A train in the middle of the desert, proof that Lawrence of Arabia was not the myth you thought he was and seeing one of mother nature’s most spectacular light shows. It’s all part of the experience when visiting Jordan’s Wadi Rum.
You might think, exploring a desert is something only adventurers or people soft in the head do. Well, you can confidently erase that thought if you are in Jordan and choose to explore the Valley of the Moon, or what is more popularly known as Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum is a barren desert with a vast and captivating landscape that is straight out of Mars. Reason enough for plenty of Hollywood movies to be shot on these locations, including The Martian starring Matt Damon, and Rogue One – A Star Wars Story. It is also home to the Zalabia Bedouin who have made a successful business of developing eco-adventure tourism.
This protected area, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011, lacks any infrastructure whatsoever. Thanks to the efforts of the Jordanian government, who have ensured that it is not overpopulated with tourists, it largely remains as untouched as possible.
In fact, once in the valley, the only creature comforts you can expect are what you will get inside the traditional Bedouin tourist camps, hidden away in corners around the valley.
We drove to Wadi Rum from Petra and stayed overnight at a camp. To be honest, ‘camp’ does not do the overnight stay justice. Besides a full-fledged dining area, all guests stay in their own tents with en-suite bathrooms that even have hot showers.
Most of the tour is completed on the day you arrive at the camp. On your way you will come across a well-maintained train that featured in Lawrence Of Arabia, a 1962 British historical drama film based on the life of T E Lawrence. Back in 1917, when the world was involved in the first World War, he fought along with the Arabs against Ottoman rule.
While the movie is open to historical accuracy, the train is a fun photo-op. With nobody except a few stray dogs to watch your antics, you can clamber onboard and strike any pose you want.
Several packages will also include visits to Lawrence Spring, Khazali Canyon, a variety of natural bridges and formations, Lawrence of Arabia’s House and the Nabatean Map of Wadi Rum. A mix of natural beauty, history and archeology, that is more than enough to satisfy any visitor.
As evening approaches, the anticipation of catching the sunset at Wadi Rum automatically mounts. And it does not disappoint. Groups in 4x4s raced to select spots all over the wadi and it was fun waving to other tourists in their 4x4s as everyone crisscrossed the barren landscape to get to their spots in time. Once we reached our spot, we quickly climbed a small hill to find a vantage point. Then just waited for nature to unleash its magic.
Thanks to the various rock formations and the colours of the rocks, you are greeted with a 360-degree light show of shape shifting shadows and sandy hues all around you as the sun sets. What adds to the beauty of the moment is that there is hardly anyone else around you. It is just you, the Sun and Wadi Rum.
Once you are back at the camp, settle down for a simple Bedouin style dinner as the Bedouins play traditional songs. Then sit back and enjoy as many cups of whiskey. No, not that whiskey. Tea.
Finally, as night falls, the best thing to do is to simply soak in the silence and watch the stars. Listen carefully and you just may hear a shooting star too. You will believe me only when you experience it for yourself.