Wadi Rum is the valley as the word ‘Wadi’ suggests and it is a desert, a part of the famous desert of Arabia. If you are spending your holidays in Jordan, this has to be on top of your list of things to do in the country. I visited Wadi Rum towards the end of my 5 day trip in Jordan after I had seen its wonderful tourist site – Petra and my favorite historical site – Jerash. I could have very well been lost in the desert that has such a unique landscape and is home to the Bedouin tribe with tents as their homes. But I came back to tell you about my day spent there.
Allow me to take you through the must see / must do things in Wadi Rum.
The landscape of Wadi Rum – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Wadi Rum has a unique landscape of a desert. My reference was the Thar Desert of India that can be seen around Jaisalmer. Compared to that, it has rugged rocky hills scattered all over its sandy base. If you use a bit of animated imagination it would feel as if the rocks are emerging out of the sand.
The texture of the rocks is absolutely rugged as if telling you about the visages of times it has seen and withstood. At places, it looks as if they melted in the harsh heat and then were frozen in the cold of the winters.
Many films have used the landscape of these deserts to depict the surface of Mars. Now I am not sure if it actually resembles the surface of Mars but I am sure the films will make us believe that this is the piece of Mars on earth. Wait! Is that why I saw only men in all those Bedouin Tents in Wadi Rum!
Walk around a bit, despite the heat, and absorb the landscape, for this is the best part here.
Land of Nabateans
Nabataeans were the ancient inhabitants of this region and the whole of Petra City is attributed to them. They were a trading tribe that lived at the crossroads of ancient trade routes. Nabateans have left their marks in the form of Petroglyphs that can be seen on the rocks here. They are so similar to rock art that you see in places like Bhimbetka, Chhattisgarh and even rock carvings in Goa. A look at these petroglyphs made me wonder how the people located in various parts of the world expressed themselves so similarly. Did they meet each other and inspire each other’s work or it is just a part of the evolution that they all had the same inspiration to leave behind stories for the generations to come.
There are camping accommodations available at Wadi Rum and I am sure it would be one hell of an experience to camp in the desert. However, I just did a day trip and missed the fun of staying in a camp. But I did have the joy of having lunch at Rahayeb Desert Camp.
The cooking was done in a so-called ‘traditional’ way where a whole animal was hung upside down on top is a simmering fire. My vegetarian sensibilities kept me closer to the salad table.
Camels and deserts can just not be separated. In fact, the image of one is incomplete without the other. So, go ahead take a camel ride in the desert. It is a bit tricky to get on and get off a camel but the guys around will help you out.
All too familiar with the terrain and the soft bed of sand, camels will move at their own pace. They would want to wander on their own every now and then. The reins in the hands of the camel man would keep them on their path. You will go up and down with its hump, scared that you may fall anytime, but not many falls. Camels know how to manage the load on their shoulders.
The view from the camel top, that is if you can focus on it, is very different from what you get on foot or even from a vehicle. So, try and gather as much of it as possible.
The easiest way to go around is on a 4X4 drive – that zooms through the desert and takes you to its popular points. The most famous being the Lawrence of Arabia point where you can see some faces carved on the stones. Honestly, there is nothing great about these faces until you hear a story that tells you that this is a commemorative carving.
It is a good point to stop, have a cup of tea with the Bedouins, admire the landscape and move on. The heat will not let you do so much.
I was fortunate to spot this lovely bird on the stones near the tent. No idea, what it is called and any help to identify this would be highly appreciated.
Tea at Bedouin Camp
Bedouin camp tents – the real ones are made of goat hair and can cost you a fortune. Our guide told us the story of Bedouins and said that they are nomadic but not poor. How interesting, you have all the means but you choose to be nomadic. He told us the most valuable possession of Bedouins besides their impeccable hospitality – their goat haired tents. Can you imagine how many goats would have to donate their hair and how many nimble human hands would have to weave them into full-fledged tents? Let me tell you Bedouin camp tents are not like small huts, they are like small mansions with red and black woven walls.
In the middle of the Bedouin camp sits a tea space –amber burning with a teapot sitting on them – constantly brewing the sweet tea for anyone who enters the tents. No, this is not for sale. This is the most common sign of Bedouin hospitality where anyone stepping into the tent is offered cups of sweet tea and no money is ever accepted for this. Some tents have a corner shop where you can, of course, pick up some Bedouin Souvenirs.
The Arab Revolution Show on Hejaz Railways
There is a heritage railway line passing through the desert. A part of the train still runs for the tourist and you can see it at Wadi Rum station. They even re-create the 1916 Arab Revolution on this train. Read my detailed post on Hejaz Railway and the unique story of how it was built.
Wadi Rum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Video of Drive through Wadi Rum Desert
Watch the video clip of wanderings.
- It lies between the city of Amman and Aqaba. You can do it as a day trip from either of them. There is bus connectivity but it would be easier to do it with a cab.
- It is easy to get lost in the landscape, so take the services of a local guide.
- Carry a lot of water with you and if your skin is sensitive – use a lot of sunscreens.
- Dress modestly – would be helpful both culturally and climatically.
Recommend you to read following Jordan tourist attractions.