Ecotourism; staying vegan & healthy abroad
I’ve spent so much time in Jordan over the past year and yet, I still hadn’t visited the Dead Sea on the bank of the river. So my wonderful friend Khatib decided to pack up the car and take us up for a night of relaxing, eating, playing, sunbathing, swimming and learning. Isn’t that what life is about? I won’t lie, it’s an emotional place for me, being just 2km from Palestine at some points, but I had the most wonderful weekend in the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, and I am excited to share with you my tips, thoughts and advice – particularly from the perspective of ecotourism, sustainable travel and staying healthy/vegan while traveling in Jordan.
Jordanian summers are wonderful. I feel so lucky to have found the best group of friends. Kind, conscious and innovative people who are absolutely passionate about what they do in the arts and music (check out Middle Beast Crew Bboys – their incredible talent never ceases to amaze me). One of my favorite things about them is that they truly understand what life is about. They place value on experience and enjoying every single day, and coming from the intense, high-pressured atmosphere of Columbia University and Dubai, I really appreciate that.
Its kind of absurd that people put off their happiness conditionally. So many people are living for the weekend or living for that holiday, but is life really here to be enjoyed 15% of the time? I made a video about this on my YouTube channel, which I highly recommend you check out if you’re interested in mindfulness and contentment.
Anyway, these friends inspire me a lot because they really are living examples of people who actively make the effort to create a life that they enjoy, all the while working super hard to do what they need to do. Yep, they’re musicians/artists/dancers and accomplished engineers/bankers/scientists. So, in the last few weeks, we have taken many-a-roadtrip — to Wadi Rum; to the farm house for pool parties; and of course, to the Dead Sea. You can keep up with my pics on Instagram if you’re interested to see it all play out in real time!
Of course, I managed to stay vegan in Jordan quiet easily, just by making some of my easy, travel-friendly recipes or by taking advantage of the amaaaaazing plant based vegan food in Amman !
A note on Eco Travel:
As you guys know, this site started as a vegan food blog; a home for all the recipes I was previously just sharing on my health-focused Instagram. However, since I would get so many questions about my never-ending adventure seeking around the world, I decided it would be appropriate to expand my content to cover travel. I also provide content on social issues, the refugee organization / tech company I founded, environmentalism, spirituality, ethical-consumerism and compassion. Despite the development of this blog, the ethical component has never left me and remains to this day the most important fulcrum around which everything I do is based. However, I noticed there are very few ‘vegan travel blogs‘, or ecotourism sites that focus on the Middle East, where I travel to a lot.
I want this site to be a hub for conscious lifestyles all around the world. I will make an effort to seek out the most sustainable adventure experiences all over the globe and provide helpful information for those who want to follow my footsteps. This means you’ll see a lot of food reviews (including in hotels), comments on plant based/healthy/sustainable options, as well as on the ethical rating of products provided by the hotels. I hope this will be of use to you, and if you are interested in such content, please comment below so that I know to keep making the effort to produce it
Ecotourism in Jordan:
Ecotravel/ecotourism certainly exists in Jordan. Although people assume there is only desert, Jordan is abundant in diverse natural landscapes, from waterfalls and rivers to canyons, swamps and mountains. Many institutions (such as my own, Columbia University) have research centers in Jordan. Yet, I havent seen ecotourism in Jordan make a dent among the regular travel and travel blogger communities. It seems to have been restricted to those in the industry or ‘in the know’. Well, I want to change that! Green/sustainable/vegan ecotourism in Jordan is incredibly enriching, and I hope that I can inspire people to come and visit this country and feel it for themselves. The Crowne Plaza Dead Sea was so accommodating to my requests, just as almost everyone has been here. I hope this movement continues to grow, both in Jordan and outside of it.
Driving from Amman:
The trip will take a couple of hours from Amman and you can also visit the baptism site where Jesus was baptized in the river on the way. It costs 10JOD and you will need to bring your passport.
All visitors must go with a supervised guide and the shuttles down to the site leave every hour so try and time your arrival. The weather will be pretty hot so make sure you pack sunscreen and maybe a hat and glasses.
A lot of dams were built by Israel and Syria over the last few leaves, leaving Jordan in a very serious water crisis. Jordan has been one of the most benevolent countries in the world when it comes to accepting refugees – it’s one of the things I love most about this place. But with everyone else advantageously taking resources, Jordan is left with very little. The river has almost completely dried out in some spots, even moving inland 12km on one end.
Checking in: Crowne Plaza Dead Sea
The Crowne Plaza Dead Sea has several pools. The main one is that which the rooms surround, right in the center of the complex. This area is quite crowded and you will find a lot of families and children. If you want a quieter place, I suggest you check out the pool with the Mexican-themed outdoor bar. It’s tucked away closer to the river so there is a great view of the Jericho mountains, which you can see in the pictures below. I’ll warn you though — you’re going to hear a lot of cheesy remixes of top 40 songs. On repeat.
The balcony from our river-facing room.
Food + facilities:
How a vegan does the breakfast buffet! Lots of delicious fresh and dried fruit, cereal, zaatar + raw veg, fresh bread and…. ful medames!
For those outside the know, ful medames is a very typical breakfast across the Arab world. It consists of pinto beans (ful), which you top with fresh chopped coriander/cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, crunchy sweet onions, zaatar and a squeeze of lemon juice. So delicious and a great source of plant-based energy for a busy day!
The juice in the big glass dispensers is pasteurized – not fresh! However, if you ask nicely for some fresh squeezed orange, they will bring it to you. Also, the default coffee is made from instant grounds. If you want a proper French press, ask the waitress. It will come at no extra cost. Soy milk is available too.
Sadly, the coffee industry is one of the least ethical in the world. I really don’t like to see it being served at beautiful, high end restaurants. Crowne Plaza Dead Sea is an amazing place with tons of responsible, sustainable and healthy options. I love seeing big establishments like this make the move towards more ethical practices. Let’s hope more come!
The staff at the restaurant were so kind and helpful. Really sweet people!
Loved the halva bar at breakfast! Halva (Farsi) or ‘halaweh’ (Arabic) is a typical Middle Eastern sweet made from tahini and rosewater, usually with pistachio nuts on top. It is absolutely delish and vegan, so definitely check it out! Tahini+rose+dates is my favorite combination in the world so I can’t walk past a plate like the ones below without grabbing a piece! If you want to try something similar, check out my SUPER easy recipe video for sugarfree caramel/halva dumplings (‘atayef’) here, or my Persian style halva oatmeal here — all vegan, of course!
Gym & Spa:
The gym, located in the spa, is pretty well stocked. It’s a little difficult to find at first but you get used to it. The spa itself is beautiful — the calming music, herbal teas and infused water add nice touches to the ambience. There’s a small stretching room with a barre and a mirror + yoga mats, little dumbbells and kettle bells. The main room has a mix of free weights, machines and cardio equipment, with one large TV.
The main pool
Checking out of the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea:
A great weekend and a wonderful experience! I had an amazing stay at the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea. I can’t wait to go back. The hotel is beautiful and the rooms were super comfortable. Plus seriously, best beds ever!
If you ever get the chance, you must visit the Dead Sea in Jordan. Jordan in general is one of the most incredible countries. There is just SO MUCH. Insanely beautiful (and diverse) natural beauty — from deserts to waterfalls, rivers, mountains and canyons — to the incredibly talented artistic community, the cultural institutions and, of course, the great food!
If you want to see more of my daily videos/VLOGs from Jordan or the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, you can find them on my YouTube channel, or follow me on instagram:
Food & recipes: @eating.for.earth
Vegans of the Middle East/North Africa facebook group.