By Hana Namrouqa

DANA BIOSPHERE RESERVE – Reconstruction work on Dana Village, a gateway to the Dana Biosphere Reserve, is currently under way to transform the abandoned village into an eco-tourism destination, according to conservationists.

Crumbling houses built decades ago in the village, which sits on a cliff overlooking one of the Kingdom’s most scenic landscapes, will be turned into tourist facilities offering a taste of Jordan’s heritage and culture, according to Mahmoud Bdour, who heads the Dana Village reconstruction project.

Under the project, the village’s infrastructure will be revamped and the houses will be turned into small hotels, souvenir shops, studio apartments, laundromats, Internet cafés and barber shops among other facilities, he said.

“The project is expected to be completed within three years… the main goal of the reconstruction is to preserve the heritage value of the old houses and present tourists with Jordan’s culture,” Bdour told The Jordan Times.

Built on the ruins of a Byzantine castle, the village used to be a bustling community of over 300 families, but its inhabitants left in pursuit of better health, education and employment opportunities, he added.

“Now, only four families reside there,” Bdour noted, adding that the project seeks to encourage the villagers to return by renovating their houses, turning them into eco-friendly income-generating sources and handing them over to the owners.

Once the renovations are complete, the tourist accommodations and facilities will support the development of the Dana Biosphere Reserve as Jordan’s first heritage village, according to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which runs the country’s nature reserves.

Established in 1989, the Dana Biosphere Reserve is internationally known for its biological diversity, and is home to some 98 archaeological sites.

It is the only reserve in Jordan that includes the four different bio-geographical zones of the country: Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo Arabian and Sudanian penetration, according to the RSCN website.

“As such, it is the most diverse nature reserve in the country in terms of habitats and species, hosting several vegetation types, including the Phoenician Juniper, evergreen oak, sand dunes, acacia and rocky Sudanian among others. It is also home to the southernmost remaining forest community of Cypress Cupressus simpervirens,” the website said.

More than 800 plant species can be found within the reserve, three of which have only ever been recorded in Dana and nowhere else in the world. Their Latin names include the word “Dana” in them.

Dana also supports a wide variety of wildlife, including many rare species of animals and is home to several globally threatened species of birds and mammals, such as Syrian Serin, Lesser kestrel, Blanford’s fox and Nubian ibex, according to the RSCN. The largest breeding colony in the world for Syrian Serin is located in Dana, while the Lesser kestrel is also found to breed in the area.