Monthly Archives: December 2006

Wadi Himara / Beauty Under Threat



Photos by Emyr & Yamaan





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By Rakan Mehyar

 




In July last year, along with a Jordanian adventure tour guide we went to visit Wadi Himara (Valley of the Donkey in Arabic). We had heard that a highway bridge had been built over the valley; so we decided to go check it out and assess the damage to the valley if any… then try to raise the issue through our network of friends and contacts in the environmental activist community.


Wadi Himara is located between Ma’in and the Dead Sea. It is a 15 km trek going down from 400 meters above sea level to 340 meters below sea level.


I’ve hiked some valleys in that region before, but this was my first to Wadi Himara (quite off the beaten track) and quite honestly I was amazed… I guess the photos speak louder than any words.


This bridge they built (funded by the Japanese Government) is part of a road that goes all the way down to the Dead Sea. In my opinion this road is useless; there are at least two or three other roads not far away; on top of that this road has been closed since then and has never been used.


The problem is that these valleys are one of a kind in the world for one obvious reason; they go down to the lowest point on earth and there is only one “lowest point on earth” so the biodiversity in such valleys is also one of a kind. On top of that, the local water supply is under threat and after the construction of the bridge almost half of the water that comes out from a local spring has been cut off, which is a great danger to the fragile ecosystem present in such a valley.

 

 

Rambling in Green Ajloun



Photos by Tala & Rakan





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By Ahmad Hallak

 









It was 9pm on a cold Thursday night and I was at my sister’s house about to be served dinner when my phone rang. It was Tala, suggesting…no…ordering me to go home and pack my things because we were going to the green hills of ‘Anjara – Ajloun to stay at an Eco-Lodge for the night and go hiking the next morning. She wanted us to check it out along with the local hiking trails for especially during this time of year when the weather would be wonderful! To make a long story short, Rakan, Tala and couple of friends and I arrived at the Ajloun Eco-Lodge at 11pm that night and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.


The Eco-Lodge was designed to blend in with the natural environment and it did that perfectly. There were several wood and canvas cabins facing each other on a plain in a heavily wooded area and what added to the allure was that no landscaping whatsoever had been done. It was like walking through a forest and stumbling upon a long ago forgotten settlement reclaimed by nature. Every cabin had four comfortable beds and the Lodge staff supplied us with warm blankets.

The next morning we got up bright and early, washed up in the communal bathrooms and trooped of to get something to eat. Break
fast was a very Spartan affair with Labneh (a kind of yoghurt spread), jam, boiled eggs and lots of tea!

Then we went hiking which was wonderful! Walking along well-trodden trails we walked through past densely packed trees, bushes and boulders on the hillside just below the Lodge. The weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful and the local wildlife fascinating. All kinds of strange little insects and birds flew about busy at work while I saw flowers and plants I had never before seen sporting magnificent colours. It was an exhilarating experience and I was now truly glad that Tala had called me when she had!

Heading into the Eastern Desert where the Sun Rises



Photos by Tala & Rakan





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By Tala Bassam Momani

 



Restless and finding it impossible to sleep I sent him an SMS at 5:30am “awake ?!!”; the last thing I expected was a reply but he did , before the sun had risen we were on our way, driving east of Amman not knowing where we were going. For that reason we named our journey ‘Heading into the Eastern Desert where the Sun Rises’; it sounded poetic at the time!

The road was empty but for trucks with Saudi and Iraqi license plates, flanked on either side by the endless expanse of hot sandy desert. It comes as a complete surprise that within this arid landscape resides the green expanse that is the Azraq Wetlands Reserve. We arrived after a one and half hour drive at around 8am to find the main gate closed. Without hesitation we walked around trying to find a place in the fence to climb over; I couldn’t accept that after getting out of bed before sunrise we wouldn’t be able to get into the reserve. We eventually managed to clamber over after getting entangled in the barbed wire and managing to tear most of our clothes. To reach the Wetlands we had to climb again, this time over a granite wall. After jumping down off the wall, we finally reached the Wetlands! Wooden bridges cross over linking the freshwaterpools that make up the Azraq Wetlands. We walked the trails to the sound of birds singing and the crunching of deadwood beneath our feet. I related to my friend how I had seen a Water Buffalo the last time I had been there. We spent most of our time in a mud hut bird-watching; I was hoping that we would see a stork fly by. Azraq is a great place for bird-watching; thousands of bird species can be seen milling about as it is on the bird migratory route.

Before we left, I insisted that we have a traditional Azraq breakfast in one of the local restaurants. On the main street there are a number of restaurants that mostly cater to people heading to Jordan from Saudi Arabia or Iraq and serve meat and only meat! The place we chose was unique in that it had private dining rooms with mattresses for snoozing after a heavy meal.


Heading back after a glorious day, Rakan found it difficult to remain coherent after his meat-only breakfast.

My Jordan Holiday – Spring 2006



Photos by Ulli & Claudia





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By Ullrich Kastner


Claudia and I stayed for two weeks in beautiful Jordan and the number one on a list that is full of spectacular places is definitely Wadi Rum. There can hardly be a place in the world that has such a fine combination of tranquility, back to the roots, culinary top spot and local ( Jordan) culture.


We stayed for 3 days and 2 nights (clearly not long enough) in a bedouin tent right in the middle of the Wadi. You can feel the wideness and endless features of huge rocks and sandy deserts. From here we explored the surroundings, had fantastic hikes and an extremely funny camel ride through the desert (it was actually more a race, with lot’s of yalla, yalla and shouting!).


Hiking is obviously the most practical activity in the Wadi as you could do it for a complete year around and still would have space left to discover. Anyway, having some fantastic local bedouin guide and a little time, we were able to capture the best locations in the most efficient way, without running stressed from one place to the other. A clear advantage of our tour was that it was organized by Rakan, who definitely knows the right guys around. We actually had the exclusive treatment of being the only couple with the local team and therefore had a very personalised experience.


The evenings especially were always close to being perfect. We had local Bedouin BBQ, with lamb grilled under the earth and chicken made over an open fire. It was, honestly, the best meat I ever had! No five star restaurant in Europe could do any better. Sitting in a tent with an open fire and devouring the feast with your fingers is the real experience. Having some sweet tea afterwards (bring some brandy along if you wish) and falling asleep under the stars was heaven on earth.


It is hard to capture in words what the feeling of peace is like when you are out in the desert and it is best to find out yourself anyway. Just make sure you take your time (3 days is minimum) as you will need it to leave all your troubles behind. Try to get a personalised tour with somebody like Terhaal, so you don’t get sucked in by a commercialised tour group that can be found at other places. Only that way can you experience the true Jordan.


And by the way, don’t think you can get a shower or anything else you are used to from five star hotels. There is nothing like it in the Wadi. But amazingly the sand on your skin keeps you dry and clean…

 


Ullrich Kastner
Online Distribution Manager
Hilton International
ullrich.kastner@hilton.com

 

Amman’s Wheat Fields?!



Photos by Omar Shaheen





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By Rakan Mehyar

 


What do you think of the urban planning of Amman?

 

Where is the countryside of the city?


What happened to Al-Biader – the wheat fields of West Amman?

 





 


 


   

Tackling Air Pollution in Amman



Photos by Abed Sultan





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Special thanks to Abed Sultan for raising the issue and providing the photos…

 













By Tala Bassam Momani

 












Let me tell you what happened yesterday: we were sitting peacefully in the office (Friends of the Earth -

 

Abu Zhayer of Wadi Rum


By Rakan Mehyar

 

His name is Salem Zalabia, better known as Abu Zhair or Abu Zhayer; a 24 year old Bedouin guy from Rum.

 




 


 

Sandal Survival in Wadi Ibn-Hammad



Photos by Tala & Rakan





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By Tala Bassam Momani

 






I’ve always been passionate about showing people around  

Three Bridges – Three Eras


By Tala Bassam Momani








My Grandmother told me how she had once visited my grandfather many years ago whilst he was serving in the British army in Samakh (a village south of Lake Tiberius – west of the Jordan River). She went by train, crossing the Jordan River, but for some reason she missed her stop and ended up in Jaffa. She could not go back to Samakh as there was no trip back, so she ended up returning in the next train back to Jordan. She told my grandfather that she had changed her mind about visiting; she was actually embarrassed to tell him that she had missed her stop!

“Are You Inviting Us To Lunch?” the Captain asked!


By Tala Bassam Momani


One of the most fun things I’ve ever done is kayaking off the shores of Aqaba in the South of Jordan on the Red Sea; I went there not long ago with a friend of mine. We started paddling out to sea, bobbing up and down with the waves and fighting against the current that kept trying to push us back to shore. Seeing a tour boat in the distance we decided to paddle towards it and say hello to the people on board. Easier said than done! After a back-breaking 20 mintes of non-stop paddling we arrived, too breathless to say anything! The Captain and his crew waved down to us and said ‘Are you inviting us to lunch?’. At that particluar moment I had no idea what they meant by that. But after deciding that we’d had enough of kayaking for the day, we clambered aboard the boat (with the Capatin’s permission) and dragged our kayaks on board for the trip back to terra firma. It was one of the crew that later explained to me the meaning of the Captain’s words: apparently fish have a habit of congregating around boats and ships and the fishermen in Aqaba have an agreement with the ship and boat crews there – in exchange for one third of their catch the fishermen are allowed the opportunity to fish around the ships and bigger boats. You learn something new everyday. In any case, I’m afraid lunch was on the Captain!