Our Exclusive Interview With Luma Qusus & Mona Naffa Of Local Eye
What is your favorite aspect of traveling?
Mona— The memories, the stories, and the people that I meet are all part of my inspiration to travel. I travel to calm my senses and recharge my creativity and motivation. A passion while traveling is exploring new ideas, and styles and bringing that inspiration back home with me. And, I always travel with my tennis shoes to walk around my accommodations and know my surroundings.
Luma–Immersing myself in another culture and pace of life. I find that many touristic experiences can be detrimental because local communities are expected to live, move and work around incoming travelers, they work to accommodate those visiting. My favorite way to travel is adapting to the flow of the place/communities I am visiting. I prefer roaming around, admiring, and remaining open and curious… That is how you maximize your travel experiences to guarantee maximum authenticity and minimum harm or disruption.
What inspired the creation of Local Eye?
Mona and Luma joined forces a few years ago and created a trip for some friends who expressed an interest to come to Jordan! So from that trip to many other excursions, Local Eye was created and within each journey, we develop new and exciting experiences with the Local Eye Brand! Both of us share Jordan in common and we are both passionate about building cultural bridges between communities from the West to the East. Not only are we natives of the land but we also share the same lust for life, culture, and creativity. Mona’s involvement in the tourism sector and Luma’s heavy involvement in the artistic and culinary scenes of Jordan made for a very harmonious match – it only made sense that we join forces to share this gift that is Jordan with the rest of the world… through our local eyes!
How often do you travel?
Mona—I travel twice a year: Once to visit family/friends in the USA and another with my husband seeking new places, sights, sounds, and stories to bring back home. Post Covid, changed my mindset to seek opportunities as they evolve and go for it!
Luma – as often as I can! Although I will say, the real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Covid showed me that local travel can be just as enriching, and when even that is not possible, working on having the right mindset; a new set of eyes, is the key to seeing and appreciating beauty when you do get out into the world.
What are some examples of bespoke travel experiences that Local Eye curated?
We will visit the major sites of Jordan –Petra, Wadi Rum, Dead Sea, Citadel as these are the anchors that attract our visitors to Jordan and then from our feedback from our visitors we will then take them to the Art Scene, Women Owned Community Projects and Home visits to engage with our friends, family, and peers. We focus on the hidden gems, impact programs, and experiences that get little or no exposure and our tried and true passions close to our hearts. Luma—The Art Scene, as a Creator Mona—The Wellness Scene as a Wellness Wanderlust
How do you ensure that your trips provide authentic and immersive experiences?
When you travel with locals, our visitors will understand Jordan through an organic and authentic experience that they may otherwise miss. This includes interacting with other local artisans, visiting hidden heritage sites, roaming lesser-known streets and towns, and indulging in exclusive culinary experiences. A large component of our curated trips involves interacting with locals, so our travelers will be able to hear generational stories firsthand from those who lived them. More importantly, as our bespoke itineraries are created from within, all activities and gifts directly support the local and small-business economy – so, not only are we offering authentic and immersive experiences, but also those that have a positive impact.
Can you share some of the unique activities travelers can experience through your local eyes?
We will be visiting our home towns: Al-Salt and Madaba and share the stories of our families and ancestries. We will visit the homes, neighborhoods, and museums that represent the town of our families and immerse our visitors in the secondary sites in Jordan. These are locations that are well deserved but do not get the attention of most travelers.
How do you ensure that your tours have a minimal impact on the environment?
Our objective is to preserve and share our cultural heritage, and community all while sharing authentic tourist experiences; bringing our guests to the local communities, and providing a platform to know each other for a mutual benefit is one of many ways to have minimal impact. A few other recommendations: Our visitor will be taking a direct flight to Jordan, recycle bins on the bus, and a lot of walking!
What are the criteria used in selecting local partners, artisans, or food outlets?
We built a community and partners through our working relationships, friendships, and trusted resources over many years, Mona was the Expedia Local Partner for Jordan for 10 years and Luma created a community of artists and business owners; and through our trusted network and taking care of our own, we selected our ‘Partners’. We are detailed oriented, and professional and expect exceptional service with our partners.
How do your curated experiences encourage tourists to engage with the local community?
As mentioned earlier, our trips are not just designed around the traveler, but rather around the local. In ensuring that our itineraries promote appreciative observation and respectful engagement with the community, we avoid artificial or manufactured experiences that prioritize luxury and the comfort of the traveler and impede the environment, flow, and pace of life of the local environment. We hope that by revealing the beauty of Jordan to our travelers and creating space for local stories to be heard, they feel encouraged to engage with and learn from the community.
How does the Local Eye contribute to the preservation of local culture and heritage?
We are Jordanian and we share our culture, our family traditions, and our heritage as the ‘Theme’ for our visitors. We are the Personas of The Local Eye Brand: We are proud global citizens who love our culture, our community, and our country. We are Brand Ambassadors for Jordan.
How do you create awareness among tourists about ethical travel?
We lead by example! We live our lives like how we want to be perceived and received when we travel. We hope to administer the same type of treatment when we travel and will try to install an ethical way of life when our guests arrive to Jordan. We are instilling the traits of Ethical Travel in our program: a positive and kind attitude; respect for our culture with guidelines shared with our visitors; and consciousness of the environment.
What are some of the lesser-known experiences in Jordan that you recommend, “the hidden gems?”
The experiences are a creation of Mona and Luma’s passions, peers, and what we would want out of an experience from Jordan. We put ourselves in the Eye of a Tourist and we believe we provide the best value for our services, experiences, and expectations from Jordan. A few highlights to share with your readers: Listening to the biggest collector of the Arab dress Tiraz founder Mrs. Widad Kawar and her stories of Arab Textiles and Costumes; Walking the streets with a Street Blogger, cooking with a Grandma at her house and weaving workshop with the Bedouin women community. Join us on one of our trips! Why tell you when we can show you?
What are the essential characteristics or traits of a Local Eye traveler?
The Local Eye visitor is a traveler who is eager to learn about new places, meet new people, and immerse him/her into a new culture, community, and conversation. We encourage our travelers to be respectful, observant, incurably curious, and above all, open to any and all sort of experience, regardless of how different it may be from what they are familiar with! At the end of the day, we might all be different on the outside but as human beings, we are all similar on the inside.