Exploring Dana

Last night we eventually pulled ourselves away from our blankets in our cold room and headed off into the cold night in search of our dinner. Honestly we were not expecting it to be quite this cold! We left the cold of our room last night… I had a vest, a thermal base layer, a lightweight sweatshirt, my scarf, buff, hat and gloves and my coat, and two pairs of double layer socks. I was still cold. We expected a chilly supper but wow we could not have been more wrong. The roof terrace was glazed and covered, Bedouin style, with lots of rugs, there was a heater in the middle making it toasty warm and we had comfy seating around the sides. Our host, Habiba and the cooks brought in dish after fabulous dish of Jordanian fayre.. Honestly, what a feast we all had. And what a glorious place to eat and enjoy the company of others.

Travellers from across Europe sat and talked, much like communal dinners in albergues on the Camino. One British chap was walking the Jordan Trail alone and wild camping in the hills. He was having quite an adventure, particularly with the dogs! Another couple were starting their walk tomorrow to Petra and we really wished we’d planned for this. But timings and bookings moved from last year meant that we couldn’t, however we’ll walk most of this section over the next few days.

We ate and listened to Habiba tell us about how his father started the Eco tourism here in the 1990s; clearly they are passionate about their village and their Bedouin heritage. He talked about the work of his father, the dedication to create the national park that now exists. And he was passionate about rebuilding the village which had been deserted in favour of more modern houses over the hill. And whilst he talked he continued to offer food and tea. We had a glorious evening and we returned to bed full and warm and very content with our choice to come to the mountains.

We slept soundly in a very comfortable bed but were woken by a very noisy neighbour, braying outside our window. Gerry braved the shower which turned out to be much hotter than expected and we returned back to the hotel terrace for breakfast, another feast laid out for us along with more hot sweet tea.

When we’d eaten enough our guide Salem joined us to drive us to the gate of the Dana National Park and the start of our hike. We had booked a 3 hour hike and had no idea what expect. It ended up being quite a scramble in places but we wouldn’t have missed it and we’re so glad we had Salem with us. First we climbed up to the tops of enormous smooth rocks that a million years ago were under the sea. It was cold this morning and the wind whistles across the hills. We started to head down towards the trail below through the narrow gullies made by rain. Little by little we picked our way down, stopping at times to look at the stratification of the rocks, layers of multi coloured stone with creams and yellows and pinks and violets and black. Salem crushed one rock and painted our faces with a red ochre and explained how the stone was used for paint. Salem also pointed out animals and birds and Bedouin camels; he must have hawk-like vision because we struggled to see them! In the end he he took photos and zoomed in to show us. Gerry could see them but I struggle to focus on detail so I just said I saw them so we could move on.

We paused at the bottom of the hike and in the shade of the giant rocks Salem made a fire and collected wild oregano, sage and mint for tea. He also showed us the shrubs the Romans used to make gin. I never have sugar in my drinks at home and yet I’m developing quite a taste for this sweet Bedouin tea and I’m certainly going to drink more herb tea when we get home. Four glasses later it was time to climb back up the hills to the car and return back to Dana.

The sun is high now and the clouds have blown away. We had lunch in a little café in the village and decided to go and explore the remains of the village. We walked up above the houses, onto a track which afforded the best views of the old stone houses. After we had wandered enough, we returned back to the village to catch the sunset. There are few services here, there’s the hotel, the little café and two shops. We stopped in one and he was brewing coffee. We asked if we could have coffee and he said of course and put the kettle back on. We looked around the shelves and apart from the odd hiker snack there wasn’t much to buy but the coffee was exceptionally good. I picked up a box as we thought we would buy some but all the boxes on the shelves were empty. The owner explained that they were just for display but if we returned in the morning he would go to the supermarket for us. We thanked him and agreed to return in the morning. We paid for our coffee and headed off to the edge of the village where a few other travellers had gathered. We found a seat on the rocks and looked down at the enormous Dana valley that lay before us. We watched the sky turn from blue to grey to peach to orange. It may be cold but the sun is still hot and the sunset was spectacular. We drank our coffee and sat in silence and watched until the last streak of orange had gone. The temperature change was noticeable and we headed back to the rooftop tent for another glorious feast.

Today had been the most wonderful of days. Visit Dana. It’s worth it!

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