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

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 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