To be honest, the Middle Eastern country of Jordan has a lot of "wow" moments. Among all of them, though, one of my favorite experiences was walking through the massive desert known as Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum has been inhabited by Bedouins for generations, but the moonlike desert may best be known for a far more recent resident, T.E. Lawrence. Known in the West as Lawrence of Arabia, the British officer used the canyons and mountains as his base of operations during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18. But the desert is about so much more than just its history.
My first experience with the stark landscape came on the back of a well-equipped Jeep, racing over the dunes. A red-and-white checkered Bedouin scarf covered my face to protect it from the flying sand, the sun beginning its slow decent behind the dunes. Suddenly the Jeep came to an abrupt halt in the middle of nowhere. Following my guides up a dune, I understood the reason for the impromptu rest stop. There in front of me the desert spread out in every direction, a shockingly beautiful scene. The desert isn’t impressive in spite of its majestic austerity, but because of it.
For the best experience, be sure to spend the night at a Bedouin camp and ask them for your own private tour of the desert.
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Scramble to the High Places of Wadi Rum
Sure, you could see the highlights of Wadi Rum's moonscape from the back of a jeep, but to really get a feel for its orange-hued sand sea studded with jagged rock outcrops, you need to get out and explore the landscape on foot.
Plenty of craggy cliffs make for easy scrambles, and a couple of precarious rock bridges offer vertigo-inducing views from the top. For travelers with more climbing experience, Wadi Rum's mountains offer excellent climbing opportunities as well.
There is no better way to experience the lonely beauty of Wadi Rum than spending the night here.
Bedouin camps of traditional beit shar (goat-hair) tents are scattered throughout the desert and come complete with the home comforts of beds and shared toilet facilities. Bedding down here for a night under a clear night sky strewn with more stars than you're ever likely to see again is an experience you're unlikely ever to forget.
In Wadi Rum, the largest wadi (valley) in Jordan, you'll see more variations of brown than you thought possible.
One part Martian-like, and the other a gorgeous desert with a mantle of stars at night, Wadi Rum is a very special place. D.H. Lawrence described it as "vast, echoing and God-like" and there's nothing that prepares you for how breathtaking every sand dune, natural rock formation, and pillar is.
Wadi Rum was where most of the film "Lawrence of Arabia" was shot, and it has also served as a cinematic landscape depicting Mars.
On my visit to Jordan, we spent two nights visiting Petra and Wadi Rum - the desert. While we couldn't camp in the desert because my aunt fell sick, we took a jeep safari into the desert for the day and hiked up this steep sand dune.
Wadi Rum is a vast desert with rose-red rock formations. As you drive through in your 4x4, the massive sandstone and granite rock faces rise up on either side of you.
Climbing this sand dune was so much fun and so much harder than I thought it would be! Every step had me sinking further into the sand, without making any actual progress! But the struggle to the top was worth it - the view was beautiful! And quiet.
"The crimson sunset on its stupendous cliffs and slanted ladders of hazy fire down its walled avenue." - T. E. Lawrence
It would take a lifetime to experience the deep beauty of the Wadi Rum desert. We, unfortunately, only had a few days, but spent it wisely by joining Jordan Tracks for a jeep tour, hiking, camel songs by the fire, and clear starry nights in the desert. We slept in beautiful traditional tents, drank sweetened sage tea, rode camels, and were treated to amazing hospitality by our Bedouin guides.
Having starred in Lawrence of Arabia and the Matt Damon film The Martian, the desert landscape of Wadi Rum is truly cinematic. This UNESCO World Heritage Site of cliffs and canyons carved from granite and sandstone can be explored on 4x4 tours that will take you to rock arches that look like they are right out of the American Southwest. Visitors can stop for tea and a meal of roast chicken or lamb and to shop for silver work and other crafts in bedouin tent camps.