The Dana Reserve in Jordan, a place to spend the night, having fun with locals and eating and dancing.
One of our best winter breaks was spent traveling around Jordan in our little rental car. We were able to drive the length and breadth of the country, with stops wherever and whenever we wanted along the way. One of the best drives on this great trip was meandering down the King’s Highway on our way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra.
I’m not sure if the paved road of today still follows along the same route laid out long ago during the biblical times of Moses or even the more recent trade route of the Nabateans from the Negev Desert in Israel; but if you have the time and the car you should follow this route through its beautiful mountains and wadis. On the day of the photo above we had left Kara and it’s commanding Crusader castles, and we thought a stop off at Dana Nature Reserve for a mid-afternoon hike would be a nice break from the driving.
As with so many of our adventures, time got away from us that day and by the time we got to Dana it was late afternoon and the sky was heavy with rain. The question was do we press on to Petra for a late arrival or stop and try to find accommodations in this wilderness area?
Luckily, the call of the unknown pulled us down the steep road to Dana Village. There wasn’t much there as we came around the last hair-pin turn and finally laid eyes on the rambling, eerily deserted stone village. A few lights twinkled from bare bulbs lighting one or two of the streets harboring signs of life. But it was now getting late and we were committed.
Signs led us towards what seemed to be the only hotel in the village, the Wadi Dana Lodge, though we did pass one or two guesthouses. That one hotel was a beautifully restored cluster of stone houses and stables, but there was a tour bus parked alongside and the idea of spending the night with 50 or 60 tourists from this coach tour didn’t seem as authentic as our stay in this crumbling village demanded.
Instead we drove back up the few hundred meters to the guesthouse that seemed most likely to be open. Walking into the courtyard, we were greeted with the smell of bread baking in an outdoor stone oven and a middle-aged mustachioed man carrying a rifle. Well, as it turns out, he had been hunting and had just returned. His wife was in cleaning the rabbits he had brought back and he was all smiles as he showed us a couple of rooms.
The rooms were very basic with clean sheets and hot water. The rough-hewn stone walls were rustic and about as authentic as you could want. We were happy with our find and settled in for the night.
True Jordanian dinner and entertainment were to be found on the rooftop terrace now closed in by canvas and heated with a small oil stove. We ate a delicious dinner of steaming rabbit stew and fresh bread washed down with cups of mint tea.
As the night progressed the owner’s friends slowly drifted in to the promise of warmth and companionship; and we were soon singing (or at least humming), and dancing along to the masterful playing of Mustafa on his stringed instrument. The shish-a smoke, mint tea, and music all worked together to magically transport us to a desert bedouin tent under a star-filled night.
Have you been to Jordan and traveled the King’s Highway? What stops did you make along the way?
Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.