Iraq al Amir is a beautiful and peaceful spot just outside of Amman, on the Jordan Trail. We visited the cooperative to learn more about community tourism efforts in the area and how tourism can help!
Iraq al Amir
Sandwiched in between rolling hills and valleys, the village of Iraq al Amir is just 45 minutes’ drive from Amman, set in the Wadi Seer area. Iraq al Amir (also spelled as Iraq el Amir and Iraq Alameer) is a perfect example of beautiful rural Jordan that is home to lush green slopes and fig-trees a plenty: a welcome change from the sandy desert of southern and eastern Jordan.
Iraq al Amir is situated on the Jordan (hiking)Trail and also on Jordan’s Meaningful Travel Map. We’d come to visit the Iraq al Amir Womens’ Cooperative in partnership with Treadright and Trafalgar Travel as one of their brand new projects for 2018-9, to see and capture the work that was being done to empower Jordanian women through tourism.
Want to discover Jordan off the beaten path? Read about travelling Northern Jordan here!
The Iraq al Amir Womens’ Cooperative
Set up in 1993, the Cooperative was originally founded by the Queen Noor-el-Hussein foundation, as one of the Jordanian Royal Family’s social enterprises. In recent years however the foundation has been going it alone, without much outside support, and often struggling to pay for the substantial costs of running the centre.
Despite initial funding challenges, over 150 women from the neighbouring villages of Wadi Seer have now been trained in different handicraft skills. The Iraq al Amir Womens’ Society runs the cooperative and have created many employment opportunities for local ladies which would otherwise simply not be available. In rural Jordan, traditional society where women stay at home is the norm, and transport between villages is problematic; thereby putting very real limitations on potential careers and development outside the home for women in such areas.
Today, the cooperative serves many vital functions in the community. The side that we saw most of was that as a community tourism initiative. The ladies at Iraq al Amir offer cooking classes, traditional lunches, pottery, soap, paper and fabric-making workshops for tourists, in an effort to build a connection with visitors from the outside world, allowing them a unique glance into village life in this part of Jordan, and also to help provide a sustainable source of income for the cooperative. The cooperative is much more than a tourism initiative, though.
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What an incredible trip! Shannon at Treadright was joined by our sustainability ambassador @celinescousteau and a crew of inspired content creators this week in Jordan. The reason they were there? To learn about and share the story of the women at @iraqalamircoop – a women’s cooperative just outside of Amman. Check out @soultravelblog, @alisonsadventures and @chelseakauai to see what they’ve seen. And stay tuned for more Treadright stories about how we work to #maketravelmatter!
Connection and Meaning Through Travel
One of the most poignant takeaways from our time at Iraq al Amir was our reflection that connection is one of the most valuable things that travel can provide. As travellers we can expand our horizons through seeing new landscapes, learning about new cultures and meeting new people: but it’s not only us as travellers that should benefit from this experience. We see travel at its best as a win-win exchange, where both parties gain something – those hosting us too. And that’s what we saw at Iraq al Amir.
Perhaps more remarkable than anything is how the ladies of Iraq al Amir have found a renewed sense of purpose through their work at the Cooperative. Being hosts to outside visitors has strengthened their standing within the local community and even earned them respect and equality. The evolution of womens’ roles is a topic fraught with challenge, but here in Iraq al Amir, things are changing. The cooperative has helped break down initial barriers – such as women needing to leave to make the journey home by 3pm by helping with transport and providing accommodation for them.
Most notably of all, though many of the women spoke little English, communication was free flowing and full of care. As our fellow travellers and I huddled around the kitchen tables to make breakfast together, we giggled and chattered between all of us. As one of our hosts skeptically inspected the quality of our vegetable chopping, another of the ladies cheerfully showed us how to cover the breads with Za’atar (a delicious Middle Eastern blend of herbs). There is a unique bond that occurs when travelling far from home and strangers show you a warm welcome into their home: the ladies of Iraq al Amir are experts at this.
A New Experience with Treadright & Trafalgar Tours in Jordan
Our visit to Iraq al Amir was made possible through being guests of Treadright & Trafalgar tours, and we were lucky enough to be travelling with Celine Cousteau, Treadright’s Worldwide Ambassador and the perfect role model for making travel matter. The Treadright Foundation is the not-for-profit division of The Travel Cooperation, which is constantly on the look-out for ways to #maketravelmatter. As a group, the Travel Cooperation plans to go totally single-use-plastic free by 2020. That’s no small feat for a company that serves 1.9 million travellers each year.
The Treadright Foundation has a mission to create positive impact on the people and places we visit, to protect marine and wildlife, and to care for the planet that we call home. The Foundation supports over 50 different projects around the world in the countries that it runs tours in through its family of travel brands. The projects range from wildlife protection in Africa to helping provide clean drinking water to more families in Cambodia, to helping rehabilitate former “begging elephants” in India.
Iraq al Amir is one of the latest projects that Treadright are supporting, and from 2019 Trafalgar Tours travellers will be visiting Iraq al Amir on their trips to Jordan. The funding provided by Treadright has already helped to secure the future of Iraq al Amir and the ladies that work there by paying for utility bills and rent for the centre, as well as going towards building airbnb accommodation for hikers passing through Iraq al Amir.
Want to visit Amman? Read our Amman Travel tips here!
Visiting Iraq al Amir
At the Iraq al Amir cooperative you can attend a pottery workshop, learn to make paper or soap, or book a home-made lunch or cooking class. Aside from visiting the womens’ coop, there are plenty of things to do in Iraq al Amir (and the surrounding area) in its own right. Most visitors come as a day trip from Amman, but following the opening of accommodation at Iraq al Amir it’s now possible to linger a little longer in this beautiful part of Jordan.
Iraq al Amir is home to many caves that date back to the copper age and can be explored. It is also nearby to the site of quasar al abet, which is the only ancient Greek site that survives in Jordan today.
Iraq al Amir forms a stop on The Jordan Trail which runs over 650km and takes 46 days to hike from Umm Qais in the north of Jordan all the way to Aqaba. Don’t worry though – you don’t have do do the whole trail! Iraq al Amir falls in the third section (south) of the trail, from Fuhais to Wadi Zarqa Ma’in.
It’s our view that if we want to travel more responsibly in our world, we need many more Iraq-al-Amir’s.
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Editorial: Our trip to Jordan and to Iraq al Amir was sponsored by Treadright and Trafalgar Travel, but our opinions were not. You can read more about which organisations we work with in our Editorial Policy.
A Londoner by birth Ellie has lived in the UK, Netherlands, India and now Canada. Prior to blogging, she worked for 12 years in hospitality and online travel. Ellie started this blog during a sabbatical trip in 2015 around South Asia, to help conscious travellers find the best inspiration for their next sustainable trip. When not travelling, she is happiest with wine, pasta and a good (travel) book. Ellie is also Founder of Soul Travel Consulting which helps travel brands communicate their sustainability initiatives.