Reposted from the Huffington Post:
1. Descending Wadi Dana
2. Feynan Stargazing
After the sun sets, the evening pastime is stargazing on the rooftop terrace. Suleiman is the master of its larger-than-life telescope. With his green laser pen he points out how to navigate one’s way from one constellation to the next. In eloquent English he instructs us: “Follow the Big Dipper and draw a line that extends five times from the distance between the final two stars. There: you arrive at the North Star. Oh, and this is where I was born”, he points his laser to a cave about four hundred meters from the lodge, “and where I live now”, shifting the green beam to a Bedouin tent one hundred meters further. He then reprograms the telescope. “Here are the rings of Saturn. There, the four moons of Jupiter.” Peddling through time and space, Suleiman hosts us between earth and sky.
3. Walking the Rim of Mt. Safaha
4. Mysterious Little Petra
We enter through an alternative route, a “back stage” entrance into Petra. No déjà vu for us. (A practical note is in order here: you do need to have entry tickets pre-arranged). We walk from up high on the flanks of Mt. al-Deir towards the Monastery. This is Petra’s largest monument, its iconic urn visible from afar. Few sights in the world can be more rewarding after a few hours of walking. The dimensions are incredible: the doorway is taller than a house; the urn on top over 10m high. In front of the Monastery we sit down for tea and philosophize on our journey these past days and how the world can get familiar with the other face of the Middle East. We come up with a long list of travel and film celebrities who should make the foot journey we have just made.
6. Mt. Haroun Hospitality
Just before our final ascent, we reach a plateau with a small house. A local police man stands guard here. His duty is lonesome: he stays put for a week on the mountain and then is released by another officer. He invites us for tea, and we talk. His middle and last names are Salaam, “peace”. Through a cracked screen on his phone he shows us pictures of the snow that he was in just two weeks ago. Only a trickle of people now pass each day, sometimes no one. A year ago there were dozens. These are tough times for tourism in Jordan. He seems content we’re making it up the mountain and advises us an ancient path to take back. I give him my Abraham Path passport and he signs in Arabic: “Jabal Haroun, 8 March 2015”.
7. The Bridge on Foot
For long Jordanian tourism has struggled with the question of how to bridge the gap between its very solid safety record and security perceptions in the rest of the world. There is a group that is literally bridging that gap with their feet and they deserve more attention: a wide collective of Jordanian outdoor leaders and explorers have come together to create the continuous 600+ km Jordan Trail connecting the forested hills of Um Qais and Ajloun in the north to the spectacular deserts of Wadi Rum and Aqaba in the south. The Abraham Path follows and supports this route, of which Dana-Petra is one spectacular section. Jordan’s hiking scene is homegrown with thousands of members and developing rapidly as its leaders are sewing together the best that the country has to offer in people, nature and cultural heritage. They are laying the basis for a new kind of tourism in the country: slower, fairer, more enriching. And they are drawing on a crowd that is more resilient to the frenzy of Middle East geopolitics than conventional tourism.
On our way back from Mt. Haroun, we finally pass Petra’s movie star icon of the Treasury, traditionally the first site visitors drop their jaws at. Opposite is a cliff with high up, at its very edge, a small tent. Here one of Petra’s most amazing rock climbers hovers far above the tourist crowds. My friend David calls him “the Mystic Bedouin”. When the Dana-Petra route was explored last year, the team took a winding footpath up the cliff and asked about any direct ways to the Treasury below him. His answer: “if you open your mind there are many ways.”
Dana to Petra can be walked in 4 (very experienced hikers only), 5, or 6 days, or parts of the trail for those with less time. The walk is possible both independently, and with guides and luggage transfers. Options for lodging are varied between luxury ecolodges, Bedouin tents, wilderness camping and guesthouses/hotels in Petra. Elaborate details on the walk (maps, GIS, tour operators, site descriptions, etc.) can be found at abrahampath.org/path/dana.