The little village of Dana perches on a shelf of the mountainside that drops down into the Wadi ‘Araba rift. The single approach road ends at the beginning of the village, and from there narrow paths – barely wide enough to walk in – run between the houses, whose flat roofs provide an easy venue for social communication. Built of stone and wood, and plastered with mud, the houses blend perfectly with the landscape.
The site has been occupied since ancient times, settlers drawn here because of its three abundant springs and good grazing. The spring’s still water the carefully made terraces on the hillsides, which are filled with all manner of fruits and vegetables.
The village we see today is of Ottoman origin, its houses recurrently restored to keep them habitable. But by the 1980s Dana had virtually died for many residents had moved to a new village, Qadisiyyah, by the main road on the plateau, seeking jobs at the cement factory. In the I 990s electricity was brought, and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature restored some houses and initiated income-generating projects – making preserves from the crops, and designing and making silver jewellery. These developments have brought many villagers back to their old houses.
When the outstandingly beautiful Dana Nature Reserve was created in the wild sandstone mountains on the other side of Wadi Dana, the villagers found more employment opportunities and became a vital part of its wildlife conservation mission.