This is sponsored content for Etihad Airways and Jordan Tourism.
When we decide on our next holiday destination, we usually focus on the places we will go. We want to see that ancient ruin, hike through those towering mountains, or explore that mysterious desert. However, once we're back home, what we tend to remember most is the people we met, from knowledgeable guides to welcoming villagers to the cook in the restaurant who heaps our bowls extra-high because we have ventured so far.
If you are looking for a trip rich in human encounters, Jordan offers plenty of options. A new wave of community-based tourism initiatives gives travellers plenty of opportunities to meet locals and learn from them. The communities also benefit financially, making these next-level local encounters a win-win experience.
A DAY IN THE DESERT: AMMARIN BEDOUIN CAMP
Experience a traditional desert feast at the Ammarin Bedouin Camp.
WHERE AM I: One of Jordan's best-kept secrets lies just 10 minutes away from its biggest attraction. Overlooked by the hordes that visit the mighty city of Petra, Siq Al-Barid – also known as Little Petra – is a remarkable site filled with rock-carved tombs, temples and water channels. The ancient frescoes are a highlight.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Two hundred metres away from Siq Al-Barid is Ammarin Bedouin Camp. Surrounded by a sheltering ring of rocky outcrops, Ammarin Bedouin Camp is owned and operated by tribal members. In addition to feasting on a traditional banquet and taking part in a desert sleep-out, visitors are also invited to try their hand at activities such as carpet weaving and helping to assemble a rababa, a traditional Bedouin instrument.
MORE INFORMATION: ammarinbedouincamp.com
FRESH FROM THE FARM: SUMMAGA CAFÉ
Indulge in local, organic produce including honey and herbs at the Summaga Café.
WHERE AM I: In the orchard-laden highlands north of Amman lies the town of Ajloun. With a formidable crusader castle, the atmospheric ruins of a Byzantine church, hiking trails and a museum featuring Neolithic artefacts, Ajloun has enough to keep visitors busy for several days.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE: During your stay you may find yourself returning to the welcoming Summaga café, which showcases organic produce from a female farmers' cooperative. Local milk and yoghurt, honey and herbs as well as foraged greens are used in the appetising menu. Breakfast options include mfarake (potato and egg hash), frittata or jaz maz (eggs in stewed tomato); at lunchtime, soups and salads are served along with baked chicken and beef kufta. Juices, tea, Turkish coffee and cappuccino are all available.
MORE INFORMATION: facebook.com/SummagaCafe/about/
WILD AT HEART: EXPLORING JORDAN'S NATURE RESERVES
Experience the once in a lifetime views on a trek of the Dana Biosphere Reserve.
WHERE AM I: Many visitors are surprised by Jordan's diverse landscapes, which range from black basalt desert to deciduous forests, sub-tropical wetlands and limestone hills. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has established 10 nature reserves covering 1200 square km, protecting endangered animals such as Arabian oryx, gazelle and ibex.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE: The country's largest reserve, the 320sq km Dana Biosphere Reserve, features not just memorable hiking trails – the Wadi Ghuweir day trek is a must-do – but also a range of archaeological sites including Nabatean and Byzantine ruins, Roman copper mines and Neolithic villages. The most memorable lodgings, the solar-powered Feynan Eco-Lodge, is run by an RSCN offshoot and staffed by locals.
MORE INFORMATION: ecohotels.me
IT TAKES A VILLAGE: GETTING FRIENDLY IN UM QAIS
Jordan's rich history comes to life at the village of Um Qais.
WHERE AM I: For an off-the-beaten-track experience, the northern village of Um Qais is hard to beat. Culture lovers will enjoy exploring the remains of settlements belonging to Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. For a great outdoors experience, try the lovely Yarmouk Forest Reserve, home to Jordan's largest deciduous oak forest.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Um Qais is home to a number of community-based tourism initiatives. Visitors can join locals as they tend their bees, or head out with foragers searching for ingredients including almonds and herbs. Home-cooked feasts with local families are another highlight.
MORE INFORMATION: barakadestinations.com
MONTREAL: A HOTEL WITH HEART
Enjoy your stay at the Montreal Hotel whilst visiting the 900-year-old Shobak castle.
WHERE AM I: Some travellers head to the Shobak region in southern Jordan for the hiking trails that wind through its starkly beautiful wadis and white stone hills. Others come here to visit the imposing Shobak castle. Built more than 900 years ago by the Crusader king Baldwin, visitors can explore its keep, its catacombs, its prison, and even follow a secret passageway down to a subterranean spring.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE: The place to stay in Shobak is the Montreal Hotel, a hotel designed to connect visitors with the local community. Shobak is home to a large number of ex-soldiers who, after compulsory retirement at 36, cannot support their families on their meagre pension. Montreal Hotel not only offers jobs on-property, but also employs locals to lead cycling and hiking expeditions and cooking classes.
MORE INFORMATION: montrealhotel.jo
Etihad Airways has 5 flights daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, connecting onwards to Amman via their home Abu Dhabi.
Etihad's guests are at the heart of everything the airline does. With Etihad, be assured you are choosing well. Experience the comforts of Business with their renowned Dine Anytime menu, or tailor your Economy flight to suit your own needs. Choose to upgrade to Economy Space, select your in-flight add ons like extra baggage, amenity kits or the buy on board menu in addition to their inclusive meals, plus take advantage of their Flying Nanny to help take the stress out of flying for families.
Travel before 31 March 2020 and you can add a two-night free stopover in Abu Dhabi on the way to Jordan. It's the perfect multi-country combination. For more details, visit https://flights.etihad.com/en-au/freestopover-east
Secure a Jordan Pass before you travel, and get hassle free entry to over 40 of Jordan's tourist attractions including Petra, Wadi Rum and much more, inclusive of the entry visa cost. Check out this great offer today www.jordanpass.jo