Under the Desert Stars

20:59 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

As I planned out our trip in Jordan, I originally slotted for us to be in Aquaba. With diving & snorkeling, I thought it would be a perfect quick stop on our way to Petra.

Then, as I read more and asked around, I heard more and more about Wadi Rum.  Since we already swam the Red Sea in Egypt, I decided that it was a special opportunity and so we booked up a tent in a bedouin camp.

What made it the area so appealing? It's most famed for it's ties to T.E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia), as he travelled through the area during the Arab Revolt. But while many may visit for that reason, all will come away remembering by its nick name of Valley of the Moon Rock; the name is certainly earned by it's unique rock landscape among the dunes. It was made a protected area in 1998, meaning that there are no large hotels nearby, so if you want to stay, you'll want to arrange to stay at one of the bedouin campsites in advance.

Since we were arriving from the Dead Sea, we had a half day on either side of one evening in Wadi Rum. You drive up through the gates, purchase your ticket while trying to avoid being heckled by the people selling goods & services, then drive on into the village to meet your guide. We found our man, left our car and hopped into the 4x4 to ride off into the desert.

The guide was a fantastic idea; even if you had the proper car to drive in the sand, likely you'd get lost among the endless sand, dunes, mountains and more sand. With a map in hand, I could only figure out landmarks after we'd passed them, there's no way I could have found my way through the desert without roads or any sign posts. Our guide was a local bedouin who knew the area by heart, making it seem easy and we spent our first afternoon driving through the white desert part of the park.

While the sites you see are similar throughout the park, there's still a lot to admire in the unusual rock formations. The rocks themselves look almost like a melting birthday cake, flat on the tops and sides, with colours dripping down the sides, like icing that has sat too long into the sun.

Teeny Paul puts those giant rocks into perspective

The landscape is covered with rock bridges, formed by the sand and winds forces on the rock over thousands of years. It's a hugely popular place for rock climbers, but dangerous as well as some of the rocks can be soft and give way if you don't know what you're doing.

We spent the afternoon driving, exploring and hiking, finally ending up to hope to catch the sun set, only to see sand sweeping across the plain instead. Unfortunately the wind made our plan of camping under the stars a lot less enjoyable. We ended up trying it anyways, but it made for a noisy night without too many stars for us to view.

Despite a restless night, we woke up the next day ready to go. We were visiting the Rock Bridge of Um Fruth, one of the more famous rock bridges. We didn't have time to climb the Rock Bridge of Burdah, so we had to be content with just one. It's not really a hike but not really a climb, rather a scramble. We were told to take off our shoes, scurry up and wait our turn to cross over the bridge.  To finish off our morning, we drove past the Seven Pillars, the thousand year old paintings of camels and finished up at Lawrence's Spring.

If you aren't a hiker, this may not be the place for you - the landscape is stunning, but you may not find it enjoyable to sit in a very very bumpy car all day. If you do hike, I thought one full day was enough time for us, but others we met at the camp had stayed longer and still seemed to be enjoying it. The camps are rudimentary, with stuffed mattresses and local traditional blankets, or if you went our route, blankets to sleep on the rocks. Some camps may have toilets & showers, others you may find yourself roughing it, so decide what you feel comfortable with!

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