Late last night I perched on the roof of a remote lodge at the end of a long and winding canyon, seemingly a thousand miles from the rest of the world. Standing with a flashlight in my mouth, my laptop propped precariously on my left hand, one foot raised off the floor and my right hand feverishly hunting-and-pecking in the darkness, I carefully aimed towards one vague signal apparently coming from the other side of a mountain visible only because of the stars its blackness obliterated.
And all this to post an opXpeditions blog!
The Feynan Eco-lodge does not promote high-speed internet access because it doesn’t have it. In fact, it barely has electricity. The lodge exists completely off the grid with water drawn from a nearby spring, its minimal electricity created by solar panels and my internet connection coming from the internet stick which the property’s operator, Nabil Tarazi, had kindly lent me.
Approaching at night after transferring from our vehicle to a Bedouin 4 x 4 for the final 30 minute drive over very rough terrain and past the occasional Bedouin encampment, the only light visible was a trail of tea candles that led up the front steps. The quivering fireflies continued inside, lining the corridors, the stairs, the common areas and even little clusters in recessed alcoves in the high-ceilinged rooms.
Despite the lack of electricity—or perhaps because of it—the lodge is an oasis of comfort and perfect hospitality in a starkly beautiful landscape…and it has one of the smallest carbon footprints of any property in the world.
Built by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and located within the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Feynon’s mandate is not only to make a minimal environmental impact but also to work closely with the local population and to provide visitors with a unique and rewarding experience. It has succeeded on all counts.
Feynan employs 25 local Bedouin on site. In addition, local Bedouin men are hired to drive guests from the reception to the lodge in their own vehicles while Bedouin women make the breads and jams in the vegetarian dining room and the leather goods and crafts that furnish the lodge. Plastic water bottles have been replaced with clay pots also hand-made by the Bedouin and all refuse is composted, recycled or removed.
It’s hard not to stay at Feynon and feel as though you’re making a difference. In our everyday wired-worlds, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine being cut-off from cell phones, internet, television…even light switches. Yet here, you feel immediately at home. By day guests can hike the surrounding hills and canyons led by Bedouin guides. They can visit Iron Age settlements and 5000-year-old copper mines. They can mountain bike rugged trails, trek to picture-perfect sunrise and sunset lookouts and visit local Bedouin communities for tea and coffee. Evenings are spent sitting around the lodge’s fireplaces engaging in that most rare of activities—conversation! Or on the roof observing the crystal clear heavens through a telescope. At night, there is no buzz of a generator, no raucous laughter from a hotel bar and no traffic. Instead, you lie beneath your mosquito net, the heavy canvas window coverings gently swaying in desert breezes and the only sound being the occasional bray of a donkey or the 4:30 a.m. call to prayer from a distant mosque.
The simplicity and pureness of the Eco-lodge made my brief internet connection feel, almost, well, dirty! But the story of Feynan is such a wonderful one that I wanted to climb the highest mountain and shout it to the world…which I did, only electronically!