The journey follows Abraham’s path into the unknown, a journey instigated by faith, emboldened by trust and enriched along the way by encounters with people that were different from him. A rich and diverse cultural memory of Abraham and his family still pulses through the region today from Urfa to Harran, from Jerusalem to Mecca, from Hebron to the Negev. For some places, there is no established consensus on their geographic location. Other places can be found in multiple locations, depending on which tradition one follows. The path merely connects them on a journey; it assigns no higher veracity to one or the other.
Along this journey, travelers experience the physical landscape of the region. Both the topography and the ecosystems encountered along the path remind not only of the region’s biodiversity but also of the physical challenges that have always tempered the needs of travellers for hospitality, not at as a luxury, but as a necessity for life; not as a concept of commerce but in the tradition of Abraham: as a moral duty on the part of host and guest alike. In a place where the natural environment can be inhospitable, travellers today are still given the opportunity to discover the gift of hospitality to strangers from people who have learned to thrive in this seasonally harsh and beautiful region.
“On the way, I saw a valley running down to the river Jordan, remarkably beautiful and very well kept, and it was full of vines and trees because there was plenty of good water there.” —Egeria, 4th century AD
Between the city of Ajloun and the Jordan Valley, walkers wander from a medieval citadel to Byzantine mosaics and Roman ruins through expansive forests and green wadis, enjoying the hospitality of villages along the way. At the center of the path lies the area of Al Ayoun in which three communities have pioneered community tourism and homestay hospitality.
In the oak-wooded hills, where a winter rain can clear the air and give incredible views over the mountains and valleys to the west, folk tales abound of ancient trackers and tricksters and their haunts in the caves and wadis. Neolithic burial markers, the homes of great Sufi mystics, and countless memories of the years in between demonstrate the cultural and historical depth to be found in the beautiful highlands and in the lush plains below.
The Dana region crosses the full range of elevation and climate across the western front of the Edom mountains, dipping from the juniper-forested highlands to the parched Araba Valley and climbing back up again. A handful of Bedouin villages are the only sign of civilization you may see while hiking, but the remains of past civilizations still haunt the landscape. The ruins of an ancient mining operation at Feynan are surrounded by enormous slag heaps, evidence of ancient industry; Little Petra was a way station and inn for merchants on the Nabateans’ long-distance trade routes; and Petra itself, needing no introduction, is one of the crown jewels of the world, with its thoroughly unique cliff-carved architecture and the exquisitely-fashioned facades of its royal tombs.
The trek is a challenging one, but every climb into the canyons and crags brings more breathtaking views, and the surprises like flowing, shaded streams and elegant cliff dwellings make sure there is never a dull moment along the way. Four stages from Dana village to Petra divide the walk into a strenuous but doable itinerary; those opting to wild camp will find many more options for taking the region at their own pace. The trail can be done with vehicle support (a truck providing luggage transfer and supplies and food and water to each campsite ) or as an unsupported backpacking trip; in the latter case, travelers will need to bring enough food for the entire walk, and plan their route around the availability of water, which is shown in the maps, elevation profiles, and GPX files for the region.