Wadi Rum is a protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan. It features dramatic sandstone mountains like the many-domed Jebel Um Ishrin, and natural arches such as Burdah Rock Bridge. Many prehistoric inscriptions and carvings line rocky caverns and steep chasms, such as Khazali Canyon. The natural watering hole of Lawrence’s Spring is named after British soldier Lawrence of Arabia, who allegedly washed there.This beautiful red-sand desert is famous for its awe-inspiring sunsets, which peek through the mountain and rock formations at various angles, creating some of the best photo ops I’ve ever seen. You actually feel like you’ve left the Earth!
Lawrence of Arabia was filmed in Wadi Rum, and on the outskirts of the reserve, you can explore the train and train station from the movie.The Martian were also filmed here. Indeed, I felt like I was on planet Mars during most of my stay there.
Virtually all the people living in and around Wadi Rum are of Bedouin origin and, until recently, led nomadic lives, relying on their goat herds. They belong to seven tribal groups, of which the three largest are the Zalabia tribe who make up the majority of people living in Rum Village; as Rum village is the only village inside the protected area; the Zalabia tribe is largely responsible for tourism services and operate many of the jeep and camel tours.
As we arrived at the Visitors’ Centre there was the usual loo break (very clean and the loos were European not squats) and then the usual hanging around with numerous shops to buy from. All with local souvenirs, clothes etc of decent quality. We were booked on a tour by our ship which had docked in Aqaba so there were some sorting out to do.
Finally off to join our 4×4’s which in reality were what we called in South Africa “a Bakkie”. It had seats on either side with old cushions which had seen better days. They were comfortable but getting into our 4X4 was a mission as the tailgate was tied down with rope as the clasps were broken, Fortunately there was a protruding bumper so we managed to clamber in using it as a step. The vehicle would not have passed it’s MOT!! With some elderly people on our tour steps were provided and they were lucky to get a 4×4 with a tailgate that worked. And then off we went at a slow pace driven by a young boy who was no more than 14. He did drive very well and we did not get smothered by dust from the vehicle we were following, 6 in all and all with youngsters driving.The views of the mountains as we drove along the desert were fantastic. Pinks and reds and yellows making a stunning experience including the Seven Pillars of Wisdom named in honour of Lawrence of Arabia’s book. Then up on a sand dune to look at the Valley of the Moon and back along the valley eventually stopping at a place full of camels – about 20 of them with their owners. Here we could ride a camel for $20 for a ride which I took lasting 20 minutes. We were followed by the 4X4s and finished a very interesting and unusual camel ride. Getting on and off consisted of hanging on for dear life while the camel knelt pushing you forward followed by him sitting down and throwing you backwards. A great experience.
The convoy of 4x4s then continued through a spectacular valley with mountains rising on both sides. A stop was made at Lawrence’s prison for a look at some souvenirs and tea if wanted. As we were to stop at a Bedouin camp for teas and cookies we gave this a miss.
Finally to top a wonderful day a stop at a camp where if you want you could stay the night. Instead the tour enjoyed mint tea and sesame seed biscuits which were very tasty.
On the way back to the ship, of course a stop for shopping at an official Government outlet. With tourism down with the trouble in the Middle East they were desperate for business and bargains could be found.