Hiking Dana Biosphere Reserve

Al-Nawatef Camp is perched on the edge of Wadi Dana Biosphere Reserve, with spectacular views of the canyon below. With our first (of many) cups of tea, we had arrived in one of the more beautifully rugged parts of Jordan. We had a bit of time to take a walk on our own. Heading down along the ridge of the wadi, we could just make out the town of Dana on the opposite side. Goat herders passing by invited us to tea – we graciously (we hope) declined.

The camp arranged a full day hike across Wadi Dana with a guide. Our delightful guide took us through the hidden crevices, valleys and overlooks among the rocks, while giving us the history of residents, including old Nabataean sites to existing sheep herder sites. Again and again, we are reminded that this landscape has been occupied by people for millennia.

The hike was strenuous: my fitness app says we walked 7.9 miles and climbed 144 floors. It was an excellent way to get acquainted with the Jordanian landscape.

At lunchtime, our guide became our trailside chef, roasting fresh eggplant to make fresh mutabal – a delicious smoky eggplant dip to accompany the fresh loaf of bread our guide’s wife had baked that morning, and sauteed mushrooms. In this kitchen with a view, the meal was perfect: it was one of our favorite meals on the entire trip!

At the camp, we chose the Bedouin tent accommodations, which were clean, with a concrete floor, futon-style beds, windows and a lockable door. Although the nights were windy and chilly, we had plenty of blankets to stay warm. There is a shared bathroom, which includes a shower with plentiful hot water. Breakfast and dinner were served in the communal building behind the tents, with power and plenty of comfortable seating on cushioned benches and a warming stove. Dinners are deliciously home cooked, with plenty of dishes to load up your plate, and go back for seconds. Breakfasts are more the standard Jordanian fare: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, hummus, bread, and plenty of tea.

This recipe from Saffron Trail is the best I can find that approximates the delicious mutabal we enjoyed for lunch. Roasting the eggplant over a wood fire adds a nice smoky flavor. Unfortunately, a hearty hike and breathtaking scenery can’t be cooked up in the kitchen.

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