank goodness!
During our stay here we hope to take advantage of the hiking. The Rift Valley and Jordan Trail come through Dana and then continues onward to Fenyan and on again to Petra and this is the route that we’ll take over the coming days. For now though, we’re in bed, covered in blankets, looking like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, trying to warm up before meeting our guides later who will explain what hikes we will be doing.
Happy days.. we’re very excited about the next stage of our adventures… even if we’re a tad chilly!
P.s. remind me again about the heated pool of our resort hotel… and the kettle in our room