The Wonders of Wadi Rum

My 9-day adventure in Jordan was coming to an end. After 2 days of exploring Petra, it was time for me to move on further south of the country to experience the wonders of the desert – the wonders of Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum is often associated with the British officer T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who spent a significant amount of time in this desert during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during 1917 to 1918. Fans of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia will recognise the Wadi Rum landscape which is not so much sand dunes like the Sahara as it consists of mainly red sandstone, gorges, cliffs, arches, canyons and granite monoliths.

The Wadi Rum area is predominantly inhospitable to settled life, and no real infrastructure except for the Bedouin nomads and their goat hair tents. The Bedouin tribes in Wadi Rum now work closely with climbers and trekkers, earning income from tourism. They also set up and manage desert camps, camel and 4WD safari across the desert for tourists. Similarly to Petra, tourism businesses set up in Wadi Rum have to be owned by Bedouins, ensuring incomes are earned within the community only.

wadi rum bedouin nomads in desert

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I stayed one night in Wadi Rum at the Rahayeb Desert Camp. Upon arrival, I thought I was the only guest at the camp as there was no else around except for the owner and his staff. The owner said majority of the new guests would arrive around late afternoon or early evening while the current guests were out rock-climbing. Apparently I arrived too early, at midday.

wadi rum rahayeb desert camp
Rahayeb Desert Camp

There was nothing else to do until 4pm. I wanted to go out to explore the desert on a 4WD but my guide advised that it was not the best time as the sun was blazing hot and he was afraid that I would get a heatstroke. I couldn’t stay in my private tent as it was stifling; there wasn’t anyone to talk to except for the occasional banter with my guide and the camp staff. By the time the clock struck two in the afternoon, the staff was snoozing in the common area of the tent while I tried to read but the heat was unbearable. As a result, boredom kicked in and that was when I wished I had a travel partner to talk to.

Private tents
Private tents

wadi rum rahayeb desert camp common area tent

But I guess they always say, good things come to those who wait. True enough, our 4WD driver arrived just before 4pm. I hopped into the back of the jeep which was fitted with benches and a sun roof but open enough to feel the wind in my hair and most importantly, to have sweeping views of the Wadi Rum landscape.

And boy, it was exhilarating! My eyes were treated to a spectacular “Martian” landscape of red sand, rugged terrains, gorges and canyons. Speaking of which, did you know that the film The Martian was filmed in Wadi Rum? You probably thought it was a computer animated landscape of Mars but it’s actually Wadi Rum!

The experience of sitting at the back of this fast-moving jeep was bone-shaking but thrilling. The driver kept on driving but any point in time, should I wished to take photos, all I had to do was knock on the roof of the vehicle and he would stop.

wadi rum images jordan

After an amazing 2-hour 4WD ride, I continued on a camel ride for about half an hour just in time to see the sun set. I was not able to capture a perfect sun set moment on camera as the weather was a little hazy that evening, however, the atmosphere in the middle of the desert left me speechless. As I rode on the camel, I heard absolutely nothing except for the occasional ting-ting sounds from the bells on the camel saddle. The camels trod softly on the sand, intermittently letting out a grunt or two but other than that, it was complete silence in the desert.

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Sunset
Sunset

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Time flies when you’re having fun. I was a little disappointed that it was time for me to return to Rahayeb Camp. But there were more surprises in store for me. The camp was getting ready for dinner and we were informed to expect a delectable feast of delicious, meat, rice, vegetables, and so on.

Rahayeb Camp in the evening
Rahayeb Camp in the evening

By nightfall, guests were invited to come forward to the sandpit in which lamb, herbs and vegetables were buried inside an iron oven cooked with hot coals. It was time for the camp staff to bring the cooked meat out to surface; they brushed the sand away from the oven, and immediately brought it over to the tent to serve the meat with rice and potatoes. The lamb was succulent, soft and juicy – it was so delicious and mouthwatering – I went for a second helping!

After dinner, we were lounging outside the tent, listening to music, watching people dance, some were smoking shisha. I didn’t join in the dance because dancing to Arabic pop music is not my thing – it’s the music rhythm that I’m not accustomed to.

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As I was driven back to the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, I reflected back on the places and people that I had visited and met throughout those 9 days. I couldn’t believe that I had actually made this trip possible. A couple of years ago, travel plans that were made with a former partner didn’t materialise; subsequently, the high exchange rates vis-a-vis Malaysian Ringgit were discouraging. However, in January 2016, I made a decision – expensive or not – I was going to make this trip happen, and I did!

It had been an extraordinary experience: the vibrant city of Amman, the ancient wonders of Jerash and Citadel Amman, the well preserved mosaics in Madaba, the biblical sites of Mount Nebo and the River Jordan, the salty Dead Sea, the spectacular Petra and last but not least, the glorious wonders of the Wadi Rum desert. All in all, every experience spent in Jordan was worth every penny!

This was part of my 5-day private tour of Petra & Wadi Rum which was generously discounted by Jordan Select Tours. Opinions expressed in this post, if any, as always, are my own.

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*Linking with #FarawayFiles and #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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26 comments

  1. Such a spectacular landscape! Wadi Rum seems so remote and unreachable, almost mythical, so it’s great to hear from people who make the effort to see it. Definitely adds fuel to our wanderlust! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. Yeah, Jordan is relatively small country. You can travel from one end of the country to the next within 4-5 hours. So you can access to the desert quite easily and I’m glad that it was accessible because the landscape is absolutely spectacular 🙂

  2. I haven’t watched the Martian but the landscape does look like it could be on a hypothetical Mars! What a beautiful place. The camp looks wonderful too. Re the expense, I felt like that about the Galapagos too, but I figured it’s a one-off expense, so just bit the bullet. No regrets!

    1. Oh do watch The Martian, hopefully that will inspire you to make a trip to Jordan one day 🙂 Regarding travelling expenses, sometimes, it’s best that we don’t think too much because after all, life is short and we should make these trips worthwhile…but of course, within reason haha..

  3. What an amazing experince. Though I’m not to sure about sitting aroud in that oppressive heat – shame there were no fans, I suppose that would take up to much fuel from the generators.

    1. Yeah, true, having fans would take up fuel/energy from the generators. I suppose the whole idea is to experience the same kind of lifestyle (well, almost) as the Bedouins in the tent.

  4. Such a beautiful place. I love landscapes that are so different from what I am used to! I’m happy that you were able to make the trip as well and that you have shared it with us at #FarawayFiles. An amazing journey you have taken us on! Erin

    1. Conversely, I love the European landscapes and sceneries in your posts because they are so different from what I’m used to, lol! Glad that you loved the post and photos, Erin, happy to share with you and on the #farawayfiles travel linky…

  5. Glad you made it to Jordan and Wadi Rum. It is a special place. I was fortunate when I visited Wadi Rum, in that the workshop I had participated in Amman organized an overnight travel out of the city for the participants. We visited Petra in the morning and were inside the coach during the hottest part of the day, traveling towards Wadi Rum. So we reached the desert camp in the afternoon just in time to climb the cliffs to watch the sunset.

    1. Sunset in the desert is incredible, isn’t it? Absolute silence and watching the sun set in the desert was truly remarkable – a once-in-a-lifetime experience 😉

  6. Such a wonderful experience, Kat! I’d love to spend a night in the desert. I did some camel trekking in the desert in India and well remember the searing heat in the middle of the day. Your trip into Wadi Rum sounds incredible. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

    1. Many thanks Clare. I come from the tropics, I should be used to the heat, right, haha! But desert heat is a different kind – it was an interesting experience for me 🙂

    1. Haha, yes, The Martian was filmed in Wadi Rum. I learnt about this in Jordan and incidentally, Emirates flight was showing The Martian in one of their in-flight movies – I watched it again on my return flight to Malaysia 😉

  7. Looks incredible! I have been to Egypt in summer and have an idea on how the temperatures get midday. I do not blame your guide for not wanting to risk your health. Great you were able to explore when the temperature was nicer. #farawayfiles

    1. Many thanks Ruth..I was in Jordan in early May, can’t imagine how hot the desert is in the middle of summer! Yeah, my guide was right – it would have been a risk to suffer from heatstroke in the blazing heat.

  8. I have absolutely loved being a virtual passenger on your journey through Jordan Kat. The way you describe the landscape, culture and people make me want to jump on a plane there tomorrow. Thanks for joining us again on #farawayfiles

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