In the midst of the forested mountains of Ajloun in the north of Jordan, near to the Ajloun tourism trail, tourists can experience the local culture at its best with a touch of warm authentic Jordanian hospitality. Um Ahmad, a mother of three, is running a small bed and breakfast at her home, to welcome guests to the area and earn an income for her family.
It was Um Ahmad’s husband who decided to turn their home into a bed and breakfast to welcome visitors to the area. "Abu Ahmad wanted to turn our home into a guesthouse where we could host tourists and get to meet people from around the world. We also wanted to make a living out of this project and be able to secure our children's education," said Um Ahmad.
Sadly, her husband passed away suddenly in 2010. However, Um Ahmad decided to proceed with the project that her husband had started and was so passionate about. It was also a means to support her family, which she was now left to take care of on her own.
Through a grant support from USAID/Siyaha Um Ahmad was able to prepare for receiving guests by furnishing two rooms in her house rooms with beds and cabinets, along with adding a television, fridge and kitchen table to the common area. Um Ahmad was then ready to start receiving tourists last year, providing them with meals and accommodation. Guests can enjoy a variety of traditional Jordanian dishes, such as mansaf, and start the day with a homemade breakfast made with local and fresh ingredients.
"We recently received a Bahraini group and they were amazed by the hospitality and the service we provided, and are now planning to come back in two weeks," said Um Ahmad.
USAID/Siyaha’s support to Um Ahmad is part of a grants program that was launched in 2010 to help develop small and medium-sized tourism enterprises along the Ajloun trail as part of efforts by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA), USAID/Siyaha and the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to boost tourism in the area. The communities living in the area are thus being encouraged to run tourism enterprises that can contribute to improving their living standards while at the same time offering variety of facilities and services that will enhance the visitor experience and directly involve the local communities in tourism.
There are 14 other projects that received USAID grants to support tourism-related businesses. The USAID tourism project also trained grantees in various related areas, such as safe food handling, hospitality skills, food and beverage preparation and presentation, menu design and pricing.
MoTA began developing the Ajloun tourism trail in the first half of 2009 in cooperation with the USAID tourism project. The 25km Ajloun trail encompasses a group of neighboring villages, including Rasoun, Orjan and Ba’oun, which together represent unique historic and natural attractions. The trail also includes the Ajloun nature reserve, which helps maintain biodiversity in the area, and it ends at Ajloun castle.
The USAID tourism project support for Um Ahmad continues, as next month she plans to renovate the façade of her bed and breakfast so that it is more appealing to visitors. Um Ahmad is always ready to give visitors a warm Jordanian welcome and serve up the great hospitality that the country is well known for, and she looks forward to receiving more guests soon.