A night under the stars of Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is a great valley in Jordan’s southern desert, inhabited for centuries by the nabateens who left petrogylphs and temples, and then the bedouins who still wander the sands today.  Wadi Rum may be best known, though, as the trekking grounds of TE Lawrence (of Arabia, and of Hollywood fame) who spent a lot of time there during the Arab Revolt of WW I.
Today, a guide can be hired to jeep adventurers from the wadi entrance, out to a variety of desert camps.  There, they can camel ride, dance around a bonfire, watch a sunrise, and soak in some sandy solitude.

Today, Polly from Princeton, NJ tells us of her memorable overnight under the stars of Wadi Rum…
Q:  Tell us the highlight of your desert overnight adventure!

A:  The petroglyphs!  We took 4 wheel drive, 45 minutes or more, deep out into desert. I could get out and climb on rocks. Oh, the textures! and Colors!

Another memorable moment was my “alarm clock” — very early in the morning, I could hear camels snorting outside my tent.

Q:  What surprised you the most?
The sand!  I had expected a desert to be white and expansive, but the sand was red, and very coarse.  It made for a stunning glow at sunset!

Q:  What suggestions would you make for a newcomer to Wadi Rum?
Strike out on your own!  You don’t have to go far, just far enough to be solo in the desert. I went out alone – saw tracks of tiny creatures, listened to the wind.

In the distance, a bedouin woman walked with her herd of goats… she didn’t want her photo  taken (I had been warned to ask before shooting), but this quiet woman and I had a little moment together, before she wandered off with her goat bell tinkling… it was just a small moment, completely unplanned, with someone off the tourist track, and it gave me a touchstone back to authentic Jordan which I will always treasure!

And here’s some practical advice:  Hire a driver!  He handles the entry fees, the gas, the directions, and the introductions to your camel guide.  You just pay him at end, and it simplifies so many logistics, plus drivers are inexpensive in Jordan.

Q:  Did you see any wild creatures? 
No animal life, except that herd of domesticated goats and some riding camels! 

Okay, this was a fun moment…on a 4-wheel-drive, open-jeep, desert tour, we met up with some camel drivers, and went on a camel ride!
Word of warning: 
Saddles in the desert are not designed for comfort, and every time we passed those scrubby bushes, my camel HAD to stop and take a bite… very amusing. 

Q:  Tell us about dinner
It was a charming communal meal, served in our camp, seated in a semi-circle of dark velvety cushions, splayed around a roaring bonfire.  A musician played one of those 3-stringed guitars and we danced!  The music got very boisterous! 

It was a sumptuous feast! …bowls of fruit,  all the classic middle eastern dishes, this 
heavenly firebaked bread like naan… all beautifully displayed on long table. 

And the chicken! They cook it traditionally, in a roaster called a Zarb — wrapped in canvas, cooked in a kettle, buried deeply in the sand pit, the chicken looks all orange-y (and smells so fragrant!) when they lift it out.  Boy, was it delicious!   We were all amazed at the remarkable spread that they laid out for us, so far from a real kitchen!

Breakfast?  It was very good, except they serve something like spam for breakfast meat!

Q:  Did you sleep in a tent?

Yes, but you know, it was different than I had expected.  The tents were made of goat hair, and all connected via side walls.  The BIG surprise was a  REAL pillow, plus sheets and blanket.
At first, my tent was hot and stuffy, so I tried to sleep outside on the wonderful dinner cushions.  In the dark, alone, with fire still glowing, I stared up into a sky exploding like powdered sugar with a million stars!  But then mosquitoes started biting and that was the end of THAT magic!
When I returned to the tent, it was amazingly cool!   AND bug free! (people always ask me that!)

Q:  I hate to ask, but…. what about toilets?

I expected pit toilets, but my camp had just renovated and they were downright luxurious!
Lots of marble, flush toilets… but oddly, they don’t supply you with towels!  and the showers were COLD!

Q:  How far did you go back into the Wadi?  
Wadi rum is quite enormous, but my camp was about 20 minutes into it, from where I rode a jeep out another 20-30 minutes, and then took a camel ride, to edge of a precipice.

Q:  Okay, sounds wonderful.. but what was the low point? 

The generators… they make a lot of racket.  But generators bring refrigeration, so they’re important.   Plus, they’re turned off at night, and then… ahhhh, the bliss of silence!

Q:  What other activities do they offer back in Wadi Rum? 


You can go desert trekking, hot air ballooning, mountain biking, or visit Jebel Rum, the ancient bathhouse of the Nabateaean.   You can even see the house of TE Lawrence, himself (above, right)!

One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” 

― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

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