x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

How to find a private homestay in Jordan

Ask the Expert It's easy enough to hunt for places with character, as long as you are flexible about your itinerary.

I read your article about going to Jordan on an eight-day treasures of Jordan tour. I'm in the process of booking my own trip and wondered if you knew of any homestays that I can contact as I didn't want to stay in five-star block-style hotels.

As with much of the Middle East, the cultural emphasis on family privacy means the homestay concept has never really caught on in Jordan. There are only a handful in the country and those almost exclusively are run by Jordanians who have married expats or by expat couples who have settled in Jordan.

That doesn't mean you have to give in to soulless corporate hotels or jostle with gap-year backpackers in a scruffy lodge, but you will need to hunt for places with character and it helps to be flexible about your itinerary.

Fortunately the accessible scale of Jordan and the common use of chartering taxis over several days to access the various tourist sites make it easier to fulfill your request.

Wadi Musa, the town at the entrance to Petra and which exists predominantly to service the tourist industry generated by the captivating former Nabatean capital, has enough Stanlinist concrete-block hotels in the mid- to low-price bracket to make the former Soviet leader chuckle in his grave.

But there are a few exceptions to this rule. One is Petra Bed and Breakfast (www.petrabedandbreakfast.com; 00 962 777 220 825), run by a locally born horse guide and his Belgian wife in a specially built home in a semi-rural part of Wadi Musa. There are four guest rooms and prices start from JD40 (Dh207) for a single room.

If you're visiting the crusader castles along the Kings Highway, an option that most conveys a sense of place is the atmospheric 15th-century village of Dana, perched at the end of a ridge with spectacular views over the Dead Sea valley. Whether because the location means buildable land is limited or because it's in the Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan's largest, Dana has mostly managed to keep a coherent and traditional architectural style.

One place that captures the stone-clad building style is the Tower Hotel (www.danatowerhotel.com; 00 962 795 688 853), where the friendliness of the reception makes up for some of the less sympathetic modern alterations. The Dana Hotel and the slightly more institutional Dana Guest House are close by and offer similar accommodation.

It's just close enough to Petra to consider using this as a base for a day trip. There is also the option of a beautiful 14km hike down to Feynan Eco-lodge, Jordan's first. On the way, it's almost inevitable you will be invited in for a cup of tea with the Bedouin families who eke a living from the lower wadi. The solar-powered and candle-lit lodge (www.feynan.com; 00 962 6461 6523) with its vegetarian menu inspires strongly polarised views from its guests.

Finally, there's Wadi Rum. It loses some of its appeal if you already live in Arabia, but at least here all the accommodation in the desert is full of character because it's usually in traditional tents and the hosts are locals, even if the experience is strongly geared towards tourists. Among the better operators are Bedouin Life Camp, Bedouin Directions and Rum Wonders Camp, which can be booked through the Wadi Rum visitors centre on rum@nets.com.jo.

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