I spent part of my summer working in Jordan, in association with Feynan Eco Lodge. I worked on a project to create a sustainable eco campsite in the Dana Biosphere nature reserve, ran by the local Bedouin Community.
Jordan appealed to me for many reasons. I am naturally interested in the Middle East, and during my research I was taken aback by the vastness of the Jordan landscape. Sprawling deserts, lush forests, and steeped in history. After my placement, I was able to see the ruins of Petra, visit the baptism site of Jesus, and dive in the Red Sea. Jordan is an extremely safe country, with an unearned reputation, completely related to its location. I was determined to go somewhere that I could be genuinely passionate about, and make a positive, and necessary impact to tourism.
Naturally, the time spent worrying before I arrived was in vain. I was worried about the harsh climate, food (as I am allergic to peanuts), and generally about losing my many creature comforts. These logistical worries melted away as soon as I had my first meal of Foul in Amman.
The largest challenges faced were related to the difference in approaches to working life. Life moves slow in the desert heat. At the start of my placement, it was the end of Ramadan, and so the only work I could do was high level planning with the Eco lodge, as all manual labour or delivery of equipment was out of the question, due to the remote nature of the site.
The experience was so fulfilling due to how versatile it demanded me to be. Although I was approaching the project as an engineer, I spent a long time trying to build a social media presence to facilitate long-term tourism growth. I also spent time researching the feasibility of solar panels for the campsite, as previously the Bedouins have had no local electricity, and without the tourism experienced in Wadi Rum, the capital expense is a large one. Lastly, cleaning up and preparing the campsite layout and helping put up initial tents were satisfying tasks, where I could visibly see my impact.
The largest challenges for continued growth for the incredible landscape of the Dana Biosphere is tourist infrastructure. With little to no option of public transport, tourists are stuck being funnelled into Petra and Wadi Rum, never truly experiencing the full wonders Jordan has to offer. Unfortunately this was out of my jurisdiction, and will have to be left to the Jordan Tourism board, but I do believe it is only a matter of time until Jordan takes off as a popular tourist destination.
Language barriers, cultural learning curves, and having no specific job title meant this was one of the most frustrating and fulfilling experiences of my life. It taught me the importance of learning to go with the flow, and embrace a totally different outlook to life.