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Issue No. 29 -February / March 2012

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Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan is an eco-tourism oasis in the desert
Jordan tops Virtuoso’s picks for travel destinations in 2012 in interview on Fox News
Tourism board to focus on promoting religious sites in 2012
Announcements and things to look forward to in the next issue of the JTB Wire

Embark on an amazing adventure in Jordan

Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan is an eco-tourism oasis in the desert

Royal Jordanian suspends operations to five destinations

Standing atop a slope of black rubble, the folds of a red-and-white-checked kaffiyeh shading his chestnut eyes from the high Jordanian sun, eco-guide Mohammad Daifallah surveys his world.

“That’s where I was born,” he says, pointing to a clearing in the valley, where a jumble of brown goat-hair tents shiver in the dry breeze. “Just to the left, that’s where I took my wedding. And this,” he smiles, holding out his arms, “is where I work.” Below us, the serpentine canyons of the Dana Biosphere Reserve glow orange in the noonday heat.

Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan: How to get there, where to stay, what to do?

The Middle East may not seem the likeliest place for a trailblazing eco-tourism project. Between the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio to the west, Iraq to the east and Syria unraveling amid a rebellion to the north, the neighborhood is better known for ugly politics than for beautiful nature. But Mohammad is a foot soldier in a very different kind of revolution. For in the midst of this troubled neighborhood, Jordan has been gradually going green.

I’ve come to southern Jordan to learn about the work of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), a nongovernmental organization patronized by Jordan’s royal family, which aspires to balance the need to safeguard the country’s unique environments with the needs of the people who call them home, a mission encapsulated by the simple slogan: “Helping nature . . . helping people.” Across a network of seven nature reserves, its work has centered on the concept of “zoning,” cordoning off areas to let them recover from the ravages of hunting and overgrazing, while compensating the agrarian economy by introducing alternative livelihoods. By promoting eco-tourism, the scheme has provided much-needed job opportunities and a market for local products, bringing economic stability to some of Jordan’s poorest rural communities.

The Dana Biosphere Reserve was the pilot territory for the program when it began in 1994 and remains its shining beacon. Spread over 116 square miles of steep-sided gorges, about 120 miles south of the Jordanian capital of Amman, this is Jordan’s largest and most diverse protected region: an Aladdin’s canyon of more than 600 plant species, some found nowhere else, and pastel cliffs stalked by sand cats, Nubian ibex and rare Syrian wolves.

Nowhere is this biodiversity more evident than along the Wadi Dana Trail, where my visit begins. Starting at the cliff-top perch of Dana village, the reserve’s normal entry point, the track snakes 4,000 feet downhill into the reserve’s central valley, through four distinct ecosystems: first winding past junipers and lonely cypress trees; next delving into a gallery of surreal bubble-rock formations; then dropping onto the bone-dry watercourse, its banks thick with bamboo, oleander and resplendent palms, toward the point where the orange-stained scarps bleed into the north Arabian Desert.

It’s four hours before I spot the first sign of humanity — a ragtag Bedouin encampment crouched in a gulley — and 10 minutes more before I’m seated on cushions, sipping iced lemonade with chopped mint. The transition from flyblown trail to reception-area sofa comes courtesy of the Feynan Ecolodge, curiously at home in its mountain amphitheater, like a remote desert fortress thrown together in a sandstorm.

Source : http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/dana-biosphere-reserve-in-jordan-is-an-eco-tourism-oasis-in-the-desert/2011/12/27/gIQACzonJR_story.html
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