• By Tim Campbell

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is truly a wondrous desert kingdom and known for its most famous occupant, Lawrence of Arabia. Its name in Arabic means "Valley of the Moon" or "Roman Valley". Lawrence was a frequent visitor here during his army career but the Nabateans left their mark indelibly on the landscape with rock painting petroglyphs, graffiti and temples. Inhabited today by Zalabia Bedouin families and farmers who use camels for transport and milk, they also cater to tourists. They come to see the site of the Ridley Scott movie "The Martian" with Matt Damon and take camel rides. Part of the tour features a 4x4 ride across the sands followed by freshly brewed tea in the Bedouin camps.

Lunch one day was with Mohammad Ali. No, not the boxer as he always tells people, but a local minstrel who plays his tunes on an instrument called an oud. The Oud looks like a giant melon but is flat on one side. He provided a melodious rendition of a local song which was enjoyed while feasting on salad and chicken under a tent.

Tours in the area are as you imagine. Camel rides, 4x4 trips, ATV, balloon rides, jeep trips, rock climbing and tea next to carvings of Lawrence of Arabia. These are all fun, but obviously put together for the tourist. It's also what the locals have done for the economy in the area with no work as such to talk about, other than tourism. The Bedouins are all friendly and nice to the customers, but I believe there's an underlying resentment of rich western people exploiting the Arab culture through tourism this way.

One of the big draws in the area is to stay overnight in a Bedouin camp and feast on "Zarb". This exotic dish is Barbecue cooked in the ground. The Bedouin camps are also tourist traps because they are built with modern conveniences. For one all inclusive price you get transportation to the camp, all food and tea plus room and breakfast the next morning. There is some entertainment though with the camp staff dancing around a fire where you can join in if you desire.

I stayed at the Bait Ali camp, one of several in the area. Good food and plentiful, sitting around a camp fire, but with other Europeans or Americans, not the locals. Luckily I had my guide and driver to discuss the culture with and find out the truth from a Jordanian perspective, not just the force fed tourist perspective. Many of the locals did not speak English due to having to work instead of go to school when they were younger. Education was free though, paid for by the King and State, but many are so poor they cannot survive without the children working, so they don't go to school and get an education. The ubiquitous vicious circle.

However, the biggest asset of a trip to the desert is the scenery. Spectacular is one word but there are plenty of superlatives one could use to describe the vistas and colours, especially with the sun setting. Gold beams dancing on the backs of giants! Rugged mountains, sand, granite and sandstone make up this valley which looks like it has more hills than floor.

Now a national park, the region is centered on the main valley of Wadi Rum. The highest elevation in Jordan is Jabal Umm ad Dami at 1,840 m (6,040 ft) high, located 30 kilometres south of Wadi Rum village. On a clear day it's possible to see the Red Sea and the Saudi border from the top.

The area has been used as a set for many feature films such as:

Lawrence of Arabia

The Martian

Rogue One - Star Wars

Passion in the Desert




This really is one bucket list once in a lifetime trip. Do not pass up the chance to visit Jordan and Wadi Rum. Check my other blogs for further information on Amman, Lawrence of Arabia, The Dead Sea, Madabat, Petra and others.

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