Steeped in history, Jordan has hosted some of the world’s oldest civilisations. Home to ancient ruins, lush valleys, and dramatic desert landscapes, the country has a character all of its own and is renowned as a land of wonders. Four Seasons Hotel Amman offers a fresh range of individually tailored excursions that provide exclusive access to the many hidden gems this marvelous destination has to offer.
Connect with Jordan’s Hidden Gems
Most visitors will be familiar with the ancient Nabataean site of Petra or the charms of the Dead Sea. But what of the more elusive experiences, known only to those who venture off the beaten track? Four Seasons works closely with local sustainable service provider Baraka Destinations to connect guests to the best and most authentic experiences around the historical town of Um Qais, which sits in close proximity to the ruins of Gadara and overlooks the Lake of Tiberias and the Yarmouk River gorge. The town is around two hours north from Four Seasons Hotel Amman, and the Hotel team can arrange a comfortable vehicle for the party to enjoy a leisurely trip through the scenic countryside.
Take in Breath-Taking Views of the Mountains and Sea
Located in the hills above the Jordan Valley, Um Qais offers an abundance of hiking, cycling and camping activities. Experience the magic of the great outdoors, complete with amazing views of the Lake of Tiberias, the Golan Heights, and Yarmouk Nature Reserve. Expert local guides Ahmad and Ala’a will accompany guests on a variety of hiking and biking trails, which range from leisurely strolls suitable for beginners to challenging routes aimed at more advanced skill levels. For the ultimate return to nature, Four Seasons can arrange a special camping getaway where guests will spend an unforgettable night under the stars.
Harvest Nature’s Bounty
Cultivate a deeper connection to nature in the search for edible plants on the hills surrounding Um Qais. For seven months of the year, the fertile farmland yields olives, almonds, and many other wild ingredients. These include akkoub, a type of tumble thistle that tastes similar to artichoke, and loof, an indigenous plant with large green leaves and a long history for its medicine and food use in the Middle East. Foraging groups will learn more about the area’s biodiversity with the help of Ahmad, a highly knowledgeable local guide. He will reveal how the act of foraging triggers a greater appreciation of one’s surroundings, as guests take the time to slow down, pause, and take a look around. Once satisfied with the haul, guests can put the ingredients they have gathered to good use in a cooking class at Galsoum’s Kitchen.
Learn the Art of Cooking Regional Dishes
Dine like a true Um Qaisawi with a cooking class at Galsoum’s Kitchen. Galsoum, also known as Um Sulaiman (or “mother of Sulaiman”) invites Four Seasons guests to join her in the charming and informal surroundings of her home. Here, they will learn how to prepare unique local dishes, rich with the full-bodied flavours that only the freshest ingredients can bring. To fully experience a place and culture, it is important to engage all of the senses. In Um Qais, an afternoon spent cooking and sampling local flavours with Um Sulaiman is a perfect place to start. Northern Jordan has rich soil, and experiences more rain than other parts of the country. These environmental differences have led to the use of some unique ingredients. Guests can discover how to get the best out of these at Galsoum’s Kitchen, and pick up some Arabic words along the way. Once home, guests can share their new culinary knowledge with friends and family.
Get a Buzz from Apiculture
Discover the true origin of the expression “busy as a bee” with a trip to a beekeeping site in Um Qais. Here, guests will meet Yousef, the local beekeeper, who will treat everyone to an exclusive peek into the world of a working beehive. Watch as the queen lays eggs, while her workers deliver the pollen and nectar necessary to create the honeycomb. To round off the visit, guests can enjoy the taste of all-natural honey, freshly created in this bustling hive of activity.
Crafting Unique Experiences
The Concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Amman takes great pride in crafting highly personalised itineraries. Taleen Halaseh, Chef Concierge at the Hotel, says “At Four Seasons, we aim to offer our guests unique opportunities to enjoy authentic local experiences. These excursions provide travellers with a fascinating glimpse into daily life in rural Jordan, and capture the special atmosphere of the Um Qais area, where the community still retains a strong connection to their traditions and heritage. It is extremely rewarding to help prepare a guest’s schedule, listening to their interests and anticipating that they’re going to enjoy a truly memorable experience. Time and again we see guests return with smiling faces, and like all the team at the property, I’m delighted to play a small part in making their stay an unforgettable one.”
Offering a True Taste of Local Character
This passion to showcase and preserve the local way of life is at the heart of Baraka Destinations’ packages, according to Muna Haddad, Founder and Managing Director. “Baraka was created to partner with local communities in lesser-known tourism sites and work with them to develop experiences that introduce their hometown to curious visitors. You’ll find us working in areas that are overlooked by most tourists; we aim to give people the opportunity to get to know these secret places, and connect with the people that call them home. We follow a sustainable tourism model, which leaves minimal impact on the environment and offers maximum benefits for local communities, while exceeding the expectations of today’s discerning and adventurous travellers.”
Contact the concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Amman today to find out more about the exciting experiences that await in Um Qais. Stay tuned for details of more delightful excursions in nearby Pella, one of the ten historic Decapolis cities that were established during the Hellenistic period.
Why Al Maryah Island? Everything about Abu Dhabi’s newest business and lifestyle destination
Abu Dhabi, meaning Land of the Gazelle, has been at crossroads of commerce and culture for centuries. Today, the Emirate, is a modern, cosmopolitan hub for travellers from around the world to explore this growth. Al Maryah Island is the perfect vantage point for this. The new heart of the the capital offers visitors and residents exceptional business and lifestyle experiences. Here are our top three reasons to choose Four Seasons for your next visit to Abu Dhabi:
Location, location, location
Director of Rooms, Mark Syputa feels Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island is perfectly positioned to offer business and leisure travelers the best of the UAE’s capital:
“What I love about Al Maryah Island is that you have all the conveniences of direct connections to downtown Abu Dhabi, with the added benefits of being able to walk to Abu Dhabi Global Market and the surrounding office towers. Add to that the close proximity to key cultural attractions (like Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Qasr al Watan, and Qasr al Hosn) and the highest density of amazing restaurants & bars in all of Abu Dhabi; I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather live, work & play in our capital city.”
World-class shopping and dining
Al Maryah Island has a wealth of world-class dining and shopping. Exotic flavors from near and far are the biggest attraction with over forty options including our very own award-winning restaurants Butcher & Still, and Cafe Milano; not to mention, Zuma, Coya, and Le Petit Maison. Guests can also shop until they drop in The Galleria, the city’s most exclusive shopping experience filled with the luxury brands. This is only set to amplify with the city’s latest mega-mall Al Maryah Central opening mid-2019 with over 400 retail outlets and 100 restaurants.
Health & Wellness focus
Health & Wellness is another key focus. The Island is fortunate to have one of the region’s premier hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, which has some of the world’s best doctors and highly personalized care. On property, Dahlia Spa in Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, encapsulates this holistic wellness approach by providing guests a results-driven approach through customised experiences crafted by an international team of spa experts.
A magical visit to Villa de Leyva, just hours from Bogota
Just a few hours from the bustling Colombian capital lies Villa de Leyva, a tranquil town littered with whitewashed stone houses dating back to the early 17th-century. The colonial-era town, northeast of Bogota and with a warmer climate, boasts winding cobbled streets situated around what’s claimed to be the largest stone square in South America. A day trip to the town can be easily arranged with the assistance of Four Seasons Hotels Bogota or Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota.
Visitors can explore the Pozos Azules, a series of bright blue artificial pools, which are situated only a five minute drive away from the central plaza. Other activities include a visit to architect Octavio Mendoza’s 5,400-square-foot house, which is made entirely out of clay. The Casa Terracota is an abstract piece of art, which one could imagine Antoni Gaudí would be proud to call his home. The clay abode can be explored on by foot and is just a 30-minute walk from the central square. Mendoza refers to his work as the largest piece of pottery in the world.
Members of staff at Four Seasons Hotels Bogota can also assist guests in planning activities for the day trip to the town. Guests who are interested in adventure activities can rent mountain bikes and cycle around the mountainous and historical trails of the town. Cycling tours are also available, which stop off at all of the main points of interest, while some offer coffee and wine tasting.
The local people of Villa de Leyva offer a warm and hospitable welcome, and there are plenty of local family-run restaurants, bakeries, and shops. A few minutes walk from the main central plaza are winding cobbled streets lined with artisan gifts and crafts, which are made by locals. One shop, in particular, serves fresh home-made hummus.
The town, which is part of the Boyaca department of Colombia, is formerly a colony of Spain and gained independence in 1812. Visitors may also recognise the town from Gabriel García Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera, as the main character Florentino Ariza spends part of his life in Villa de Leyva. As well as a rich historical significance, the place also has a strong scientific background. The valley in which it’s located is rich in fossils and even has a paleontology museum dedicated to the hundreds of artifacts that have been discovered.
Paradise found: Saint Lucia preserving beauty through data and policy action
If ever an island justified the label “paradise” that tourist brochures liberally apply to destinations, it is Saint Lucia.
Shaped like a teardrop, this tiny Caribbean nation has everything. Crescent moon beaches of white sand. Jagged volcanic mountains jutting up from the azure waters. Eclectic biodiversity that manifests in a riot of colour, no more so than in the Saint Lucia Amazon, a spectacular parrot found only on the island.
Unfortunately, as is the case in so many places, human activity is endangering this beauty and the benefits it brings to humanity. The threats are many, including extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, forest habitat loss from land-use change and over-exploitation of marine resources.
We can deal with these challenges, as the return of the Saint Lucia Amazon, or Amazona versicolor, shows. In the 1970s, only around 100 of these birds remained. Thanks to a conservation programme, the species is now on an upward trend. While still classed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the last census of the bird, carried out between 2007 and 2009, found a stable and viable population of 2,258 individuals.
The Government of Saint Lucia, with the support of UN Environment, is determined to repeat this success for all the island’s natural resources while ensuring a better future for its estimated 180,000 residents.
The nation is signed up to global treaties, including the three Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the Paris Agreement falls.
In order to meet its obligations and to design and implement meaningful interventions, the government needs to have a clear picture of where it stands in terms of data and required policies.
“While we pursue on-the-ground initiatives that guarantee our survival, it is equally important to pursue the soft initiatives that will allow us to make sound decisions on the strategic interventions needed,” said Annette Rattigan-Leo, Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer.
In August 2018, the island took a big step forward. Working with UN Environment on a Global Environment Facility-funded project, the Saint Lucian government launched its first national environmental information system. Information on the three big treaties is available to ministries, the private sector, academia, multilateral environmental treaty focal points and the public. For each convention, indicators related to broader policy goals and objectives are being integrated to support reporting and translate data into useful and actionable information.
“This is certainly an encouraging endeavour, as it will allow Saint Lucia to work closely with UN Environment,” said Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development. “We acknowledge the crucial role environmental information continues to play in helping us meet our national and multilateral environmental agreement obligations.”
As part of the project, 17 major environmental data providers signed an agreement to cooperate on the development and use of the system, ensuring that the bigger picture will be as complete as possible. Meanwhile, the project developed a set of core sustainable development and environmental indicators for the Rio conventions, which all derive directly from the 1992 Earth Summit. According to Teshia Jn Baptiste, who managed the project, the system and associated common data storage facility have “significantly improved collaboration among the public and private sectors”.
Those who work on the ground are hopeful that the new system will help Saint Lucia meet its commitments and so improve the health of its ecosystems.
“If we reach our targets, the livelihoods of fishermen and others depending on marine resources will be protected in the face of climate change impacts,” said Allena Joseph, Fisheries Biologist in Saint Lucia’s Department of Fisheries. “We can do this through better-informed decisions in areas relating to biodiversity conservation and resilience building.”
The government has previously called for an end to illegal logging, which has led to habitat loss and landslides. Karl Augustine, a research officer in the Forestry Department, believes that the new system will help claw back some of the damage.
“We see a positive impact on human and wildlife cohabitation and a transition to forest in areas historically affected by land degradation,” he said.
For species such as the Amazona versicolor and the people of Saint Lucia, this can only be good news.
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