Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project

Hikayet Sitti: A taste of Madaba

21 Jun 2018

Hikayet Sitti is a unique restaurant in the heart of Madaba that offers visitors an authentic culinary experience coupled with local community engagement through activities such as storytelling, walking tours, and food preparation sessions. Feryal Karadsheh had the idea to this open family-run restaurant in 2014 after she had hosted groups of visitors in her home, organized by her husband, Elias Khrouz, who is a tour guide. Mrs. Karadsheh opened Food Basket, now known as Hikayet Sitti, in her grandparents’ house, which made for a perfect restaurant venue that gave a true essence of a traditional home in Madaba.  

However, Hikayet Sitti’s traditional kitchen with dated appliances and the limited seating in the restaurant restricted the number of customers that could be catered for.  With a lack of resources to incorporate activities and needed upgrades, Mrs. Karadsheh began searching for available financial opportunities. In 2016 she received a grant from USAID BEST, which helped her develop the restaurant and introduce interactive activities for visitors.

“The idea of this project was to show the tourist that they are visiting a house, not a restaurant, where they can eat and experience our local dishes the same way we would eat them inside our own house, as a family," explained Feryal. She added, “We needed USAID support so that we can develop our project and introduce the local tourist to the heritage and culture of Jordan within Madaba, and to our local dishes,”

With this support, the kitchen was expanded to twice its original size and state-of-the art equipment was installed. Restaurant furniture was upgraded, offering a more comfortable dining experience for a larger number of customers. USAID BEST provided training for the restaurant management and staff in menu-pricing, waste management, food presentation, and safe-food handling to offer the best quality services. Interactive experiences and activities were developed, such as a walking tour of Madaba, henna and calligraphy sessions, storytelling and more, which Hikayet Sitti will offer to guests to explore the city and engage in the local culture. USAID BEST also helped develop a digital marketing strategy for the restaurant to reach a wider pool of potential visitors.

At Hikayet Sitti, they pride themselves on offering quality and authentic local food coupled with a cultural experience. “Unlike other restaurants, we sit down with the guests to explain the ingredients of the dishes they will eat along with the history and traditions surrounding them,” said Elias. 

Following the expansion and diversification of the experience, Hikayet Sitti has increased its staff from 4 to 10 people from Madaba. It hosts visitors from around the world, as well as local customers. Since the revamp was complete in April 2018, the restaurant has witnessed at 60% increase in bookings, and 40% of their bookings now include an activity.

"There's been a 20 to 30% increase in profits, and I expect the numbers to double by the end of the year," revealed Elias.

Tour Operator Mohammad Batta, from Discovery Circle, brought a group of 19 visitors from Italy who stopped at Hikayet Sitti for lunch during a tour of Madaba. He said, “I enjoy bringing my tour groups to Hikayett Sitti. It’s a beautiful and historic place in Madaba and the tourists always love the food.”

USAID BEST continues to support local initiatives to offer authentic tourism experiences in Jordan and benefit local communities.