The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with just over 6 million people and approximately 90,000 sq km's. It is an ancient land with a colourful history and it's the location of many biblical references. Jordan is a country that can proudly boast 'quality not quantity'.
Although the famed lost city of Petra gets most of the hype, the spectacular sandstone desert of Wadi Rum is a worldly destination on its own. The pristine landscapes are not to be missed when traveling to the Middle East. For the history buff, the Wadi Rum is also the place where 'Lawrence of Arabia' took part in the celebrated Arab Revolt.
The tour that we booked sent us a private driver to transport us to Rum Village, about an hour north of Aqaba. We joined three French women in the village and climbed into the back of an open-aired 4x4 jeep.
Our jeep safari driver, a Sudanese man whose name we couldn't understand, took us deep into the unforgiving desert wilderness and showed us incredible rock formations and unforgettable panoramic views. The closest comparison to Wadi Rum would be the Grand Canyon in Nevada, yet they are quite different from one another.
The 4x4 jeep safari was amazing. We hiked to hilltop lookouts, crossed natural rock bridges, ran up and down enormous red sand dunes and explored colourful canyons. Our small group enjoyed hot cups of sweet tea while sitting on cushions in the middle of the desert plains. Gazing at the surrounding multi-colored mountains, we found ourselves in a constant state of silent admiration and wonder. The colors and shapes of the mountains are extraordinary, some look like walls of melted red and orange candle wax.
Surprisingly the weather was quite cool in the desert. When our jeep was traveling in the sunlight it was warm, as one would expect in the desert, but once we hit a patch of shade we found ourselves reaching for our sweaters. The canyons and siqs were also quite cold and damp; an unexpected temperature given the harsh and dry desert environment.
Our driver took us to a great hillside location to watch the sunset over the rocky vista. He made an evening campfire and brewed another pot of sweet tea before our team of six made the bumpy drive to a nearby Bedouin village, our home for the night.
When we booked the tour we had the option to either stay at a remote swanky tourist encampment or with a local Bedouin family in their tented home. The luxurious option sounded great and the price was reasonable, but we figured the more authentic experience would be with the Bedouin family (although we were unsure what the sleeping conditions would be like).
We were happy that we made the right choice.
Our group joined two Belgium men, also foreign tourists, at the basic Bedouin camp. We sat around the campfire in the large tent and drank tea with the Bedouin men. A cloth wall separated the tent into two separate rooms. The Bedouin women stayed in the opposite room and prepared dinner for the hungry guests and extended family. It is common for the women to not socialize with the guests.
Local Bedouin men came and went, many just stopped by to say hello. The people were so friendly and welcoming, a big difference from the Egyptian hospitality that we experienced a week before. After dinner the men broke out musical instruments and the singing and clapping began. We swapped stories and learned about their nomadic and simple lifestyle and life in Wadi Rum. It was good fun and a fantastic evening!
Fortunate for us it was a full moon that evening. The moon illuminated the mountains and lit up the desert terrain. It was so peaceful and quiet. We went for a late night walk around the camp and marveled at our setting - we couldn't believe that we were camping under the stars in a faraway desert in the Middle East!
Wadi Rum is probably one of the most unique places we've visited (I know - we've said this far too many times, but its true!). Camping with the local Bedouin family was the icing on the cake. Even though it was designed for the paying tourist, it was one of the most authentic and pure experiences we've had on our global journey. Jordanians are very proud of their Bedouin heritage and culture and we quickly understood why.
It's hard to capture Wadi Rum's beauty and character with words. We're thankful that the internet allows us to upload photos so that you can see its magnificence for yourself.
After a simple breakfast we hopped back in the jeep and made our way to Rum Village where another driver was waiting to transport us to the world famous lost city of Petra.
And so our Jordan adventure continued…
November 4th, 2009