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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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