After a brilliant but completely overwhelming trip to Petra, I couldn’t wait to get to the desert.
Wadi Rum in Jordan, to be exact.
I come from the humid, rain-soaked tropics more or less, so deserts and their endless sands, mysterious rocks, hardy creatures and arid, wide open spaces have always intrigued me.
And Wadi Rum, or the Valley of the Moon, seemed like just the right intro to desert life.
Too bad it rained my entire visit to Wadi Rum.
I know, I know. Rain in the desert. That’s some luck, right? Actually, December through February are known to be the wetter months, so perhaps it wasn’t my best decision to visit just then. Certainly, sleeping at a camp in the chilly winter temperatures was a less than stellar decision.
Due to the inclement weather, all my extracurricular activities for the day were canceled – the jeep tour, hiking, camel riding at sunset, star-gazing. I was super disappointed – it’s not every day I get the chance to explore such a storied landscape.
Like Petra, Wadi Rum’s inscriptions and carvings date to the time of the Nabataeans who controlled trade routes in the region thousands of years ago. In the Bible, it’s believed that Wadi Rum might be Aram or Irem, and it may also be the Land of Uz from the book of Job. And, in more modern times, Wadi Rum was the site of the real life Lawrence of Arabia saga and of course, served as a filming location for one of the Transformers flicks.
Luckily my guide Ibrahim and driver Rami introduced me to some fun & friendly Bedouin locals and we made our own desert adventures — that is, when we weren’t tucked in next to a fire with tiny cups of tea at one of the dozens of tents dotting the valley.
In between rain drops on the way to Captain’s Desert Camp where we were staying that night, we made a few quick stops to photograph ancient petroglyphs of camels and a carving of Lawrence of Arabia in a sandstone boulder.
And before the rain really came down, we managed to fit in a bit of sand dune frolicking.
Wadi Rum encompasses 300-square-miles of dunes and mountains and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within this vast area are several camps where you can bunk up in traditional Bedouin accommodations. While not exactly luxurious, the camp where I stayed was certainly comfortable – with electricity, flushing toilets and spacious tents.
And of course, like everywhere else in Jordan, the food was awesome.
At Captain’s Desert Camp, there were only about five other guests staying the night, and we all huddled for dinner together out of sheer boredom, I think. In the rain, activities are pretty much limited to sitting in a tent, chatting, eating and smoking shisha – so that’s what everyone did.
As I mentioned in my Capture the Color post from Friday, there wasn’t much else to do that night but choose a cushion on the floor of the tent and listen as the men told stories and laughed around the red fire.
So while the rain prevented the desert adventure I’d had in mind, Wadi Rum still retained a particular warmth and charm – as does everything in Jordan, somehow.
That warmth did not transfer to my body, however, and I spent the night shivering under three heavy blankets in my massive tent that easily could’ve fit a party of 10. I didn’t know it until it happened, but the electricity is shut off at about 9 p.m., so once I went to bed I curled up shivering in the blackness listening to the rain and wind howl through the sandstone canyons somewhere nearby.
It wasn’t all that pleasant at the time, but I wouldn’t trade my freezing cold night in Wadi Rum for anything… except maybe a warm night in Wadi Rum.
One of the most amusing parts of the whole Wadi Rum experience was interacting with the guy who was meant to take me either sunset or sunrise camel trekking (neither happened due to the weather.) Still, he was there for dinner and shisha and a hilarious moment with a baby camel the next morning. It’s really cute & funny & worth a watch – really, really. If you don’t giggle, I’ll be surprised!
In hindsight, I know I would’ve enjoyed the whole desert experience so much more had I spent a few days in March or April instead of chilly wet February, so I’m actively adding it to the list of destinations that need a second chance.
But next time, I’ll probably avoid the camels…
Thanks to VisitJordan for setting up my visit to Wadi Rum. All opinions, shivering & disappointment in the rain are my own views.