Wadi Rum lies around 100 km south of Petra and the journey took us just under two hours. It is a desert area dotted with colossal rock formations. The name apparently means ‘valley of the high places’ – a very apt description. The photo above is quite typical of the area. It shows the ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, a rock formation made famous by T.E. Lawrence’s (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) autobiographical book of the same name.
The Seven Pillars are just behind the visitor centre (pictured below), where you get permits to enter the protected parts of Wadi Rum and can arrange guides and excursions. However, we did not find the visitor centre a particularly exciting place.
Our overnight stay at a desert camp and a 4x4 jeep excursion had been organised beforehand and we, therefore, made our way directly to the camp. We were surprised how luxurious the ‘tents’ were; they even had en-suite bathrooms with showers.
Mid-afternoon we set off on our trip into the desert. It was pretty hot, but not at all humid – and, therefore, quite bearable.
The desert landscapes we went through were fascinating.
The area appears to be dotted with ancient Thamudic and Nabataean rock inscriptions. Below are two examples.
Camels, of course, can be spotted everywhere, too.
Wadi Rum has been used as a filming location for a long time. David Lean’s classic ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was partly shot here, as was ‘The Last Days on Mars’ and, more recently, ‘The Martian’. The very impressive landscape photography in the latter was one of the reasons why we wanted to come here. The two photos below illustrate why Wadi Rum is a good location for films set on the red planet (- as do some later ones).
Having seen the Mars movies, I was somewhat surprised that we did not encounter areas completely devoid of vegetation. I thought it might be something to do with the seasons, but apparently it is possible to remove the greenery digitally.
The photo above shows an imposing rock formation with a cleft down the middle, where water accumulates in small pools. There are also some springs in various places.
Our trip through the desert was timed to ensure that we could see the sunset from a particularly good vantage point. The three photos below were taken just before and just after the sun set. It was fascinating to see the colours change within minutes. The intense red on the third photo seems exaggerated, but that is how it did look.
When we returned to the camp our dinner was already cooking – in a deep hole in the sand. This apparently is a traditional way of doing it. Everything – chicken, lamb, vegetables, and rice in our case – is lowered into the hole on a tiered metal contraption, which allows the fat from the meat to drip onto the potatoes and other vegetables.
The result was absolutely delicious (and totally free of sand – they know how it’s done). A cool beer would have represented an ideal accompaniment, but, none being available, we made do with a bottle of water.
To be continued with pt.6: Aqaba and the Dead Sea
For links to the other parts of this series, please click HERE