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

30/03/2015

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?

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 Feynan.com.

-Nickolas Neibauer