Doors to Dana’s past: A photographic history


If you enjoy photography, it is likely you have favourite photographic themes. Mine are destination dependent, especially when I am on holiday.

I seek moody skylines in Rome, stray cats in Crete, and feluccas passing each other on the Nile.

In the Ottoman village of Dana in southern Jordan, I seek doors!

Mosque, houses, hotels, and doors in the middle of nowhere! I have my favourites! My beloved, blue battered doors; the wooden doors so tired that they can only lean against doorways and sigh; and the missing doors acting as gateways to half forgotten memories in Dana’s timeless streets.

When I first visited Dana, the village was mainly in ruins. That was the Dana I fell in love with. The doors became my gateway to ‘old Dana’, and the stories I heard of the ‘old life’ lived between the wadi and the village.

I share some of the doors here with reverence, because when the last houses have been restored, many of these doors will be no more.

Why the need for restoration? The village fell into disrepair after the majority of Dana’s families moved to the nearby ‘new’ village of Qadisiyah in the 1980s and 1990s. Read here about the imposed conservation processes, and other factors, that led to the community leaving Dana and its traditional way of life.

The photographs

I begin with the Dana Cooperative’s sign for its first tourism project which was the Dana Hotel. The Cooperative’s name on the sign is a little bit different from the name used today. It took time for the Cooperative to decide on the best English version of its name. The sign is nailed onto one of the arch shaped doors at the entrance to Dana Hotel.

The Cooperative first used some of the houses within this small complex as its offices and headquarters. Later, a few rooms (houses) within the courtyard were renovated and became the Dana Hotel (the first community owned hotel in Jordan). The capacity of Dana Hotel grew as more rooms were renovated.

Originally, the houses within the courtyard complex were the homes of the sheikh and his family.

Beautiful blue doors to the mosque! The perimeter walls are built into the slope of the village. The metal door is the entrance into the courtyard and forms part of the perimeter. The inner door is the entrance to the mosque itself. 

This house was the childhood home of Ahmad. Read Dana Village to find out more about him, or scroll to the top of the page to see his photograph.  He is the ‘face’ in the blog title. His family home sits at the end of the village, just before the start of the Wadi Dana Trail to the archaeological sites of Feinan. 

Door, side gate or washing line? This combination belonged to a family still living in the village. Small children were laughing and playing on the opposite side of the door combination. It provided an ideal barrier to keep them close to home. 

A door with a view! A lonely door overlooks Wadi Dana and Dana village. It stands at the side of the mountain road leading down from Qadisiyah to Dana, and was once part of Dana school’s fenced area. There is a sharp drop at the other side of the fence and door!

Wood is a scarce commodity in Dana, so repairs are important. Someone has taken the time to carefully and painstakingly make these repairs. Little is thrown away in Dana, because resources are few. Most things are either repaired or adapted for another purpose. 

Definitely a gateway to the past! Only the door frame remains. Perhaps the wood from the missing door was used to repair the door in the previous photograph. The repaired door and empty gateway stand next to each other. The path through the gateway leads down to some orchards, and the mountain behind forms the other side of Wadi Dana.

A partially completed renovation! Walls under repair, an old metal door, and a bright spring day sky. All the stones used to rebuild the house are the original stones from either the house itself or other ruins in the village.

For a short time, this horse was my neighbour! His customised stable door was unique in the village, at the time the photograph was taken.

A patchwork door! A wooden door patched with available materials, probably part of an oil drum or similar. This building makes me think of a tiny, crusader castle in ruins! 

Naturally and fashionably distressed, this door is the entrance to one of the old rooms at Dana Hotel. It was the first room I stayed in when I arrived in Dana as a volunteer. Enter through the arched doorway in the very first photograph of this post, and ‘Room 1’ is directly on the left.

A doorstep cat matching his surroundings perfectly! Most of the cats in Dana are feral, and share his colourings. 

And finally!

Every old door needs an old, rusty key!

The photographs were taken over a five year period between 2012 and 2017. Some of the doors are still in situ. 

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