Behind the scenes of Yahoo TV’s latest travel video at Feynan

In the next in their series featuring Jordan, Yahoo Travel’s “A Broad Abroad” team visit Feynan Ecolodge and meet our guide Suleiman who introduces them to famous Bedouin hospitality. You can watch the full video here.

It’s always great when we have press visiting Feynan as we are really excited to share our project with more people.

But filming in Bedouin tent is not straightforward.

Firstly, you have to consider the space. Even for a small production like the Yahoo Travel TV filming, there is a small team of 4 trying to fit in a relatively small space and trying to keep out of shot.

Then there is the light – it has to be natural as there is no electricity in a Bedouin home, so you have to rely on the tent being positioned just right, although that’s something the Bedouin are very good at.

Thirdly, the fire – it’s the heart of a Bedouin home and central to social activities because it provides tea, coffee, food and warmth. But on a hot day with many people in the tent, it’s defintely not warmth you need!

Finally you have the normal comings and goings of Bedouin life – someone stops by to say hi in the middle of filming, someone else wants to help or make sure you are comfy and moves things around. But at the same time, that’s what makes the setting so authentic and real – these families are taking some time out of their normal lives to share their traditions with you and everyone just wants to make sure you are comfortable. That’s the hospitality that the Bedouin are so famous for and our guests and press have come to experience.

Here are some behind the scenes snaps from the A Broad Abroad team’s visit to Feynan!

You can see the full series on Jordan here: Yahoo TV A Broad Abroad

Taboon. Remember that word. It’s Jordan’s best kept bakery secret

On the Dead Sea Highway, between Ghor Saafi police station and the 181km Aqaba milestone, lies Jordan’s best kept bakery secret: taboon.

On our journey to Feynan Ecolodge the other day, me and my colleagues had wound past the Dead Sea and were on the flatter, straighter road that passes lots of tomato farms well on our way to the lodge from our office in Amman.

“Why are we stopping?” I asked as we pulled over seemingly in the middle of nowhere and Mohammad Ali, our lodge duty manager jumped out and dashed across the road.

“Every time we drive past here, Mohammad tells me there is a woman who makes the best bread in Jordan” explains our operations manager Bisher. “I call him a liar! There is no such thing here! Just a stall with a few tomatoes and eggplants! He says he will prove me wrong”

Mohammad reappears from a small hut by the stall and beckons for Bisher to follow him. They disappear behind a low breeze block wall where the lady minding the stall appears with a bucket with bread in it.

Back in the car, Mohammad passes me a bag with four round loaves, steaming fresh in the plastic bag.

“What’s this?”

“Taboon” comes the reply.

Taboon is the name of this bread. It’s flat and round, fresh from the oven and nearly too hot to hold. But the smell is too enticing so we tear it and pass it round: golden and crispy on the outside, flaky as you tear it, soft on the inside and tasting of all the wonderful smells of a bakery.

Tarboon bread fresh from the oven

Taboon bread fresh from the oven

Taboon is also the name of the oval, domed oven that the bread is cooked in. The flat, round loaves of bread are laid inside the oven on top of hot stones, over a fire that is sunk into the ground. The whole thing is covered in sand whilst the bread bakes in its underground oven with the hot stones creating the unique dimpled appearance of the bread.

This is simple bread, eaten by people all over Jordan and my colleagues discuss the taboon they have at home or in Amman. I’ve just not come across it before, or at least not like this.

Simple though it might be, this is simplicity at its best. It would be great accompanied by some of those tomatoes the lady is also selling, or just with local olive oil and Jordan’s famous zaatar herb mix. From the silence in the car, it’s safe to assume that we were happy just to eat it on its own, fresh from the oven, pure baked bliss. Even Bisher concedes Mohammad was right on this one – it’s the best he’s tasted.

Our stop at this bakery was a complete surprise so I didn’t get a chance to take much notice, let alone a photo of the location, the stall, or the talented baker who runs it. But perhaps that’s a good thing – I can leave you to discover Jordan’s best kept bakery secret for yourself.

Back on the road, as we munch on the delicious bread, a sly smile from Mohammad says he knows he was right; there is a baker on the side of the road where a woman makes the best bread in Jordan. And I think I’m going to go ahead and agree with him.

Timelapse video of an evening at Feynan

We were very pleased to welcome the “A Broad Abroad” team from Yahoo TV to film at Feynan Ecolodge last week. They will be making a series of short travel programmes all about Jordan which we are really excited to be a part of.

As well as their normal filming, one of their cameramen Ricky Montalvo filmed this short timelapse sequence of their night at Feynan.

Can you spot the shooting star? Just like in Jordan’s other famous desert Wadi Rum, the stars at Feynan are an amazing setting for an evening’s stargazing and we see lots of shooting stars most nights from our rooftop

You can follow Ricky (@rickymontalvo) and Feynan (@Feynan Ecolodge) on Instagram for more!

If you can’t see this video, please click here


Digital detoxing: Could you? Will you?

We all know that we have become slaves to a new master: the internet. Emails, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat… We are connected 24/7. Even our Bedouin community in Wadi Feynan are as likely to pick a spot for their goat-hair tented home based on mobile phone signal as much as any other factor.

But what happens when we can’t be connected? Is it a good thing?

Being in a remote location means life in Feynan is a little less connected – one of those few places you can switch off and feel the silence seep into your soul. And that’s what a holiday is for, right? Relaxing, unwinding, feeling your normal stresses melting away…

So should literally switching off be part of your holiday? Here are some of the benefits we have found at Feynan from committing to a digital detox once in a while:

  1. Time to think

With less connectivity, there is less distraction. That might make some people shudder – the fear of missing out. But it’s interesting how quickly this gives way to a sense of calm and peacefulness. There is the initial panic when the little bar of signal finally fades, but after a while you are distracted by the scenery and that thing you were worried about seems to lose its importance.

Life is a little slower, a little more rustic, and maybe a little less demanding somewhere like Feynan compared to what you are used to. But the plus side is time to stop, think and re-evaluate. It’s the perfect place to think about that novel you want to write or what your priorities should be for the coming year. But best of all it’s a great feeling to breathe in the fresh desert air and just let your mind wander.

A sense of calm and quiet greets Wadi Feynan in the morning

A sense of calm and quiet greets Wadi Feynan in the morning

  1. Looking… really looking

Not glancing, or looking through the screen. Whether it’s soaking up vast landscapes, the quick flash of blue movement that alerts you to a lizard, the palm trees growing half way up a sheer sided canyon, or the way the Bedouin man flicks his wrist to make music while crushing coffee beans; there are lots of interesting things to catch the eye that are worth a second, harder look.

Of course you can always take a picture and share it later. But whilst you don’t have signal, you can take the time to remember the sounds and smells that went along with the view.

Date palms grow half way up the side of Wadi Ghwayr canyon

Date palms growing half way up the side of Wadi Ghwayr canyon

  1. Concentrating and learning

Do you notice that it makes a difference when you are talking when someone actually listens? Really listens. Looks you in the eyes and considers what you are saying to them. Whether they agree or disagree with you, it doesn’t matter – you made them think. Without distractions it’s easier to do this. People listen to you and, more importantly, you can listen to them and learn!

Learn facts, a skill, or something about yourself. There are plenty of things to learn out there and it’s more fulfilling when we give it our complete attention. Like learning about another culture; really understanding what your Bedouin guide means when he says he feels he is part of the landscape or questioning why that goat pen has fences higher on one side than the other. From the trivial to the interesting to the absolutely mind-blowing: we should never stop learning.

In Bedouin culture, coffee is for when the serious conversations happen

In Bedouin culture, coffee is for when the serious conversations happen

  1. Dedicating time.

Without the constant distraction of checking your notifications, you can dedicate your time to doing other things and focus on really experiencing them: from the awe of a slot canyon, to the smell of the coffee, to football with some local children, to the sparkle of the stars. There are lots of experiences to be had in the world and we get more out of them by focusing on the moment.

Deciding to turn off your phones and iPad doesn’t even have to translate to a complete ban. For example there is wifi at Feynan, but it’s only available in the lobby meaning when you do go to find the internet – that’s your intention. You can sit and dedicate time to checking your email or sharing your photos. Ironically you might even get more done because you focus your time on it rather than constantly dabbling. And once it’s done, you can walk out of signal range, switch off again, focus on doing something else with your full attention.

So could you do it?

Or more importantly, will you?


“Feynan, Faynan, Feinan, Finan, Fenan, Fienan, Fanan: many spellings, one magical place”

says the founder of EcoHotels, Nabil Tarazi and he’s not wrong. Like many names in Jordan, the spelling and pronunciation of Feynan can vary from place to place, person to person and over time. Most of today’s variations in spelling are a largely a matter of transliteration from Arabic to English and different accents or dialects. Going back further in time however, the different names for Feynan reveal some of the rich history of the area and its inhabitants. Here is a quick look at the top 5 names for the area of Wadi Feynan through history and what we know about them.

1. Pinon / Punon

Starting way back we know that people have inhabited the area of Feynan for over 12,000 years since before the Neolithic period. However since writing wasn’t invented until later on, we don’t have any records of what these people called the area. The first known name comes around 1,200 years BC, when Feynan began to develop as an early centre of the copper industry during the Iron Age. During this period, the area was under the control of the Kingdom of Edom. The area is mentioned as Pinon / Punon three times in the Biblical Old Testament when describing the chiefs of the Edomite Kingdom and listing the stopping points during the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Click here for more info on this period.

Copper mine Wadi Feynan - Feynan Ecolodge 2. Phaino

The Romans and the Byzantines called the area Phaino and during this period Feynan staked its place on the world map as one of the centres of Roman copper production. Labourers worked in extreme and dangerous conditions extracting copper from the hills and processing it at a large industrial centre. Some workers were condemned criminals forced to work there as a punishment and Feynan became infamous for the harsh conditions. One writer comments that a criminal: Read more about the Roman and Byzantine periods in Feynan here

3. Feynan

The local Bedouin communities who still live around the lodge today call the area Wadi Feynan and this is where the name of Feynan Ecolodge comes from. There are different stories and traditions about where the name Feynan comes from and what ‘Feynan’ means, but here is one perspective from Ahmad Qawasmeh whose family lives very near the lodge:

“My favourite thing in Feynan is its name; it has a very deep meaning. When you look into its meaning you live the whole atmosphere. It means long beautiful black hair, Feynan has a long heritage, it’s still growing and we are part of it. The black represents the black surrounding mountains for me.”   Ahmed 4. Dana

Dana isn’t really the name of the area of the lodge but a wider area and specifically the Dana Biosphere Reserve where Feynan Ecolodge is located. This reserve is the second largest in Jordan and is really important for conservation since it has a high level of biodiversity. Dana is the name of the village in the eastern part of the reserve and the name of the wadi that leads down over 1000m from Dana village to Feynan Ecolodge. You can find out more about the Dana Reserve and conservation work in the reserve here.

5. Faynan

Even today different people use different spellings. The spelling ‘Faynan’ tends to be used by the archaeology community who regularly carry out research in the area into the remains that stretch back more than 11,000 years. You can learn more about the rich history of Feynan and the archaeological interpretations on one of our guided hikes from the lodge here.   Feynan Archeological treasures Hike Neolithic site 33 excavations

What’s in a name? The many names of Wadi Feynan

New Telescope for Stargazing at Feynan Starting September 15th

From the open rooftop terrace of Feynan Ecolodge, guests lie back on pillows and floor-mattresses to gaze up at uninhibited views of the Milky Way, shooting stars, and even planets.

Feynan’s remoteness further lends to stargazing as there is virtually no light pollution (ever notice how only a handful of stars appear in the city?).

In Feynan, thousands of cosmic bodies are visible to the naked eye. From September 15th, guests that wander up to the rooftop terrace after dinner will be able to gaze on all of those stars and planets with even more detail with a new 10 inch Meade telescope. A seasoned astronomer has been training staff on astronomy and the proper use of the large telescope.

With this telescope, guests will be able to see the rings on Saturn, the details of nebulae and faraway galaxies. For reservations, please visit:

Top 12 Reasons William and Kate Should Honeymoon at Feynan Ecolodge

Prince William and Kate, we’ve heard you might be coming to Jordan on your honeymoon. Here are the top 12 reasons why we believe you should spend some time at Feynan Ecolodge in Dana Biosphere Reserve.

  1. You’ll have your very own candlelit room. How much more romantic could it get?
  2. You’ll dine under the stars by candle light in the desert. Kate will be swept off her feet.
  3. Your honeymoon will be greener than green as all of your electricity and hot water needs will be generated through renewable resources.
  4. Get lost in Dana Biosphere Reserve as you hike, mountain bike, and take canyoning adventures.
  5. You can stretch out in the comfort of our rooftop terrace to gaze at the stars with virtually no light pollution.
  6. You’ll be treated like royalty (oops, you already are) by the local Bedouin renowned for their hospitality.
  7. A portion of what you pay is dedicated the conservation of nature and protection of endangered species in Dana Biosphere Reserve.
  8. Bedouin party for three days instead of one: The Bedouin of Feynan take three days to celebrate a wedding, and we’ll throw you a zeffeh (traditional Jordanian dance and song) when you arrive.
  9. Paparazzi free: Feynan is 8 km from the nearest road and is secluded in a quiet, breathtaking corner of the reserve.
  10. Bedouin drink more tea than the British: You’ll always be welcome to a local family’s tent whenever you fancy some tea.
  11. You’ll take a ride on the world renowned camels of Abu Abdullah.
  12. You’ll get to see the sun dip into the sandy dunes of Wadi Araba on our complimentary sunset hike that departs the lodge each evening.

Feynan Bio: Ali Hasasseen

Feynan Bio will be a regularly featured section of Feynan Ecolodge’s blog. This section will introduce our followers to the staff and community of Feynan. Our first edition features one of our local guides. More bios will be published soon, including elders of the local community.

Name: Ali Mohammad Hasasseen

Age: 24

Birthplace: Feynan, Jordan

Occupation: Feynan Guide

Nickolas Neibauer (NN): Tell us about your family’s history.

Ali Hasasseen (AH): In 1972, my father (Abu Khalil), came to Feynan to work for the Natural Resources Authority (NRA) in their exploration of the area. They were interested in potentially mining the area’s copper deposits. Before 1972, my father lived a nomadic life travelling seasonally with his family and their herd of goats and sheep between Shobak, Tafilah and Karak. The NRA decided not to mine the area. After living in the Feynan area for 6 years, my father married and has resided here ever since.

NN: Tell us about your childhood.

AH: I lived in Feynan my whole life. I went to school at the Feynan School for 10 years. On weekends and holidays I would help my family, as a shepherd with our goats in the hills and valleys around Feynan. We have around 100 goats and I would take them up into the mountains to find food and into valleys to the springs for water.

NN: What was the average day like for you as a shepherd?

AH: I would wake up around 06:00. By 07:00 I left our home with the goats and a donkey that carried my supply of water and food for the day. At around 10:00 I would stop with the goats to make tea and breakfast – usually vegetables, bread, sardines, tuna or occasionally some meat. We would then move on with the goats until around 14:00 where we would stop for lunch, which was usually similar to what I ate for breakfast. An hour and a half before sunset I would bring the goats back home in time to milk them and feed the kids. Once my chores were finished I would meet all of the local kids to play football in front of Feynan School, which was the best part of the day. After dark, I’d return home to have dinner with my family.

NN: What would your family have for dinner?

AH: Fatteh, which is a popular dish here, broken bits of dried homemade flat bread in seman (a product made from salted goat and sheep butter). Other times we would have lentils or freekeh, a cereal made from wheat. Then after dinner, we’d visit our neighbors or host them, and then go to bed.

NN: And what did you do when you finished studying at Feynan School?

AH: Feynan School finishes in the 10th grade. For my last two years of studies I went to the high school in Qurayqura, and lived with my uncle because it is around 8 km from Feynan. During the summer holiday, Feynan was being built and I worked at the site, helping build the lodge. I passed the Tawjihi (compulsory exam to graduate high school in Jordan) and then went to Mu’tah University in Kerak to study Archaeology and Tourism for four years. I graduated with good marks and am the first person in my family to earn a university degree.

NN: What did you do when you finished university?

AH: I came back home and taught English for 6 months at Feynan School. There was an open position at the lodge for a guide, so I applied and received the position. I have been working at Feynan now for 1 year and 2 months.

NN: What do you think of being a guide?

AH: I enjoy my work very much, my favorite thing is being able to meet people from all over the world that visit Feynan.

NN: What is your favorite hike at Feynan?

AH: Wadi Ghwayr. Specifically, Wadi Nakheel (Palm Canyon) that is a part of Wadi Ghwayr. It is my favorite place in Feynan, there is a small gorge that you can hike through, water and it is green! It also happens to be the route from my home to my fiancée’s village!

NN: So you are engaged Ali?

AH: (Responding with a giant smile)Yes, since November. Inshallah(God willing), we will marry soon.

NN: What kind of animals do you see around Feynan and how common is it to see animals?

AH: While out hiking, I’ve seen golden jackals, hyenas, ibex, fox and many birds. On the Wadi Dana hike you can see ibex and the rock hyrax, but to see wolves or other animals is not common due to their nocturnal activity and aversion to humans.

NN: Have you had any encounters with wolves?

AH: Yes, wolves will occasionally try to make off with our goats. A few years ago I was sleeping inside my home and I heard a lot of noise outside. When I rolled up the edge of our tent I saw a wolf 2 meters away from me wrestling with two of my dogs. The dogs drove off the wolf, but we then had a bigger problem. When goats smell wolves they become very frightened. Our entire herd broke out and scattered forcing us to chase them barefoot in the night. Fortunately, we saved all of our goats.

NN: Any other interesting run-ins with animals?

AH: Well, goats and ibex have the same breeding season, and I remember quite a few years ago during the breeding season seeing ibex just behind the lodge while I was out with our goats.

NN: That is quite remarkable. I’ve only seen them in Wadi Dana up in the mountains.

AH: During the breeding season it is not rare to see them much lower and closer to Feynan.

NN: Finally Ali, I would like to ask you how tourism can benefit local people while also preserving their way of life?

AH: If you follow the community’s way – their tradition and religion, you will enable opportunity while preserving your traditions. Feynan Ecolodge is an example of this.

Bedouin Tales: Abu Said and the Lost Camel


I’ve been spending a significant amount of time at Feynan and when I’m not out exploring new routes or working at the lodge I enjoy sitting with some of my local friends over tea in their homes. Listening to the stories of their lives, community and history is perhaps what I look forward to most at Feynan. I have decided to start putting ink to paper and recording these stories as a regular feature on our blog. Hopefully, you will find these tales interesting in making preparations to visit Feynan or when reminiscing about Feynan once you have returned home.

One of the guides at the lodge, Ahmad, was born not far from Feynan and his family continues to live just a stone’s throw from the lodge in Wadi Dana. Last week, while we were sitting over tea and arbood (a local staple for Bedouin shepherds; wheat bread baked over coals) on a trip to Wadi Dathneh he told me an interesting story that showcases the proficiency of Bedouin trackers.

His uncle, Abu Said, lives not far from Feynan in the arid desert of Wadi Araba. One day, Abu Said returned to his tent to find that one of his camels had vanished. Alarmed, he assembled relatives and neighbors to help him find the camel. After an extensive search, they lost the camel’s tracks and returned home. To lose a camel is an expensive matter, as camels can cost well over 3,000 Jordanian Dinars.

Seven years passed and Abu Said’s cousin showed up one day with unbelievable news, “I’ve found your camel’s tracks, the one you lost years ago.” Abu Said was incredulous. Although his cousin was known for his tracking it had been far too long for a camel to reappear. The next day they set out and followed the “tracks” that Abu Said’s cousin was sure belonged to the missing camel. Finally tracking it down, they came upon another tribe with many camels.

Abu Said asked for his camel back, but the other tribe was adamant that the camel was not Abu Said’s. A meeting was arranged that night in the home of a tribal elder to resolve the matter. “How can you prove this camel is yours?” the sheikh from the other tribe asked. Abu Said proceeded to share stories of his cousin’s ability to track animals and even identify specific tracks of his friends and relatives. Unimpressed, the other tribe told Abu Said that this was not proof. Abu Said replied, “If that camel has a scar on his rear-left leg, he is my camel. Before I lost him he was injured and we had to sear a wound leaving a visible scar. If there is no scar we will leave.” Just as he said, a scar was found on the camel’s rear-left leg and the camel was immediately returned to Abu Said.

-Nickolas Neibauer

Exhilarating new Sunrise Hike to be offered soon at Feynan Ecolodge

Feynan Ecolodge Sunrise Hike

I only consider myself a morning person, or someone who gladly and willfully awakes early, on two occasions: when heading off to the airport for travel or when I am in the wilderness. Feynan Ecolodge falls under the latter of the two and last week I was up early preparing to explore new routes for hikes. Believe me, it is easy to get up early when the view out your window is so inspiring and all that untamed nature is begging to be explored. As I left my room and met Nabil Tarazi, our Managing Director at EcoHotels, out front, the sounds from Bedouin tents in the distance–goats bleating and roosters crowing on the dawn set the stage for the beginning of the new hike we were to explore.

As we left Feynan, Nabil pointed to the mountain we would scale, “That green one there, no behind that one, the taller one.” I was going to need to stretch. We set off up a gentle slope just to the east of the lodge. Finding a Bedouin shepherds’ path we gradually began zig-zagging up the hills that lead to the Shara’a mountain range that separates Shobak, Petra and Dana Village from the desert plains of Wadi Araba. I  wondered just how long this had been a path and how many people over the 12,000 years Feynan has been inhabited for had walked the same route. Suddenly I became aware of the altitude gained, looking back, the lodge was much lower than us and sheer falls to either side began to form. I stopped often to peek over the edge and gaze into the wadis below the steep banks. A gnarled tree grew out of the banks just above the wadi’s shaded floor and shallow caves lined the cliff walls.

The Feynan Ecolodge Sunrise Path

Now we were exploring, and the fresh air, new sights and chirping birds woke me up better than morning coffee back at home ever does. It was already light out, and rays of sun were escaping over the eastern ridges and lighting up the valley below in shades of orange and bright rust. It was a good thing I was awake, because now these  shepherds’ paths started to become serious. I saw Nabil 10 paces ahead cross the top of a ravine and turn right around a tall promontory of rock mass. To the left the slope gave way exposing a cliff around a hundred meters tall. I followed and found my feet tracing the very ridge line of the mountainous hill we had climbed. The view was inspiring and we could begin to see the villages of Greigra and Rashaydeh to the south. To the east, the mountain-hills we had climbed were giving way to real peaks, in different shades of greens, browns and tans.

Nearing the summit of the Feynan Ecolodge Sunrise Hike

One more climb stood before us and we’d reach the top of our green little mountain. An ill-advised sprinting/scrambling contest began which left no clear winner and two very out-of-shape participants gasping for breath at the top of the final hill. The view was magnificent in those early morning hours and I quickly forgot about my own panting. I could see the entire 9 km stretch of dirt road linking Feynan to the world, beyond that villages and beyond those villages the dunes of Wadi Araba-perhaps even Palestine. Adjusting my focus down below, I could make out the archaeological ruins of the people who once lived at Feynan: Neolithic ruins and graves, a Roman aqueduct and the remnants of a Byzantine town.

Neolithic Ruins visible from Feynan Ecolodge Sunrise HikeBeginning our descent along a different route, we engaged some sections that required turning around and facing the rock to lower oneself down carefully. It was nothing too advanced in terms of climbing, but an area to definitely be mindful in. After negotiating the steep of it, we were back on shepherds’ paths, probably often used by the family members of Abu Khalil, whose summer and winter tent areas we had just circumnavigated. On the last flat foothill, before intersecting the road to the lodge, we witnessed the community fully awake as well. Bedouin women were walking with baskets perched atop heads in the distance, a child mounted on a donkey going off somewhere and hundreds of goats scurrying off to find water.

Feynan Ecolodge seen from the top of the hike

The new Sunrise Hike will begin being offered this fall. Recommendations are welcome for a name. Suggestions thus far include the Abu Khalil Sunrise Trek, Exhilarating Sunrise Trail or Ridgeline Dawn Hike. The guided hike takes around 2.5 hours to complete and will be an inspirational start to adventure filled days at Feynan Ecolodge. For reservations or more information, please visit

-Nickolas Neibauer