Jordan: Wadi Rum

A friend, far more well travelled than I am, told me that her favourite place on Earth is Wadi Rum so to say that expectations were high for this part of the trip would be an understatement. Of course viewing the world through someone else’s eyes can be a curse as well as a blessing.

View over Wadi Rum, Jordan

The day started from Petra in four wheel drives, rumbling along tarmac for a while. We nipped off road a couple of times to take in some views and the tame conditions just off the main road made me question how rough things were going to get.

Inside the jeep/4wd, Wadi Rum, Jordan

I need not have worried. Shortly afterwards we dove off the road and into the desert, the whole car jiggling around and throwing the contents — anything unsecured — around. Did I mention that there were no seat-belts in the back? Hanging on for dear life, this part of the drive turned out to be relatively short.

It didn’t take long before we stopped at the Wadi Rum visitors centre. Tickets were purchased, visits to the bathroom were made and a video was watched, although, for me, in partial darkness as I only belatedly realised that I’d left my glasses in my other bag and had to watch it wearing my sunglasses. Also visible from the visitors centre are the seven pillars, of T. E. Lawrence and Seven Pillars of Wisdom fame.

Back in the 4WDs, the “meat” of the journey started. If the first part made the car shudder, this made it creak and threaten to come apart at the seams. We made a couple of stops en route to soak in the atmosphere and see specific sights, including an natural and gravity defying sandstone arch.

Our lunch stop was abrupt. The driver made a valiant attempt to reach the top of a sand-dune but failed, leaving me to climb to the top myself.

Camel ride, Wadi Rum, Jordan

After lunch we took to a rather more sedate form of transport: camels. Now I’m not the first to note that camels are rather odd creatures. They are not on the cover of Programming Perl for no reason. With long gangly legs, outstretched necks and heavy use of eye-lash volumiser, they’re not going to win any prizes for for aesthetics but for practicality in the desert they’re almost unbeatable.

That’s not to say that it’s easy. When you get on them they lurch forward and back, risking hurting your back and squashing your… delicate areas. And they don’t so much walk as lumber forwards. It’s not elegant, but they keep the same slow, steady pace regardless of the terrain. They get up dunes that the cars would have had difficulty with.

Mine is very sociable, always walking head to haunch with the camel in front. Most of the others are hungry, stopping to munch on as many of the dry-looking bushes as they can get away with before their handler encourages them onward.

Camel Handler, Wadi Rum, Jordan

My camels handler was a real character, dancing and singing the whole way. The language barrier didn’t stop me laughing half of the time, especially when he offered ten camels for my wife. I tried to negotiate him up to at least twenty but my Arabic wasn’t quite up to the task.

We stayed in the desert over night, watching the sun set, camping by some of the rocks, eating dinner under the stars and sleeping under canvas.

From here we headed south to the coastal town of Aqaba and then hopped over on the ferry to Egypt.