Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project

​From Shepherds to Jordan Trail Coordinators

9 Oct 2017
Mohammad Al Homran

In September 2016, two shepherds from Madaba set out to walk the entire Jordan Trail to explore their country, many parts of which they had never seen before.  Mohammad Zayadeen and Mohammad Al Homran began in Um Qais and reached Aqaba less than 40 days later; they were the first Jordanians to walk the full trail in one go. Many followed their 650-kilometer journey on social media, drawing attention to the natural beauty and diversity of Jordan’s landscape. Less than a year later, both have been hired by the Jordan Trail Association (JTA) as Trail Coordinators.

“We are shepherds from Madaba, but I also worked as a farmer in the Wadi Hidan area,” said Mohammad Zaydeen. “We are cousins too,” added Al Homran.

The two heard about the Jordan Trail from their friend who is a tour guide and decided to walk it. “We walked the first 80 kilometers on our own because it was way-marked,” said Al Homran, “but we contacted the Jordan Trail Association  for help in providing a GPS device so we could finish.” 

The Jordan Trail Association had received a grant from USAID BEST in May 2016 to support development and promotion of trail. This enabled them to help the two young trekkers complete their journey, and document and share their experiences on social media to create awareness of the trail among Jordanians. USAID BEST supported way-marking parts of the trail, developing a strategy to foster adventure tourism, and promoting the trail and encouraging service providers to run tours and trips along it.

 The hike was the first time Mohammad and Mohammad had traveled outside of Madaba. It gave them an unforgettable experience and a deeper love for their country.

“Jordan on the map looks small but it is big and its people’s hearts are bigger,” said Mohammad Zayadeen. He added, “I discovered things I’ve never heard of before like the ruins of Pella and many others historical sites.” 

“We discovered that Jordan has forests, valleys, deserts and we love experiencing the diversity of it,” they said.

Their journey drew local attention to the Jordan Trail and revealed Jordan’s potential for adventure tourism, Zayadeen explained, “The trail passes areas where local communities don’t know that much about tourism or even about the Jordan Trail. Now, as they see travelers pass more often, a lot of the locals are encouraged to walk themselves.”

In March 2017 the JTA ran its first annual Jordan Trail thru-hike, which was open to the public. The association hired Zayadeen and Al Homran’s to participate in the hike as Guide Assistants because of their experience on the trail. Following this, Zayadeen and Al Homran were hired and trained as Trail Coordinators now have a permanent role in developing the trail and bringing awareness of it to the local communities.

According to Bashir Daoud, JTA General Manager, “Mohammad Homran and Zayadeen represent what the association is all about: local community engagement, capacity building, and developing a fully serviced hiking trail. They are involved with all of these aspects and have the initiative and energy needed to give back to the community and the Jordan Trail.”

Their work involves continuing way-marking of the trail and networking with local communities along it to garner support for the trail, offering services and helping to protect the trail.

Al Homran said, “The communities along the trail have started to have opportunities to serve travelers by offering home stays, and other services. With time, more and more opportunities will be available to them to benefit from the trail.”

Both Al Homran and Zayadeen are happy that their adventure unexpectedly led to a fulltime job for each, as their work opportunities were very limited.

“We are able to financially support our families and are enjoying the work we do,” said Al Homran. 

To anyone considering hiking a portion the trail, Zayadeen says, “I encourage everyone to do it without hesitation and to not be afraid because it passes through 52 villages and if they need anything the locals are nice and will offer help.” Al Homran added, “At first it may seem difficult, but later when you finish you’ll feel the joy of achievement!”

USAID BEST continues to support the Jordan Trail Association to build staff capacity and market the trail. According to the coordinators, the next step for them is to take an English course through JTA and assist with training tour guides along the trail.