One of the things John and I do when we travel is try to push the envelope. That is to say, what is the most “culturally immersed” activity we can do or place we can go. And sometimes it’s not easy or is a little uncomfortable at times. I’m ok with that. When I’m old (soon) and cranky (too late) I imagine we’ll dial it back a bit, but until then… we’re going off the grid.
The next stop in our travels was Feynan EcoLodge in Jordan. It’s here – far away from any big city, far away from the familiar. The whole hotel is off the grid and completely run with solar panels. (There is running water and a light in your bathroom, but no electricity or lights in your room. If you want to plug in your devices, the front desk has outlets and there’s wifi down there too.)
But I don’t want to focus on what it doesn’t have, that’s not the point. The lodge is in the middle of a Bedouin village. Bedouins are a nomadic people that live the way their parents, grandparents, great grandparents did… and so on and so on. While they do not have typical Western homes, gridded power, Cablevision bill, or a Sephora account they do not live their life out of necessity – they are not impoverished and it isn’t because they have no choice. They choose to have this life for many reasons: out of tradition, for love of nature and their land. I’m too “city” to be able to do it justice, but this love of their way of life is so intense it’s what gives birth to their famed poetry.
And this lodge allows a cultural exchange of the Bedouins and those that travel to their land. You can choose different activities to engage in: learn how to make Bedouin coffee, take a cooking class of local foods, take hikes and biking tours, and the one I was most looking forward to was shepherding with a local shepherd. This will come in a later post.
After Wadi Mujib, we arrived at the reception outpost. Our driver dropped us off and we moved into a 4×4 vehicle since where we were going was unpaved, rocky, and full of potholes that would make even the Van Wyck jealous.
Finally we made it to the lodge. Turns out we are the only ones staying there that night, and for the next 2 nights! We had the whole place to ourselves!
Here John’s Jordanian head scarf came in VERY handy. I came prepared with SPF 50 rashguard and completely breathable hiking pants from Athleta. Best. Purchase. Ever. I wore this outfit for 3 days straight (with a proper sink washing!)
We didn’t plan much for that day, since Wadi Mujib and the day of travel had its way with us. We met a little kitten who was on duty for any little undesirables that might make their way too close to the lodge.
He looks ferocious here, but he was friendly. We ended up naming him Piccolo.
Dinner were local vegetarian dishes and we loved it. The feature was a Bedouin bread, shrak, that we loved dipping into all of the tasty sauces. And, as expected, I had not one gluten reaction to any of it.
After dinner, we headed up to the roof for some stargazing with our guide, Suleiman. The weather was hot and dry earlier, but now it had cooled off and so comfortable.
We reclined on some cushioned mats and waited for the sky to become like thick, black dye with stars scattered like the sand on the shore.
Suleiman, with his laser pointer at the ready, showed us constellation after constellation. In between constellations, he’d talk about how much he enjoyed his pastoral life.
It being Ramadan, he became a bit of a night owl and would stay up through the night tending to the many duties, and only catching some sleep from 6am – 11am. He went on to tell us that this night a friend of his was bringing in two male goats from a nearby heard. Suleiman’s heard was not multiplying as expected- the male goats were not “doing their job, they were lazy” … so he was hoping the visiting male goats would get down to business.
John asked how likely it would be successful. Suleiman answered, “The Milky Way is beautiful tonight. Very romantic.”
Some goat love was about to go down.
And he was right, the Milky Way was beautiful that night!
Suleiman suprised us with the lodge’s very professional telescope. It had to be wheeled out and one could punch in coordinates that would cause it to swivel directly to whatever it was you were searching out in the night sky.
We saw Saturn (and its rings!), distant galaxies, and bespeckled constellations. Don’t ask me, I cannot remember the names of them. But it was wonderful and made me wish I lived in a place where this activity is achievable any night you wanted.
The room was still a little warm from the day’s sun. We were offered, and quickly accepted, to sleep up on the roof, right where we were on the cushioned mats for stargazing. It was wonderful, and with no other guests to share it with, so romantic. This Bedouin life was getting to me.
Suleiman takes us for the evening sunset hike and invites us into his family’s tent for dinner!