Wadi Rum Desert

by - 1:40 AM

I thought I was crossing the border from Eilat into the neighbouring country of Jordan. But I think I have actually landed in another planet altogether! I will attempt to explain why – but I think mere words and photographs will never be able to do justice to the reality of the wonders that my eyes have seen.

After crossing the Yitzhak Rabin border from Israel into Jordan, my mom and I headed straight for the Bedouin territory of the Wadi Rum desert!

Truly, truly, truly – the Wadi Rum desert, all 300 kilometres of it, is an other-worldly place of endless sand dunes in red, yellow, white and black as well as majestically towering rock mountains that change colours at different times of the day. It is also the home of the famously hospitable Bedouin folk - the original nomads of the land who have occupied the Wadi Rum desert for hundreds of years. Every man, woman, boy or girl seems to know each rock mountain and desert plain by name – and yes they literally have a specific name for each mountain that has been passed on from generation to generation. Our Bedouin guide Nadjah told us that he can drive in his jeep through the desert in pitch black night at two or three in the morning and know exactly how to get around or get home to his village and camp. It is quite cool to think that these massive rocks and mountains and ravines are their ‘street’ names!

It was an absolute privilege and thrill to ride in Nadjah’s jeep and explore the red sand dunes, canyons and rock mountains of Wadi Rum from afternoon till sunset. The place itself is so vast and so huge that you feel so very small – and the only way I could describe it is in two words: devastatingly beautiful. I feel it is appropriate to use the word ‘devastating’ because it gives an edge to the softer connotation that comes with the word ‘beautiful’. The words are a stark contrast to each other, and yet when put together, the two perfectly reflects the fearsome wonder of this glorious place which belongs to the Bedouin people. 

In the sweltering hot summer day, it can get up to forty degrees and over! However, I am still really glad that my mom and I decided to do this. You can’t even put a price to this experience because it is truly a priceless one. Being out there in the desert makes you feel like you’re the only one on this Martian-like planet, and that there is no one else out here who will judge you or harm you or make life difficult for you – except the harshness of the desert, of course!

The stunning facades of the rock mountains and ginormous boulders are something in itself – just standing before one is enough for you to gape in silent awe. The Bedouin have a huge respect for these structures of nature – they believe God created them and left them here for a reason. It is devastatingly beautiful precisely because the place itself is very difficult terrain to live and survive in – no matter how much any one could admire and love it for its epic splendour. I honestly have a deep respect for the Bedouin now for all these years they have lived in this harsh desert climate and barren landscape. They do have seasons from summer, autumn, winter to spring. They even have snow in winter and flowers in spring. But it is still not a place one would easily raise children and find or cultivate food, shelter and water. 

It can get eerily quiet and turn pitch black in the night as there are literally zero city lights or any kind of artificial light apart from our lamps or the generated electricity that lasts until after dinner time. But the most memorable thing about being out there in the desert at night is the incredible night-scape vista of thousands upon thousands of stars all illuminating the clear, dark skies. One could even spot the cloud-burst of star clusters that belong to the Milky Way surrounded by the mysterious shadows of the rocky mountains all around the Bedouin camp. It was really nice to sit outside with my ukulele in hand and play some worship songs in the night! 

Surprisingly, it does get chilly at night, and a pleasant desert breeze blows through. So going to Wadi Rum in the height of summer wasn’t that bad at all. In the day time the sand can get scorching hot, burning the soles of your feet if you didn’t wear shoes (I liked wearing sandals). However, Nadjah was really clever to send me and my mom off to walk through a canyon that created looming shadows in between as a cool wind blew through the rocks in the height of the afternoon heat. So the desert summer temperatures didn’t affect us that drastically after all. We just needed loads of water (which Nadjah was kind enough to provide a good few bottles to keep us hydrated), a good scarf and hat, as well as of course a sense of adventure! After all, how often do you get to be out in a Middle Eastern desert, in a Middle Eastern summer, with an exceptionally hospitable and bright Bedouin guide who speaks brilliant English? (Nadjah learnt English only six years ago all by himself and practiced it with tourists passing through.) 

Stay tuned for more stories of my adventures in Jordan! For more photos check out my Wadi Rum Desert and Wadi Rum Canyon albums. 

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