Finding Your Desert Oasis
While the rest of the Middle East boils, Jordan’s epic canyonlands are quiet—and empty
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Location is everything. Which is why Jordan—long a hub for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring historical ruins and Bedouin culture—has seen a 22 percent drop in tourism since the tumult in neighboring Egypt and Syria began. But the Middle East has been rife with conflict for decades, and Jordan has remained calm. The Global Peace Index ranks Jordan above France and Argentina in key areas like security and the potential for violence. The upshot of the surrounding unrest is that you can have the sprawling, multicolored canyonlands of the Dana Biosphere Reserve—closer to Israel and Saudi Arabia than to Syria or Egypt—all to yourself. Explore it from the Feynan Ecolodge, a 26-room hotel that’s totally off-grid.
The lodge generates hot water through solar panels and is lit almost exclusively by candles. And because it has next to no light pollution, its outdoor patio and rooftop (the latter equipped with a ten-inch telescope) are perfect stargazing spots. Plus, Feynan offers daily, complimentary sunset hikes, and guests can book a guide for full-day excursions into the Dana’s slot canyons and Neolithic archaeological sites ($26). The guides are local Bedouins who know the area, and when you’re done they’ll cook up platters of makloubeh that are so rich, you won’t even notice they’re vegetarian.
Book your flight to Amman and reserve a ride in one of the lodge’s 4×4 pickups for the three-hour drive to Feynan. Deluxe rooms, $140.
Set out on foot or by truck for Petra, the famed city of ornate tombs carved into red sandstone canyons. The guided 41-mile, four-night trek traverses the Sharah Mountains on Bedouin shepherd trails. From $1,700.
Crib the secrets of making falafel and manakish, a type of flatbread, and stirring the right spices into lentil soup and tabbouleh with a Bedouin cooking class. $42.