It’s known as the Valley of the Moon. The landscape of Wadi Rum
is so exotic it might well be on some ancient orbiting rock.
It is so unique it has been
named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When we first
ventured out into it in rugged old four-wheel drive pickups
driven by Bedouins who appeared as tough and self-reliant as
their vehicles, the pavement rapidly disappeared behind us. We
faced unending sand punctuated by strangely eroded mountains
that seemed older than time.
|Some of our group in one of
those tough pickup trucks
I experienced a thrill knowing that this was the same
landscape Lawrence of Arabia wrote about in his
Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
We departed Captain’s Camp after a traditional Bedouin lunch and
spent the next four hours in this harsh wonderland of twisted
shapes and endless sand.
Without our driver guides, we would most likely turn up as
desiccated bodies found weeks or months later by a Bedouin who
would shake his head at the stupidity of tourists who tackled
Wadi Rum without a guide and lots of water.
guides knew where they were going is a mystery. There are tire
tracks but they crisscross and lead all different ways.
Nonetheless, they took us to some fascinating sites. One of our
first stops was a Bedouin camp. They had set the camp into a
protected place in the cliffs and on some of the walls there
were carvings of the faces of Lawrence of Arabia, Prince
Abdullah Bin Al Hussein, and Sheik Odah Abu Taeh. What a
reminder that Wadi Rum was Lawrence and the Arab leaders’
resting and planning place for the unbelievable attack on Acaba
during the Great Arab Revolt.
|The carving of Lawrence at the
Next we stopped at a large goat hair tent. We entered and found
a small shop filled with souvenirs. Our host and his pre-teen
son offered us hospitality, sweet Bedouin tea. Let me note here
that in the desert, iced tea is unknown; you are always served
either the hot sweet tea or a very strong coffee.
|The Bedouin hospitality is
legendary. That tea is really sweet and always ready for
One of the cats you see all over Jordan, wondered in and lay on
the counter with the merchandise. The boy began playing with the
cat and we could see it was quite tame and friendly.
|The Bedouin drivers know where
to take a visitor to see the best of Wadi Rum
Back in the trucks again we continued our explorations. Next
treasure unearthed was some Thamudic petroglyphs high on a
cliff wall in Khaz’ali Canyon. Squiggly characters of
Aramaic, believed to be the language of Christ, with crude
engravings of camels and riders inscribed in the soft red
and orange sandstone of the cliffs. Our guide, Mohamed
Qamhiya, told us that “Archaeologists believe the
petroglyphs were etchings created by the Nabataean people,
who inhabited this area around the springs about 2,000 years
|Our guide, Mohammed, shows us
some of the petroglyphs
play of light and shadow on the cliffs cause shapes to
appear and then reassemble as something different. The
colors blended from yellow, red, brown, gray, white and the
entire spectrum in-between. I looked on those cliffs a dozen
times and each time saw a different image or pattern. Some
rose sharp and pointed; other rounded and worn. Sometimes
walls of canyons offered a few moment of shade then a return
to sunshine and open sand dotted with scrubby growth with a
rock outcropping here and there.
One of the outcroppings kept its shape was of one of the
desert's rock bridges, Jabal Umm Fruth. It stood as if over a
river or chasm but beneath was only rocks and sand. It was large
enough for our group of nine to stand beneath and reach upward
and still be only a small speck beneath its splendor.
| A lone visitor stands beneath
the natural bridge
We visited a spring, far down a canyon that was greener than the
surrounding desert. These springs were what made the desert
|A camel and baby belonging to a
party of Bedouins we met on our trek through Wadi Rum
The human element is small and insignificant but still present.
On several occasions we found a group of the black goat hair
tents set deep in a canyon and sometimes we found a group of
Bedouin with their camels. Once we even saw a shepherd, his
robes flowing in the breeze, with some sheep. The camels ate the
small thorny bushes that dotted the desert floor and probably
the sheep do also.
|A Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum
Other human traces left from earlier days still stood here. We
came to the remnants of a stone building. Part of a back and one
side wall stood several feet apart from an overhanging cliff
which must have formed the other wall. The roof was gone and a
portion of the wall had tumbled into a heap of rubble. A Bedouin
family had set up a tent nearby. According to the guides, this
is the site of Lawrence of Arabia's house. A bit of research
stated that it was once a tariff point and rest-stop for caravan
travelers prior to Lawrence’s arrival possibly built on the
remains of a Nabataean structure. Lawrence probably used it as a
rest point and to store weapons while he was in Wadi Rum.
|Lawrence's house in Wadi Rum
By sunset, our drivers took us to a spot near where our camp was
set up within a sheltering circle of mountains. We watched the
sun sink and the temperature drop and headed for our camp. The
camp was one of Captain’s private camps. We each had a
traditional black goat hair tent with spare furnishings, a small
folding bed with a thin mattress and a chair. Since the night
was cool, there were two blankets. There was a shelf built into
a corner for my candles.
|One of our attendants prepares
to serve our evening meal at camp
Outside the grounds were illuminated with luminaries. A cheerful
fire blazed in one section with several couches around. Dinner
was being prepared while we sat around the fire and sipped that
great Bedouin tea.
Our attendants were preparing a traditional meal of meat, and
vegetables cooked in a large closed metal pan buried on a bed of
hot coals and covered with sand called a “zarb”. It was
I even dared a cold shower in our tent/restroom facility. The
fire was still blazing and the stars above were brighter than at
home but my bed was beckoning. In spite of the Spartan
conditions, I slept wonderfully in my Bedouin tent.
|Our private camp
Our Wadi Rum experience was not yet over. Come morning, I
dressed quickly and had a quick cup of Bedouin tea and headed
out to mount my camel. Others enjoyed the strong coffee.
|One of our group slept in a
little so her camel came to her tent to wake her.
Camels are not like horses. They kneel while you mount; then
rise. If you are smart you grip both of the wooden horns in
front and back of the saddles and hang on tight. Mine almost
unseated me when he (or she) rose, hind feet first tossing me
forward. Then he rose on the front legs tossing me back into
|Dismounting back at the main
I can only
say a camel ride through the desert is vital to understanding
the culture. We rode for 45 minutes. Long enough to become more
accustomed to the gait and view Wadi Rum in morning light. I
realized I did not want to ride a camel through the desert all
day long as Bedouins do but one day I want to return and explore
more of this unreal place. It is just as T. E. Lawrence
described it; “Vast, echoing and Godlike.”
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