Ahmad Al-Saudi, 25 years, had always dreamt of building an environmental tourist camp in Tafileh. Although all the plans and studies of this project were almost ready in 2007, Ahmad could not achieve his dream until one year ago when he heard about the project “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) funded by the European Delegation to Jordan for the first time.
“Getting the grant’s money was important to set up the camp of course, but the training that was provided by PLEDJ helped to shape our ideas and accelerate their execution”
Possibility Turns Reality
Like many other young men in the governorate, Ahmad spent three years working in different non-regular jobs after graduating from the University of Jordan. One day he saw an ad that was targeting locals who are looking to establish businesses in the tourism sector. He decided to prepare his pitch and just applied.
The idea was accepted and Ahmad joined the professional training that PLEDJ gave to all the participants as part of the EU funded project. “Getting the grant’s money was important to set up the camp of course, but the training that was provided by PLEDJ helped to shape our ideas and accelerate their execution”. He explains.
Ahmad received business and soft skills training that were included in the training package. But the most exciting part was when PLEDJ arranged for him to meet with a professional trainer, who is specialized in booking and reservations. “The expert visited me in the camp after we launched. He showed me how to create a reservations’ system and gave me valuable advice on how to run the place the right way” Ahmad adds.
Ein Lahtha Camp
The project took its name from the area that Al-Saudi chose to establish the camp in. “Our idea was to set up an enjoyable environmental spot for those who are looking for a memorable experience”. He explains.
Since Ahmad’s family are the owners of the land which is overlooking the famous Dana Biosphere Reserve and the Dead Sea Panorama together, it is the perfect location for such a project.
The camp has 10 tents that act like chalets where visitors can spend the night in addition to a small building where Ahmad and his staff prepare food and other services and a big beautiful tent for entertaining visitors with authentic Bedouin food, drinks and scenary. The construction of the tent rooms was driven by the concept of the traditional bedouin heritage, where the triangle roof of a tent allows raindrops to fall on the sides and towards the edges rather than the middle, thus, keeping people dry and warm in cold winter.
Hiking trips into Dana Reserve are among the activities that Ein Lahtha camp offers visitors, where taking the predetermined hiking paths give them the chance to discover nature and explore various landscapes.
Ahmad explains that this outlook, which is 600 meters in height, allows people who are staying in the camp to watch the spectacular “Real Sunset”; a phenomena which shows the sun descending through the sky without hiding behind mountains. Eco-friendly tourism is a very important aspect for Ahmad to consider as a camp manager.
An opportunity for the community
“Three young men are working here to serve food to our visitors and customers. One of the local ladies is responsible for cooking for our guests meals that are prepared strictly from fresh ingredients”. Says Ahmad describing the manpower behind his project. The camp will continue to provide job opportunities for young Jordanians while supporting local providers by buying from them supplies for the camp that can host up to 100 people at a time.
Ahmad is running the camp with the help of his father, Sameeh Al-Saudi. The camp also opened other opportunities for his brothers to help with the business operations when they are not working in their governmental jobs. The two men admit that Ein Lahda camp had improved the well-being of their family significantly and helped to increase their income by at least 10% since its establishment.
According to Ahmad’s father, the eco-tourism campm project will most likely take 3 more years of operations before it starts making significant profits.
To expand his business and benefit tourism in his town Ein Lahtha, Ahmad is contacting companies in the tourism sector to arrange regular touristic trips to the camp. He is also thinking of setting up a “Play Area” for kids and more serviced seating areas for family gatherings. Thus, more leisure spaces would be opened for the local community.
Another plan is to build a glass restaurant, that will be directly overlooking Dana Reserve. “People will enjoy their food infront of this splendid view of Dana”, Ahmad explains. All these plans are pending getting more financial resources of course.
“More time and effort are needed to build loyalty and trust in our camp, the journey is not easy, but we will keep working to meet our goals” says Ahmad.
It is worthy of mention that the program “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) is funded by the European Delegation to Jordan managed by the Ministry of Interior and implemented by UNDP. It aims at fostering two sectors in the governorates of Ajloun and Tafileh: Small-Scale Food Processing and Tourism Services.