"The crags were capped in nests of domes, less hotly red than the body of the hill; rather grey and shallow. They gave the finishing semblance of Byzantine architecture to this irresistible place: this processional way greater than imagination... Our little caravan grew self-conscious, and fell dead quiet, afraid and ashamed to flaunt its smallness in the presence of the stupendous hills." - T.E Lawrence
Welcome to Wadi Rum, a series of broad valleys that stretch from the north to the south for over 100km to make up a quintessential desert that will take your breath away. The area has been protected since 1988 with a mandate to promote tourism for the benefit of the locals yet whilst protecting the fragile desert environment. No mean feat when you find out that over 600 4WDs bring over 100000 visitors per year. The local Bedouin have been roaming here for centuries and about 5000 remain albeit with a more settled life in villages.
The easiest way to get around the desert is primarily by 4WD. And if that doesn't float your boat then there's camel. I was going to do both. First up, 4 hours in the blistering desert sun on a bench in the back of a vehicle holding on for dear life as we flew over sand dunes. Fantastic. I'm sure Lawrence of Arabia did it like this.... Right? The driver was likely not a day over 13, however they are well trained and drive incredibly well. I reminded myself of this as I got air time flying over a huge sand dune.
The sights are amazing: the seven pillars of wisdom, sand dunes, Alameleh & Anfaishiyya rock inscriptions, rock bridges created by the wind and parking your behind at a sunset vantage point to watch the sun disappear for yet another day.
Of course all this was made better by tea and music at a Bedouin tent. Oh and not to mention rocking out in the back of the truck to some Arabic music and having a bunch of Aussies "chasing" us in the truck behind with Jordanian head scarfs wrapped around their faces but still wearing their sunnies. It made me wonder for a minute if we were being chased having stolen the Holy Grail. Oh ok, ok.... It was totally awesome to pretend that we were being chased by rebels for having stolen the Grail.
The best way to experience the desert is to sleep in it. This is achievable by staying at a Bedouin camp. These camps are only permitted in certain areas and have to meet certain standards. For your fee you get a tent, blankets and food. At night, you sit amongst the stars and get served dinner cooked in a zerb. This is basically an oven buried in the ground. Naturally the meat options didn't particularly appeal to me but the jacket spuds, also cooked the same way, were delish and there were plenty of Jordanian/Arabic salads & Arabic bread... And coca cola. I was more than full. People that ate the meat said it was very very good. I guess, based on previous trips however, it was not exotic enough and so I stuck to my usual diet. It was quite the experience eating dinner in a Bedouin tent. Their hospitality is second to none and I truly did feel very very welcome there.
My sleeping "tent" was huge yet cozy. The walls, I believe, are made from woven wool although you will find others that incorporate leather. You actually get a real bed... Well its not exactly something you'd find in the Hilton but its certainly not like any tent I have recently stayed in. So after a quick sweep of my "room" I appear to be creature free and it's time to cocoon myself up in my blankets to settle down for the night. The temperature drops quite considerably at night. However I'd be a liar to say my cocoon-like state was for warmth, instead it's more to protect myself from things that potentially go bump in the night... Particularly the 8-legged kind. *Eeek*
Every adventurer has to be scared of an animal, right?
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