The race to modernize the world around us, from the way we interact, dress, walk and talk through to creating new culinary techniques and flavors fusion is a non stop mission for individuals who strive to be on top of the game. The game created by the evolving world around us, technology and cultural exchange, is unfortunately driving people away from their roots, culture and beliefs. The invasion of these trends is driving us away from our past towards a vague, unshaped and unknown future; from an independent, self sufficient community to a consumer one that relies on outsourced products, brands and services. Away from the city stress, 80km north of the capital, a team of three young women are initiating what seems to be a promising path to support local communities, social tourism and preserving the values and heritage of their own hometown.
“At a young age, you strive to give back and serve the community you live in, fulfill your dreams and meet your passion. In hard economic times, limited job offerings and the high unemployment rate forced us to search for alternatives looking on things differently to how to achieve our goals,” says the 26 years old Doha. In collaboration with Zikra Initiative, and with the support of the DVV International and Jdeita community center, the team was able to set a solid ground for a social and ecological tourism project called Rummana. The social initiative was founded by the team of Bilal, Doha, Maram, Mohye Aldin and Salam after their struggle to secure a 9 to 6 job whether in neither the public or private sector. The training they went through highlighted the importance of using the available and natural resources, study the geographic, heritage and landscapes of the area and guided them into building a sustainable tourism plan that is based on social and cultural interaction, while exchanging the tradition and heritage through Rummana’s expeditions.
Highlighting the social and economic impact of the initiative was essential to assist the families of Jdeita to understand the goals of Rummana. The local families were reluctant at the beginning to take part of the project due to social barriers and the uncommon interaction with participants from different genders and backgrounds. “It was challenging to explain the purpose behind the initiative. We trained the families on how to strengthen their confidence and communication skills on how to interact with the visitors and to be able to introduce themselves, the team and the project as a whole,” explains Doha.
The house of Abu Saddam’s family, the main host of Rummana’s expeditions, is situated among nature. The self sufficient family who produces their daily needs from farming, raising free range chicken and cattle is Rumana’s model family. “With the help of our sponsors, we were able to transform the front yard to welcome and accommodate our visitors. The space was developed using natural and recycled materials and is decorated by locally sourced handcrafts that reflects the area’s culture,” Doha adds.
Seasonal produce plays a significant role when designing Rummana’s experiences. A yearly calendar created by Rummana explains each month’s produce and the traditional dishes associated with each season. A careful study, followed by a trial is essential for the success of each experience.The trial is followed by a discussion on how to improve the experience before a public launch on Rumana’s social media platforms. Ten experiences were operated by Rummana with unique concepts. “We depend on the seasonal produce that Jdeita offers. Spring is for wildly grown aromatic herbs such as za’atar (wild thyme) and cheese production from fresh cow milk. Summer time for picking ripe pomegranate and molasses production.”
The popular ‘Za’atar Experiece’ is an example of how the structure of the day Rummana visitors spend at Jdeita looks like. At Abu Saddam’s house, visitors receive a brief introduction to the team members and the host family. This warm welcome breaks the ice and helps to build rapport and a strong connection between the visitors and the family, an essential component to the success of the experience. The first connection with the community and nature starts with hand picking za’atar (when in season) and preparing fatayer; the area’s popular stuffed pastries with a mix of fresh za’atar, diced onions, sumac spice and extra virgin olive oil. The visitors then gather around a table full of locally produced vegetables, organic eggs, dairy products and artisan jams and pickles an enjoy a fulfilling breakfast, accompanied by mint english breakfast tea- a common beverage in Jordan and a usual companion with breakfast and dinner. Shortly after, lunch preparations take place with the guidance of Um Saddam to prepare Jdeita’s popular Makmoura; layers of cooked chicken, onions, olive oil and sumac that is baked between several layers of dough in a low temperature taboun oven.
A brief rest is followed by a trek in the wilderness through one of the two trials among Barkash woods or Wadi Rayyan, both inspirational getaways for the visitors with breathtaking scenery of the green landscape, fresh mountain breeze and the scent of nature. After the approximate 3km hike, lunch will be served at either a pomegranate farm or Barkash woods (depending on the chosen trail), a local feast and a mesmerizing flavorful experience. Chat, laughter, games and another cup of tea and freshly baked kunafah wraps up the day for the visitors taking home an exciting experience and a learning about Jordan’s heritage.
The determination of Rummana’s team and their mission is yet another milestone in preserving our cultural and a solid base for starting community related and social tourism around the kingdom.
*Pictures courtesy of Rummana