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     Dana

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A walk around Petra

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A walk around Petra

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Made in Jordan
Bedouin weaving

JORDAN OUT OF DOORS
N
ATURE RESERVES

     Dana

     Wadi Mujib
     Ajloun

     Azraq and Shaumari

Trekking in Jordan
Canyoning in Jordan
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Road to Mudawarra
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Two Bedouin friends and their camels

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Towns and Tourist Sites in Jordan
Kerak
(with short notes on Wadi Mujib and Dana)

The immensely strong castle of Kerak was one of the prizes of the wars for the Holy Land during the period of the Crusades. This photo gives you an idea of just how strong it was. There is an enlargement of the photo on the page of photos of Kerak in the Photo Gallery.

Situated on the Kings' Highway, Kerak is chiefly known for its castle, one of the chain of "Crusader Castles" which once stretched from Turkey to the Egyptian border. These castles were supposed to be in line of sight of the next one along, and to be able to pass a message from Aqaba to the Turkish border in less than twelve hours, using a heliograph or light signals at night.

To be honest, and whatever the guidebooks say, I find Kerak Castle much less attractive than the castles of Syria. It has a particularly bloodthirsty history; notably under the ownership of Reynald de Castillon, who married the widow of the previous owner. [One wonders a bit about that marriage!] Reynald was killed at the battle of Hattin, some sources say that Saladin (Salah ad-Din in Arabic) took care of him personally, but the bloody history of the castle continued. When it was besieged by Saladin's army, it is said that the defenders "sold" their wives and children to the besiegers in exchange for food. Perhaps the unhappy atmosphere is still there.

In any case, Saladin was impressed by the "courage" of the defenders, and when they finally surrendered he freed them without asking for ransoms.

Nowadays, Kerak has a reputation of being a "radical" town. Any time there is unrest in Jordan for whatever reason, the citizens of Kerak are invariably in the front line. They particularly distinguished themselves a few years ago when the price of grain, and hence of flour and bread, was sharply increased and it took a personal appeal from King Hussein to calm them.

There is rather a nice site about Kerak and the Crusades, written from the Arab point of view, at http://www.acsamman.edu.jo/~ms/crusades/index.html

Few people stay in Kerak for longer than it takes to look over the castle, although there are a few hotels. If you want to eat in the town, you will almost certainly be directed to the restaurant actually inside the castle. However there are a couple of acceptable and much cheaper alternatives immediately opposite the main entrance if you just want a quick meal. If you are happy with omelette, salad and/or filafel sandwiches, you will pay half the cheapest price of the big restaurant. You can also get very good fresh fruit juice there, and the service is usually very rapid.

Wadi Mujib

There are some more photos of Wadi Mujib on the Photo Gallery pages
and a full description of the
Nature Reserve of Wadi Mujib in the "Jordan out of doors" section

 

The scale of the cliffs in this photo is difficult to see at first glance, but I assure you that those are fair-sized trees that you can see down near the water.

A spectacular canyon [sometimes called "the Grand Canyon of the Middle East") crossed by the Kings' Highway, this area is now a Nature Reserve, administered by the Jordanian Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature http://www.middleeast.com/mujib.htm. It is well over 500m deep and runs down from the mountains to the Dead Sea. For those interested in exploring a dramatic site and seeing some of the rare birds and plants to be found there, the RSCN organises treks through the canyon. See the page on the Nature Reserve for some descriptions of these. If you are interested in "canyoning" see also the page on "Canyoning in Jordan"

The entrance to the Reserve and the RSCN office are close to the Dead Sea, just beside the bridge which crosses the Wadi, and you can get full information there. There is another entrance at Faqa'a close to the Kings' Highway, but you must have reserved a trekking tour to be able to enter here. There is a map of the Nature Reserve and the trails there at the Wadi Mujib Map page.

Dana
There are some more photos of Dana on the Photo Gallery pages and a full description of the Nature Reserve of Wadi Mujib in the "Jordan out of doors" section

Dana, some 20 kms south of Tafileh on the Kings' Highway, is quite beautiful. It is a nature reserve in a spectacular valley, there is a difference of 1500m between the floor of the valley and the hills around it. There are two cheap hotels: the Dana Hotel (phone  ++962.3.227.0537) which is run as a village cooperative and which deserves support, and the Dana Tower Hotel (e-mail at dana_tower2@hotmail.com  by phone at: 00962-795-688.853 or fax at: 00962.3.227.0237) - both come with good recommendations) and the Guesthouse (Tel +962.3.227.0497 Fax +962.3.227.0498), from the terrace of which one has a gorgeous view. They have an email address but I am told that they don't reply to emails! If you want to try anyway here it is : dhana@rscn.org.jo. [Send a fax as well, huh?] . It's really best if you reserve here through the RSCN directly - see www.rscn.org.jo

Accommodation in Dana is in fact something of a problem, there are not nearly enough rooms to fill the demand, and in the tourist season you are likely to have a considerable problem finding somewhere to stay.

In fact this is yet another ancient village in Jordan which was falling into abandon. The only water had to be brought in on donkeyback from a spring higher up on the mountain and several miles away. One of the first things the RSCN did was to run a conduit to the village from the spring, which encouraged a few of the older people to stay on. The Reserve is providing employment for many of the younger ones, who otherwise would have joined the exodus.

The official brochure says : " Dana is a world of natural treasures containing a wealth of natural scenery, ancient ruins and a large number of flora and fauna, some only indigenous to the area. The Dana reserve is a system of wadis and rugged mountains, which extend from the top of the Jordan Rift Valley down to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba. It supports a wide variety of wildlife, including many rare species of plants and animals.

The Dana village is a great example of a timeless and traditional Jordanian village, it contains a visitors' center selling organically grown produce from the village terrace gardens, and silver jewellery and pottery produced by the women of the village. The reserve contains the Rummana and Feinan campsites and a Village guesthouse. Dana offers a selection of trails to key points of interest for both the casual and adventurous hiker."

Dana is now getting known as a serious tourist attraction, even for those who are not particularly interested in hiking. It is possible to do a "gentle stroll" ("Traditional Tribal Arts Tour") around the village, and visit the various handicraft centres, varying from jam and soap making to silver jewellery. See the page about the Nature Reserves where you will find a great deal more detail.  It is not very easy to reach for those without their own transport, but the Petra bus from Madaba would make a detour if you wish. Otherwise, apart from one daily bus from Amman, you need to go through Tafileh. Dana is about 40kms from Petra, but no direct public transport links the two [a pity], you would have to go back to Tafileh and from there to Ma'an. Like Petra and Wadi Rum, it needs a few days to visit properly, but even just sitting on the terrace of the Guesthouse, you can appreciate the beauty and the peace of this site. One thing about the difficulty of access is that it is much less frequented than would otherwise be the case.

 

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