Tag Archives: Feynan

Day 11 – Dead (Sea) Ahead

Wednesday 25 May 2022 – With the dawning of the day (always welcome at Feynan, as it means you can see where you’re going for a change) came the dawning of two realisations: 1) my digestive system, although less disruptive than 24 hours earlier, was still mutinous; 2) I was now developing a more ubiquitous crop of mouth ulcers than ever I had experienced in a youth dogged by the buggers.  The obvious suspect was the suspect herbs from the avuncular Arab yesterday.  They say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but when the horse is an Arab, perhaps I should exercise more caution.

I was at least feeling well enough to wander round Feynan Ecolodge and take some photos, because it’s a striking place.

It’s part (the jewel in the crown, I think) of the Ecohotels portfolio. “EcoHotels is a privately owned Jordanian company that provides escapes embedded in beautiful natural areas, with a rich local culture, and offering unique memorable experiences” goes their website. Well, it was being fucking memorable as far as I was concerned, that’s for sure.

Cheap shots aside, it’s a remarkable place and a good example of something that eco-tourists will find a rewarding place to visit, as it’s a great base for hiking as well as learning to knit your own yoghurt and other sustainable pursuits.  It’s undeniably photogenic in the morning sunlight.

they take their sustainability seriously

and there appears to be scope for activities which betray a tenuous grip on sanity.

Access to the roof gives a nice view over the restaurant terrace

and there are quirky touches, both planned

and not so much.

There’s also scope for some arty photos, which, of course, I couldn’t resist.

Breakfast and packing done, it was time to bumpety-bump our way, despite a desert traffic jam,

to reception to meet Saeed to take us on our way to our next and, airport excepted, final destination; the Kempinski Ishtar hotel by the Dead Sea.  En route, he found us a pharmacy which was able to supply us with some Imodium, as I had, erm, run through our original stock.

We passed a few scenes of note, such as this crop of mulukhiyah, or jute’s mallow.

(whose name originates from mulukia, meaning food for royalty) which apparently cooks up well in a not dissimilar fashion (I’m told) to okra. Saeed obviously esteems (!) it – he bought 10 kilos of the freshly cut vegetable to take home to his family and neighbours…

Lot’s cave was visible in the distance above a zigzag path –

yes, there;

(see later) and we got various intimations of the scale of exploitation of the minerals that fringe the Dead Sea.

It’s not just salt, apparently; various minerals, such as potash, manganese and magnesium can be separated and shipped out; we saw a couple of potash lorries (which have replaced the trains which used to carry this freight) and they were big buggers.

Saeed found us a viewpoint where we could clearly see the salt fringing the shore.

this viewpoint being in front of the pillar which is reportedly Lot’s wife

ah, you remember the story now, the one who was turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back to look at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  After this happened, Lot went off to that cave, which is now a cultural exhibit, “Prophet Lot’s Cave”. I suppose “the Prophet Lot was not a nappy one”. Thank you.  Thank you for reading my joke.

We had one more thing to look at before we got to the hotel area of the Dead Sea, which was Wadi Mujib, a place where one can go canyoning (after, presumably, some kind of unfortunate mental episode).  Saeed engineered an opportunity to go in to the adventure centre there and take some photos.  It’s a nicely set up place

and we crept along towards where people can, despite their better judgement, plunge through water as they walk along a canyon.

I’m a sucker for scenery, but I have reservations about going this far to see things. Jane, however, is firmly up for having a go at it at some point, which makes me feel very insecure.

Then we reached the hotel, which seems to take security quite seriously and was the first place that bothered to run a mirror underneath the car. Obviously it was clean enough so we were let in, and allowed to walk unmonitored through a security scanning arch.

At this point, the utter perfection in the execution of the arrangements made by Audley in the UK and UTA in Jordan showed just a tiny crack.  The UTA agent, Amer, had insisted that we go direct to the hotel, thus not leaving time to visit the Dead Sea Panorama Complex which had been our original plan.  But when we got to check in, we found that our room was not going to be ready for another hour, so we could have made that visit.  OK, it was an excuse for a gin in the lobby, but it means that we were inconvenienced to suit the schedule of the UTA agent, who was clearly in a hurry to get on to the next thing, but that’s not how things should work.

Anyway, we eventually made it to our room, which is lovely.  It has a balcony with a view

(not that you’ll find me sitting out there during the day – it’s 38°C out there as I type, and this trip is enabling me to gather further evidence that my cut off for being able to function is a good 10° cooler than that) and the view is of a very posh, but still resortish, resort.

Having reacquainted ourselves with air conditioning and internet, we strolled out to explore the place a bit and to find a bite to eat, settling on a restaurant offering “Mediterranean” – mainly Italian – cuisine just in time to order before the end of their lunch time service.

Afterwards we went back to the room and brought the blog up to only a day behind as the sun set.

People who understand cricket and message training for press relations will understand the term “dead bat”, meaning to take the sting out of a delivery safely.  Whilst sitting on the balcony, Jane found out about another interpretation when she was disturbed by a small thump:

A bat had, for some reason, flown into the enclosed balcony and hit the glass doors, which is very unusual.  Anyway, as it turned out, everything was OK and no bats were harmed in the rather tortured production of this paragraph – it upped and flew away about its batty business, unaffected as far as Jane could tell.

In the evening darkness we could see the lights of Jerusalem over the palm trees

and so it seemed a good idea to get our heads down in readiness for the next day’s excursion – to Bethany, the site of Christ’s baptism. So please come back to read about how that went, won’t you?


Day 10 – We go our separate ways

Tuesday 24 May 2022.

Steve’s Story – Off the blog and on the bog

For once, the tendency to be prolix that I acquired from my father will not detain you long, reader, as I took very small part in the day’s planned adventure. Use of fancy words or sophisticated grammatical and stylistic construction does not hide the bald fact that I got the shits.

Fortunately, we had brought some Imodium, which was brought to bear within seconds of my condition becoming obvious and so the night was downscaled from being disastrous to merely horrid. It was clear that a 15km hike would be beyond me. Fortunately, the arrangements for the day involved our bags being transferred to the day’s destination, the Feynan Ecolodge, by car; so it seemed best that I accompany them. Getting from the Guest House room to the car was about the limit of my mobility, and so I climbed into a Mitsubishi 4×4, expertly piloted by a young lad called Ehab and off we went, with me hoping that the Imodium would protect his seat coverings and good nature from abuse. Ali kindly pointed out the toothbrush I hadn’t packed and the reception also kindly handed me a packed lunch – a nice thought but not really the best idea.

The hike is about 15 km and Saeed had told us that Feynan had a reception that was half an hour’s 4×4 drive from the lodge itself, so I was expecting the whole journey to take about an hour, maybe a little longer, and that seemed a reasonable time for my abused digestive system to maintain a semblance of good order. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the Nature of Dana (see what I did there?), and so the journey Ehab and I undertook looked like this:

(Jane’s route was a straightish although at times arduous path between Dana and Feynan; we had to get to Qraiqreh round the outside of the nature reserve and then wind our way to Feynan.)

Jane left at just after 8am and Ehab and I at around 1130. I got to our room about 5 minutes before Jane did; in other words, the whole car journey took about three hours, with the last 40 minutes picking our way delicately around rocks in the faintest of tracks to get from Qraiqreh to Feynan.

(Something slightly odd took place on this final stretch to the lodge. Ehab stopped by a Toyota pickup and greeted its owner, an older, avuncular- looking Arab, telling him, I infer, that I had a stomach upset. To my surprise, this chap spoke to me in pretty good English and insisted that I take a small handful of some dried, pale green herbs. I had to grind it up between the palms of my hands, swallow it and chase it down with water as, he said, it was “very strong”. He promised I’d be better in ten minutes. He was wrong. Twice. In the first instance, I noticed no digestive improvement. For the second, read tomorrow’s entry on these pages.)

Ehab is a cheerful and friendly chap with a smattering of English, but not enough to sustain a conversation with someone who feels like shit. And I know he meant well when he insisted that I drank a can of Mirinda Apple and wanted me to eat some snacky-type junk food or other, which I managed to avoid doing. I can further report that he has a taste in up-tempo modern Arabic pop music, played slightly too loudly. And when we’d been going nearly an hour and I saw the sign “Petra 20km”, I began to fear that he’d been told to drop me off there; but if you look at the map, you can see the route goes towards Wadi Musa, the Petra town. But the length of the journey, combined with my expectations of that and my general poorly feeling meant that I spent most it of either worrying that we were going to the wrong place or hoping that the next major building I saw would be the Feynan reception.

However, we got there, and I collapsed in our room

and took, frankly, very little part in anything noteworthy for the rest of the day. So I’ll let Jane tell her version of events.

Jane’s Story

The best laid plans and all that – as you’ve just read, Steve was hit by the dreaded Travellers’ Tummy overnight – odd, since we have been eating the same foods and it is usually me who suffers from this sort of thing. Delicate female digestion…!
Anyway, we decided that several hours hiking in likely 30+ degrees heat with a squitty tummy was really not a good idea, so we arranged that Steve should rest until they were ready to transfer the bags from Dana to Feynan, and would then travel with them; while I would do the hike anyway.

So it came to pass that shortly after 8am, after a quick breakfast, I set out with Salim my guide.

There is a fairly sharp descent from the Guesthouse for 2 km or so, the track is well defined but small skittery stones on a harder surface – just about my least favourite surface to go downhill on. Still, I made it intact; after the first steeper section the trail the path winds more gently down into the bottom of the valley.

The Guesthouse is just visible high above

And the end of the valley dispiritingly far ahead!

Once at the bottom of the valley the trail is less clear; obviously you have to follow the valley along, but while there are some newer direct paths Salim preferred to follow what he called the old route, zigzagging between patches of shade and points of interest – such as this beautiful mini-Siq full of oleander and caper blossom.

The path wound on, sometimes rougher, sometimes clearer, through towering scenery.

Fantastic beasts appeared

Rock shapes like tortured faces

And some less fantastic apparitions but much more cute (mother and daughter).

We took the occasional rest stop in some shade as the mercury was rising!

About 3 hours in, I thought I must be suffering heatstroke when Salim enquired “would you like to drink tea?” Being British of course the answer “yes please” came without conscious thought – and I settled in the shade of an acacia tree and watched as he retrieved a battered kettle and tea from his backpack, and lit a fire on a “hearth” that was obviously well used by those in the know.

Fortified by tea and some of the packed lunch supplied by the Guesthouse, we trudged on through extraordinary rock formations

until after about 4 ½ hours the valley began to open out

and show evidence of Bedouin habitation

and we reached Feynan Ecolodge after about 5 hours hike. I have to say, I was very glad to reach the end; 15km in 30+ degrees was enough for me! Stalwart Salim, however, was going to take a short rest and then hike back up to Dana, since (as you have heard) getting from Feynan to anywhere is a bit of a poser…

I found Steve putting a brave face on feeling really shitty (see what I did there?) so we made him as comfy as possible, with a damp towel to cool him down (sleeping under a damp towel is magic if you are feeling the heat). The Ecolodge of course, being an Eco Lodge, prides itself on eschewing such ecologically dubious but occasionally useful concepts as aircon. There was a fan. There was a nifty porous clay bottle to simultaneously hold, seep and cool (by evaporation) water.

There was an electric light in the bathroom, and candles in niches elsewhere.

I went to explore the premises, called in at reception to set up our transport for the morning and get some matches, then as darkness fell the staff set candle lanterns on the dining tables

we lit our candles

and found lanterns at our doors.

Steve couldn’t face the thought of food, I wasn’t hungry, so we skipped dinner and eventually slept off and on (the loo in Steve’s case). If you want to know how we fared on the morrow, join us in the next thrilling instalment to find out?