Jordan // Jerash and the north //

Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark

Not all the attractions in the Jordan Valley are archeological or agricultural. Tucked away in the hills about 9km south of Shuneh ash-Shamaliyyeh, and the same distance north of Pella, the SHARHABIL BIN HASSNEH ECOPARK offers a rare opportunity to explore the rolling valley landscape through walks, bike rides and nature tourism. Centred on the Ziglab Dam – and its long lake – the EcoPark was created by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), a consortium of Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmental campaigners. From 2005 they have rejuvenated a damaged and heavily polluted stretch of terrain, which is now maintained mostly by volunteers, in conjunction with bedouin living on the land and villagers from local communities.

From the main gate, paths and driving routes lead to the Visitor Centre, set amid shady picnic areas, from where you can explore at will. Short circular walks of between thirty and ninety minutes lead around the protected area, with informational signboards explaining the work being done and identifying flora such as acacia and tamarisk, as well as birds, snakes, frogs and more (you can hire a guide to accompany you). Longer trails head out to explore further afield. Rising behind the Visitor Centre, the Ziglab Dam holds back a long, narrow lake of fresh water: it’s a magnificent sight, beneath raptors circling in the silent heat. Opportunities for walks abound – one route leads all the way around the perimeter of the lake (6.3km) – or contact Amman tour operator Tropical Desert Trips (w tropicaldeserttrips.com) for details of their full-day wet/dry adventure hike around the lake using inflatable boats. Mountain bikes are available to rent from the Visitor Centre.