Visiting Joyous Jordan

This is a fantastic question, reader!

Yes, it's true, visitors to the Dead Sea may often end up in Jordan's cluster of plush five-star Crowne Plaza and Marriott resorts rather than seeing the breadth and width of the country.

But a number of Jordanian institutions have also put an astonishing amount of effort and energy towards supporting and sustaining responsible tourism over the past 50 years - and that makes it relatively straightforward to plan a trip where your money is actually going back to local communities.

For instance, if you head out to the stunning Wadi Rum valley, you’ll find that virtually all of the tourist enterprises are run by local Bedouin families from the Zalabia tribe, from day tours to overnight camps, and collectively organised by the local Rum Tourism Cooperative.

Even when booking a visit to ultra-popular Petra, it’s not too difficult to skip past the big international tourism agencies and support brilliant local guides and homestays instead - one of the best-rated private tours on TripAdvisor is run by Abdullah Nawafleh, who grew up in the area working on the excavation site. (Guests rave about Abdullah’s brilliant knowledge of Petra, his love of Jordan, his kindness, and his singing ability.)

In the north of Jordan, Baraka Destinations organises tours and experiences run by locals (from archaeological hikes to basket-weaving and beekeeping).

And even if you head out for a hike across the many isolated wadis, canyons and waterfalls of the Dead Sea Trail, you could end up stumbling onto one of the handicraft workshops and shops which are run by Wild Jordan, an offshoot of Jordan's longstanding Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, with the aim of supporting craftswomen from local communities.

Back in 2018, the Jordanian tourism board actually created its own official ‘Meaningful Travel Map’, which encourages travellers to visit community-run sites, hotels, guest-houses and social enterprises across the country.

The map isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start and offers a wide range of different possibilities for your next trip (or your next tips for European tourists).

Hope you enjoy and safe travels!

A few more of our favourites:

Learn to cook Grandma's mansaf at Beit Sitti: In Amman’s historic and increasingly trendy Jabal Al Lweibdeh neighbourhood, you can book a Jordanian cooking class at Beit Sitti (or Grandmother’s House); set up by the three Haddad sisters, this kitchen supports local women to become chefs and create their own eateries.

Stop in for a bite (and meet a cat) at Al Numeira: At the southern tip of the Dead Sea, the South Ghor region sees precious little rainfall - and as with the Sea itself, which is perilously shrinking, this poses a number of urgent challenges for the local people and the environment alike.

The Al Numeira Environmental Association has been set up to carry out the vital work of supporting local communities in sustainable living and promoting environmental awareness.

The Association’s team of volunteers can organise biking, hiking, and local community visits for travellers, and their restaurant provides mouth-watering and extremely generous platters of local food (although as one wanderer reports on Google, watch out for the friendly neighbourhood cats who may try and swipe your lunch).

Stay with Orjan locals: Based out of Orjan village to the north of Amman (famed for its soaps), the Al Alyoun Society is a local-tourism cooperative which can help you with organising guides for the nearby hiking trails, as well as homestays with local families. (You can read one account of an Orjan homestay visit here!)

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