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Wadi Faynan

Wadi Faynan

Located at the lower end of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, with access from the Dead See Highway, Faynan is an outstanding example of environmental and cultural preservation efforts, paired with award-winning sustainable hospitality services and architectural design.

Having had the largest copper ore resources in the southern Levant, Faynan is one of the world’s oldest and best-preserved ancient mining and metallurgy areas.

In the four decades since Andreas Hauptmann of the Bochum Mining Museum in Germany began his survey of copper mining in the area, research by archaeologists from around the world have begun to reveal the tresures of Wadi Faynan.

Its remarkable history of human endeavor and innovation can be seen in the archaeological evidences found throughout the landscape. Knowledgeable guides from the Bedouin community take the visitors to the sites.

See the chronological overview and information on the photo pages.

Established in 1989 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, covering some 320 km2 along the face of the Great Rift Valley.

From the 1500 m high plateau near Quadesiyya to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba, Dana Biosphere Reserve includes the four different bio-geographical zones of the country: Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian. A total of 800 plant species and 449 animal species have been recorded in the reserve so far, including numerous globally endangered ones.

Dana Biosphere Reserve is a model of integrated conservation and socio-economic development, that seeks to find a balance between protecting the area's natural wonders and meeting the needs of local people. Following this approach, Dana became the first site in which ecotourism began taking place in Jordan.

The award-winning Feynan Ecolodge was developed in 2005 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and is the first of its kind in Jordan. Its architecture and concept was designed by renowned architect Ammar Khammash (see architecture).

Since 2009, Feynan Ecolodge is operated by EcoHotels in partnership with RSCN, offering travellers a unique opportunity to experience Jordan’s wilderness, meet its local Bedouin community, and explore its ancient history, with minimal impact on the environment.

Solar powered for electrical needs and water heating, its charming rooms and common areas are lit by hundreds of candles created by local women. The all-inclusive stay includes vegetarian meals of local produce inspired by Arab cuisine, and the free participation in fascinating activities, including archaeology or adventure hikes, cooking classes, stargazing talks on the rooftop terrace, introductions to Bedouin culture, etc.

Visitors of Faynan will encounter a Bedouin community that continue to live in the traditional way, in the characteristic black goat-hair tents, preserving their culture and still practicing a modern form of pastoralism.

The ecolodge provides economic opportunities to 80 Bedouin families, about 400 individuals in total. They are employed as hotel staff, and also as drivers or local guides. Women make the bread, the candles to light the hotel, and handicrafts that are sold to visitors.

The hotel offers workshops where guests can discover Bedouin traditions and expertise, and activities where the Bedouins introduce visitors to the natural, cultural and archaeological treasures of the Dana Biosphere Reserve.

The sustainable architecture of the Feynan Eco-lodge was designed by the renowned architect Ammar Khammash.

The lodge was built in the wadi where a campsite for The Natural Resource Authority once existed in the 1960's, using its exact footprint, without extending the area of intervention.

The broad aim of the design process was to create a microclimate of regenerating ‘darkness’ similar to that of a monastery, with the light moving across the courtyard openings during the day like a "self-sculpting instrument". The passageways in the interior carry resonances from old souqs and form a passive cooling system, even a wind chimney at times. An additional climate control tool are the stone chips used as sun-breakers inserted in the exterior walls.

The rooms were designed to be minimal, inspired by a typical Jordanian peasant house, in which women used to mold the furniture from mud-based plaster. The interior spaces have a similar monolithic approach, with the nude walls from sand and cement rendering into a desk, a bed or a sofa, forming a purely molded space, where the movement of light from the sun or a candle becomes traceable, almost tangible.

(Edited from: Ammar Khammash - Project Brief)

Informative photo tours

Wadi Faynan: Chronology

The Neolithic sites around Faynan (dated to 10,900 BC) account for the beginning of a fundamental shift in human development in the transition to settled life and farming. Even at this early date people had begun to exploit the local copper ores, using them in their native state for beads and possibly for pigment.

A large Early Bronze Age (3,300 BC) settlement has been identified, where copper ore was brought to, broken up and smelted, and objects elaborated through hammering or using molds.

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There was a major expansion of copper mining and smelting during the Early Iron Age, first millennium BC, while Faynan was part of the territory known as Edom, with more than 100 mines and five major copper smelting centers in the area. Faynan appears mentioned in the Old Testament (Genesis 36, 1 Chronicles 1 and Numbers 33) as Pinon / Punon.

At the beginning of the Common Era, the Nabateans developed an advanced level of hydraulic engineering enabling farming in the most arid of regions. A large reservoir was probably first built around this time, and floodwater farming was extended in Wadi Faynan.

After the apparent decline of mining in this period, Roman control expanded the mining and smelting activity to an even greater industrial scale than that seen in the Iron Age, with Wadi Faynan (known as Phaino) becoming one of the largest producers of copper in the eastern Roman empire. Significant parts of the work force were criminals condemned to death by working in the mines. Also Christians were brought in by the Romans as slaves to work in the copper mines.

When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, Faynan became a bishopric and a center of pilgrimage to honor the martyrs who had died there. There are remains of three churches, and possibly a monastery, and of several Christian cemeteries.

The Mamelukes resumed copper smelting in the 13th century with new technology, reprocessing the slag heaps from earlier periods. There may have been a local demand for copper in the important sugar industry, in particular for the large copper cauldrons used to boil and refine the sugar.

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Feynan Ecolodge and archaeological area

Located in Wadi Araba just off the Dead Sea Highway (route 65), a 3 hour drive from Amman, 2 hs from Aqaba, 1,5 hs from Petra and 2,5 hs from Dana village.

If you are not driving in a 4x4, transportation should be booked for the last 8 km of off-road track from the reception center to the lodge. Transportation is provided by local Bedouin in their own pickups. All proceeds from transportation go to the drivers to help support the local community.

It is also possible to hike to Feynan from Dana Village (5-7 hours).

Feynan Ecolodge
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