Wadi Rum, Jordan: Lawrence, Camels & the Bedouin

I was about 16 years old when I watched ‘The Lawrence of Arabia’. This cryptic view of an Englishman during the middle eastern clashes between tribes will forever remain a seminal piece of cinema. This movie left a lasting impression on me ( I’m sure it did so to many other movie buffs as well). The never ending sand dunes of hues ranging from dense orange to light brown, exquisite rock formations and unearthly hills formed a backdrop to most of the storyline. No wonder movies like ‘The Martian’, ‘Prometheus’, ‘Red Planet’ among others used the locations to depict scenes from Mars and other planets.

As you turn left at Rashidiyah, you can’t but feel the weight of anticipation on your shoulders. You hold on to the rails of your 4WD as your eyes see a tinge of orange on the horizon. It unhurriedly reveals the famed sight that made it to the cover of TE Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’

The Seven Sisters from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom

From then on, it’s a never ending imagery of alluring landscapes. I know I’m probably using too many adjectives. So have a look at these photos and you’d think I used too few.

1 (3)
Panorama on the Mars you say?
What would be ‘Oranger’, Sun, Sand or the Hills
Grand views wherever your camera pans
Just another awesome backdrop

So, are you with me now. Ok. Now, the way to truly experience Wadi Rum is by staying at one of the rustic camps. Like this one. They have basic amenities and a cold shower. They have a common dining area and not much else. But here, not much else is a heck a lot. Just turn around anyway.

IMG_5925 (2)
The tents made of Goat’s hair. Very warm indeed
IMG_5924 (2)
The Dining Area

The word Bedouin is derived from Bedu, meaning “inhabitant of the desert,” and refers generally to the desert-dwelling nomads of the middle eastern peninsula. For many, the word “Bedouin” conjures up an evocative image–of lyrical, shifting sands, flowing robes, and the long, loping strides of camels. The truth couldn’t be any more accurate. 

Transport of the local Transport

The Bedouin are hardy people, well they had to be in such extremes of weather. What struck me most was how hospitable they are. They love a couple more things, like really love the; Hukkah and Kebabs. They cooked dinner in a large pot that was heated via an under-sand stove. The weird part was even the vessel was buried under sand for a couple of hours. It tasted very earthy. Pretty good.

The under-sand cooker?
The ever-hospitable Bedouin

Then they will show you around the best spots in the desert. Like these…

You get to climb a couple of arches like this
The Customary Camels of course

What I Read: The classic ‘Married To A Bedouin‘ is the story of Marguerite van Geldermalsen. She was a New Zealand-born nurse who got married to Mohammad Abdallah Othman, a Bedouin souvenir-seller from the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. It depicts the Bedouin in interesting detail. 51l2445UKHL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_

What I Saw:Theeb’ is a drama about a young Bedouin boy and his journey through the desert during the world war I.MV5BMTYyNDg3ODAxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTkyOTE2NjE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL__QL50

Practical Tips for Wadi Rum:

  1. Drink water: Whether you’re driving, hiking, or biking, desert heat can quickly lead to dehydration.  You should at least three liters water each day.  Bring energy bars and keep an emergency supply of them at all times.
  2. If you are moving independently, do not depend exclusively on a cellular/mobile phone. The networks are unreliable.
  3. Make sure you are using a vehicle meant for desert terrain. If your vehicle does not have the offroad capability, it is unwise to make the trip on your own. Seek help from the Bedouin.
  4. Clothing: Deserts are notorious for their extreme temperatures – high heat during the day and cold temps at night. This means there is a high risk for heat stroke and hypothermia. It’s important to protect yourself with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for the sun. And bring an extra jacket in case you’re out in the desert after dark when the temperature can plummet drastically.
  5. Do know that distances are deceptive in the desert.  What may look like 5 miles may actually be 20 miles in the desert. These driving tips will come in handy.
  6. Beware of flash floods.  If you’re traveling in the summer, remember that this time of year can be very hot, with sudden rainstorms and flash floods.  Beware of lightning and any signs of storms.  Try to get to shelter such as a car or building.  If you’re unable to get to shelter, it’s best to lie flat between dunes.
  7. One thing I found out was that you can never be overstocked on batteries in Wadi Rum. You feel like taking pictures at every turn. Make sure you have enough camera batteries and memory cards.
  8. Jordan Visa for Indians: Its officially a visa on arrival for Indians. But more info is hard to find. I had taken a tour with Classic Wadi Rum Tours and they sorted my visa on arrival. Their representative met us at the arrival visa counter and it was pretty smooth. You can also call their embassy in Delhi at 011 2649 7032 for more info.
  9. Getting there: Wadi Rum is under 4 hours from Amman (Jordan’s capital), 2 from Petra, and about 1 from Aqaba. You travel by car or bus on a well-paved highway. The journey will usually be pleasant with lots of desert scenery.

30 thoughts on “Wadi Rum, Jordan: Lawrence, Camels & the Bedouin

  1. I visited Jordan in July but didn’t have opportunity to go to Wadi Rum. However, I was in Petra for about a day. Would have loved to meet Marguerite van Geldermalsen and get her book autographed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The camel in the back of the truck made me smile. Don’t we all need a lift every once in a while? Admittedly, I’ve never been to the desert and have learned so much. For example, I had no idea the temperature varies as much as it does. My perception was desert = hot. Without reliable cell service, what do people do in case of an emergency?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wadi Rum has a heart-stopping dessert landscape where granite monoliths and a maze of sheer-sided sandstone rise from the valley floor. I just love the panoramic land, camel rides and mingling with the semi-nomadic Bedouin people who still live in the area.


  4. This looks like some of the burning man pictures I have seen. These are absolutely stunning and yours is different, I know but absolutely beautiful and make me want to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I definitely love the colors of Wadi Rum and agree with you that it looks very Martian. I had always wanted to glamp in Wadi Rum but now I want to get to know the Bedouin too. There are so many levels to travel and I want to experience them all.


  6. I love exploring destinations like this in the Middle East and Northern Africa and would consider doing the Wadi Rum. Havent been to Jordan yet but I would do this as well as a trip to Petra me thinks. 🙂 Loving the photos here.


  7. Omgd that camel in the back of a truck…amazing. Good to know about the possibility of flash floods during the summer. I unfortunately missed this when I was in Jordan (budget didn’t allow for it), but Jordan is definitely on my list of countries to go back to and I would love to do this next time.


  8. I have a friend who keeps trying to get me to spend the night in the desert and I flat out refuse without even listening to her. I think you just changed my mind! I can handle a cold shower in exchange for that scenery


  9. We totally fell in love with Jordan when we visited last year- Everyone there was so friendly. We had the opportunity to spend a couple nights at a Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum desert. You are right the scenery of Wadi Rum is stunning and you have taken some lovely pictures of it. I love that you call out two of Bedouin’s favorite things – Hookah & Keebabs – so true! Happy travels!


  10. This looks like such an amazing trip, Jordan is beautiful 🙂 All your landscape pictures are so stunning, love all the red and orange hues! I love the camels (in the truck and roaming around) – so cool!


  11. What a wonderfully fresh perspective of Wadi Rum. Like you, the imagery of Lawrence of Arabia has haunted me too. The landscapes of the Wadi Rum are so beautiful with a stark and wild dimension. The camp too looks really interesting and probably the best way for an immersive experience of the region.


  12. Your description of the sand dunes in hues ranging from dense orange to light brown, exquisite rock formations and unearthly hills set a powerful scene. And photos are incredible. How can you not use lots of adjectives to describe Wadi Rum? I would love to see the Seven Sisters from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. And a camel in a Toyota 😉


  13. I’ve always dreamed of visiting Jordan and going to see Petra. Wadi Rum has now been added to the itinerary! I think it’s be so amazing to sleep in a tent under the stars and be surrounded by such beautiful landscapes. Great tip about bringing extra batteries too!


  14. Wadi Rum will always have such a special place in my heart, and I am loving to read your post about this special place. I wish I had stayed in one of those rustic camps, despite the basic amenities, I think it would have been such an amazing experience, especially seeing the stars at night. You have offered amazing tips, and yes keeping hydrated is an absolute must. And full protection from the sun is so important, because before you know it, you’ll get sunburned.


  15. Jordan and Petra are on top of my list and I want to visit as soon as possible. Live the heritage and culture of this country. Love to take camel rides and experience the wildness of the dunes. A great destination and an interesting post.


  16. Jordan is just beautiful! I also watched Lawrence of Arabia in awe, and would love to see these scenes for myself one day. The Bedouin sound like a wonderful and hospitable people.


  17. It’s such a shame that Jordan is getting fewer visitors nowadays because of all the turmoil in the Middle East. However, it’s articles like this one that show people that the deserts of Jordan are still safe and still an amazing place to explore. Thank you for sharing


  18. This looks incredible! I’ve been recently looking into a trip to Cairo but this seems like something good to add to the list too! I would see the dunes and deserts and would want to constantly be digging for things like Jewels or dinosaur bones!


  19. Your photos are beautiful! I didn’t realize this was the desert where so much filming took place. Looks like an amazing place to explore.


  20. Such a great experience! Wadi Rum looks so amazing and your photos are great. I’ve never been to the desert or Jordan in specific, but would love to go one day. Climbing a couple of arches is definitely on my list.


  21. Wadi Rum definitely looks surreal with those orange landscapes and dramatic rock formations. I agree every twist and turn of this place is photogenic. Tents made of Goat’s hair sound quite interesting. I love their colourful dining area. I’m also amused to know about their traditional way of cooking. Jordan is on my bucket list and I would love to experience the local culture and scenic locations of Wadi Rum. Thanks for sharing all the details, helpful tips and stunning photographs.


  22. I have fond memories of Wadi Rum from my trip to Jordan! I think we visit the same Bedouin camp but I missed spotting any arch. My co traveler recommended ‘Married To A Bedouin’ to me too. It is a shame I have still not read it. Theeb sounds like an interesting movie too. I heard amazing local music too. Your blog reminded me of all the golden memories I made at this amazing amazing place.


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