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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then they will show you around the best spots in the desert. Like these…
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.
What I Saw: ‘Theeb’ is a drama about a young Bedouin boy and his journey through the desert during the world war I.
Practical Tips for Wadi Rum:
- 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.
- If you are moving independently, do not depend exclusively on a cellular/mobile phone. The networks are unreliable.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do know that distances are deceptive in the desert. What may look like 5 miles may actually be 20 miles in the desert.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.