Stephanie's View of Ecotourism in Jordan
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Jordan's Creative Eco Experiences Foster Community Development in Petra
My journey to Jordan began in 2005. Having never travelled to the Middle East, the first time I looked at a map of where Jordan was, I was a little unsure what to expect. However, within moments of arriving at Queen Alia Airport, I felt welcome and happy to be there. Ten years later and this feeling of happiness, security and hope has not faded.
Despite the challenges we, as a country, are facing with our neighbours, Jordan has, is, and I hope always, will be a land of safety, legendary hospitality, and breathtaking beauty. With the unrest in the region, tourism has unsurprisingly dropped significantly and in towns like Petra that rely on tourism for their livelihood, times are tough.
A Piece of Jordan, of which I am a co-founder, is a Petra run initiative that has been set up, to not only encourage people to come to Jordan and stay longer in Petra, but also allow travellers to engage with the local community and vice versa. On our doorstep is Petra, one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
Yet visitors come, visit the archeological site and leave – we want them to go further. To see, touch, smell and taste the real Jordan. We want every visit to make a positive impact on the local community and create memories that will last a lifetime. Wherever you go in Jordan, you will hear the phrase 'Ahlan wa sahlan' – you are most welcome.
I worked with tourists all my working life, it has always been an honour to welcome visitors into my home and I am happy that with A Piece of Jordan this will be the norm. ~ Abo Rahaf
The eco experiences offered have been set up to welcome you into the homes and hearts of the people of Petra. With their warm smiles and famous hospitality you will know, if at any time you were to return, you will not be a stranger. To truly highlight the beautiful spirit of the Jordanian people, we have chosen key elements of everyday life to focus on.
I am excited that A Piece of Jordan are trying to encourage traditions like baking bread amongst both the local and international community. I am looking forward to passing down my knowledge and skills. ~ Hajja Amneh
For example, you can spend the morning with a shepherd and his flock, ride a horse through the mountains, learn how to create delicious local cuisine and share a meal all whilst getting to know local families. With most souvenirs imported from outside Jordan, we are also creating a line of Jordanian inspired and locally made handicrafts with the aim of encouraging visitors to buy local.
The handicraft project aims to encourage and unearth creative talents within the Petra community. Our employment principles and philosophy behind our products are based on Fair Trade policies and achieving Fair Trade eco-certification is something we are working towards.
I love being outdoors with my flock, I have some wonderful people working with me to look after the sheep so hopefully we can show visitors just how great this tradition is. ~ Abo Soheib
From permanent staff to freelancers and artisans, we want their experience of working with A Piece of Jordan to be one that helps them realize their potential and reach their goals all whilst being fairly compensated. From setting up artisans with work spaces at home to sending our team on training sessions, we are continually working to support and inspire.
We love our community and want travellers to appreciate the value and importance of their role in bringing the benefits of tourism to beyond just those involved in the archaeological park. For example, we actively participate in the philosophy of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in all aspects of the business. Whether it’s using recycled or off-cut fabrics to make our products; looking for ways in which to maximise the usage of all our inputs; or implementing recycling programs in the community and providing education sessions environmental sustainability.
Starting recycling programs and education on rubbish in the schools where our children attend is our dream and one day to expand this all across the whole town. A vision of a town where people are actively thinking about environmental sustainability is something to look forward to.
Supporting the local economy is important and where ever possible materials are sourced locally. All people employed in the business and all products produced will always be from Petra. As A Piece of Jordan evolves and grows, we will be on the look out for exciting ways to educate ourselves and the others to continue to promote positive change in our community.