Uncover meaningful travel in Jordan
Malia Asfour, Jordan Tourism Board North America
Malia Asfour has resolved to get the word out about an interesting side of Jordan that may not have the means to do it on its own during these tough tourism times.
“I choose Meaningful Travel and the Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan because the lack of tourism dollars has greatly impacted local communities,” says Asfour, who oversees the Jordan Tourism Board North America. “The Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan was launched in 2018 with Tourism Cares with the purpose of connecting travellers with social enterprises that can give a traveler local, sustainable and authentic experiences that make a difference to both the community and the traveler. It is where travellers can see how their money is being spent as a force for good. With the launch of the Meaningful Travel Map, many Canadian operators have added an extra night’s stay in Jordan to ensure that their travellers are able to visit these enterprises.”
Jordan has a number of famed attractions, such as the archeological sites of Petra and Jerash, but Asfour says there are many other intriguing sites that fly under the radar.
“There are so many interesting sides to Jordan that tourists and the travel industry is unaware of, there are hidden gems all over the country to be discovered, along with the thousands of archeological sites,” she reports. “I believe the biggest gem is the Jordanian people; Bedouin hospitality is world renowned but to experience it is something else. The kindness and generosity that visitors experience from the elders to the kids in communities is infectious and that is what most visitors take back with them when they return home. I personally love taking my kids to visit the Al Ma’wa Nature reserve www.almawajordan.org located just outside of Jerash and close to Souf, where you can have one of the Meaningful Travel Map experiences. Al Ma’wa is a nature reserve where wild animals that have been rescued and cannot be sent back to their country of origin or released in the wild have a home. It is a great place to see wild animals up close and learn about rehabilitation and protection. I also enjoy visiting the desert castles where everyone has a different story and, in the North, Umm el-Jimal is an incredible Byzantine town where the Umm el-Jimal Project has an incredible sustainable tourism and community development project.
“I also love visiting Um Qais in the northern parts of Jordan as there are so many new activities there, as well as Feynan in the southern parts of Jordan,” she continues. “The Feynan Eco-Lodge is simply spectacular and the local experiences at Feynan are incredible for all ages.”
Meanwhile, Asfour wants to make it clear that she realizes Petra is a wonderful site but that it is far from being the country’s only intriguing tourism draw.
“Petra is an incredible place to visit, and what a lot of travellers forget is how much there is to do and see in Petra,” she states. “Although most visitors only touch the surface and only visit the Treasury there are is so much more to explore in and around Petra. The High Place of Sacrifice, The Monestary, Heron’s Tomb are examples of what visitors (often) miss seeing and a minimum of a 3 days is needed to get immersed into what Petra has to offer. The nearby Ammarin Bedouin Camp also part of the Meaningful Travel Map, is a great place for a local experience with the Ammarin tribe that has inhabited the region for centuries. There is more to Jordan than just Petra, there are so many incredible sites and places to visit and a diversity of experiences for every age. So, yes, Petra may be someone’s main reason to visit Jordan, however, there is so much more that even two weeks in Jordan can just help you scratch the surface.”