Friday, November 3, 2023

Wadi Rum, a breathtaking desert valley (and popular film location) in Jordan

Part of a seriesMiddle East, October 2023:

Two hours south of PetraI spent the night on Mars. 

the small arch

To be precise, I spent the night in the desert of Wadi Rum, which is close to the borders of Israel and Saudi Arabia. (In Arabic, “wadi” refers to a valley, ravine, or gorge.)

Scenes for films including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Martian (2015), and Dune (2021) were shot there.

There are no roads. There are no hotels. There is just majestic nature—and trucks that drive you to and through it. 

After getting settled at Memories Aicha Camp (recommended by a colleague and worth the splurge), I set out as the lone passenger in the back of a pickup truck for a three-hour tour of the desert, culminating in sunset with shisha (except me) and tea.

wider view of the small arch

Lawrence of Arabia (allegedly) slept in this 
partially collapsed structure

This is how you get to the big arch. 
Thats my butt halfway up.

Before entering a short, narrow passage to climb up 
to the bridge, you need to navigate a narrow ledge 
with people coming back from the bridge. 
When a woman in front of me saw the tightness
of the passage, she turned back.

worth it

Of the four historic/natural sites I saw on this Middle East trip (Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum, and Wadi Shab in Oman), Wadi Rum was the only one for which I hired a guide…because you have no choice. The desert is (obviously) vast and would be treacherous for the average tourist to wander on foot. Hamed (age 21) knew the hotspots among the hotspots and had the wheels to take me to them in a reasonable amount of time.

I was expecting the desert to chill off after dark, but on this particular night it felt just right. I wore the same thing at night as I did during the day and wasn’t hot or cold in either case. 

Memories camp at night

steps after both Petra in the morning 
and Wadi Rum in the afternoon

view from my tent before sunrise

my tent

Moving through the desert was hypnotic. At times I had to snap myself of a trance of sorts, reminding myself to focus on the otherworldliness all around me. The landscape did vary and called to mind stories unknown of nomads of the past who inhabited that unforgiving environment. I craved to catch some vestigial extrasensory glimpse of their lives. No such luck.

But transcendent just the same.

Wadi Rum + the universe

No comments: