A line in the sand

Feynan Ecolodge is a low-impact, high quality experience in the desert of Jordan.

I'm sitting inside a Bedouin tent as the pestle strikes the metal mortar, making it ring. The man in traditional robe and headdress crushing roasted coffee beans by an open hearth is Abu Khilim, and the ringing sound tells his neighbours it's coffee time.

It's a tradition practised for generations in Wadi Feynan, a dry rocky valley within Jordan's Dana Biosphere Reserve. The goat-hair tent is surprisingly roomy, held up by several poles, its floor covered by colourful matting and cushions. There are goats bleating outside the tent, and it feels like we're lost in the wilderness.

Which, in some ways, we are. The coffee ceremony is one of the activities offered by the Feynan Ecolodge, a 30-minute drive from the nearest village by four-wheel-drive.

Owned by the Middle Eastern country's Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, the ecolodge provides access to this striking desert reserve with minimum impact to the environment, while creating jobs for the Bedouin community. Beyond such virtuous aims, it's a beautiful place to stay.

When we return from sipping coffee with the locals, it's after dark and the building is bathed in candlelight.

This is an environmentally minded hotel that practises what it preaches and its electric power is sourced by solar panels – just enough to run a light in each guest's bathroom. If you want to charge a mobile device, you have to leave it at reception.

My room is a simple but comfortable space with a firm mattress, a mosquito net, and small windows covered by mesh. There's also a clay urn which is filled with filtered water each day – no plastic bottle waste.

The limited electric power is compensated for by a sea of candles, stretching from the stairwells through the restaurant to the spacious open-air terrace where we have dinner. It's a romantic setting and we're not missing our mobile connectivity as we eat zucchini stew and flatbread that was baked at a local village. The food served at the ecolodge is entirely vegetarian, inspired by traditional Arab dishes and made with ingredients sourced largely from nearby farms.

The view from the terrace is impressive by daylight. Rocky red hills lie just beyond a narrow ravine, with occasional acacia trees providing the only green contrast. The ecolodge offers activities within that desert landscape, including hiking and mountain biking, and ways to interact with Bedouin culture. But I'm inclined to sit back, deeply inhale the away-from-it-all vibe and just relax.

THE FACTS

FLY: Etihad (1300 532215) from Melbourne to Amman, Jordan, from $1200 economy return.
STAY: Feynan Ecolodge, near Qurayqura, Jordan. Economy rooms with breakfast for two from $105. A deluxe room for two with a private balcony starts at $135 a night. 

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board.

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