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Dana. The beauty of the desert

Dana. The beauty of the desert

A stone village that originated in the fifteenth century. A thousand and one night scenario. A sand-colored crib surrounded by rocks, mountains and bushes. Located within a nature reserve where the use of medicinal herbs is studied and the inhabitants are involved in the production of handicrafts and organic foods. A hundred archaeological sites ranging from the Nabataean to the Islamic period were counted in the reserve.

Have you ever been hypnotized by the turquoise color of a lizard? To cross a fantastic landscape of rocks, gorges and canyons, on whose bushes the birds fly happily? To dine in a tent in the middle of a desert of rocks and then go out into the silence to look at a sky so big that it seems to envelop us and protect us with its infinite beauty? A three hour drive from Amman and two and a half from the Red Sea, lies the Dana Biosphere Reserve, where this bliss becomes experience. Nature experience - the reserve is an important source of biodiversity with its almost 700 species of plants and 500 of animals - and of culture: it is in fact managed by the RSCN (Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature), which is trying to bring the human presence in the Wadi Faynan area (the wadi, wadi in Arabic, is the bed or canyon of a watercourse in the desert regions). It is in particular the ancient Ottoman village of Dana, abandoned by a generation, on which the recovery of the historical memory in the Reserve area is being concentrated. Which is characterized by a system of wadis and mountains that from 1700 meters of maximum altitude of the Rift Valley plateaus reaches the desert depression of the Wadi Araba, 50 meters below sea level. This area is rich in archaeological sites from the Paleolithic, Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. In the southern part of the reserve, the Feinan site with its copper mines from the Nabataean era is one of the most important examples of the history of Jordan.

Dana is located near the Road of the Kings, at the eastern end of the Reserve, at an altitude of 1100 meters, and dominates the valley of the same name from a precipice. It starts from the Visitor Center of the Reserve and you arrive at the village on foot by walking a few hours. Between red rock escarpments and sandstone cliffs, you can follow the Rummana path (meaning "pomegranate") that runs along the stony gorges and pinnacles of Wadi Dana where the griffins fly. Or the Wadi Dana path on the old Bedouin tracks. Or the path of the White Dome that, passing the slopes of the wadi, connects the Rummana campsite with the terraced gardens of the village. Coming this way, one has the feeling of being inside a vision. Dana is a sand-colored nativity scene surrounded by rocks, mountains and green bushes. Its collapsed houses of stone and cypress wood, plastered with mud, with flat roofs, are one with the landscape. The village almost seems to descend into the wadi rift. Dana from the sixteenth or seventeenth century lived thanks to its three water sources and the good land for grazing. About thirty years ago almost all the inhabitants abandoned it, attracted by the possibility of working in a cement plant further downstream. To stem the phenomenon, the Reserve was created, and immediately the RSCN began to restructure the old houses and to encourage ecotourism as a form of conservation of nature and income for the inhabitants. When the artisans and traders have returned to Dana, the battle can be won. The most beautiful battle that fights the Middle East.

Fifty families of the Reserve are allowed to graze livestock only at certain times of the year in order not to damage the vegetation. Bedouin women have gone from breeding goats, harmful to the environment, to the manufacture of candles, silver jewels, leather or ceramic objects, soaps with olive oil, jams, herbal teas, which they sell to tourists through the Feynan Ecolodge. Tourism is strictly ecological: you go trekking, go on foot (except for the sections where you need a vehicle) and sleep in the white tents of Rummana camping. Walking through these paths, you may come across an old oven, be invited to tea from a Bedouin family, visit a workshop where women work silver. In the hot heat, the view of the pink flowers of the oleanders, the reed gardens, the centenarian trees - elms, cypresses, acacias, junipers - of a "thousand and one nights" nature is restful. In the terraced gardens, farmers grow olives, fig trees and aromatic herbs. And it seems incredible that there is hell in neighboring Syria.

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