Jordan Series Part 1: Wadi Rum

“This is a stupendous, timeless place, virtually untouched by humanity and its destructive forces. Here, it is the weather and winds that have carved the imposing, towering skyscrapers, so elegantly described by T.E. Lawrence as “vast, echoing and God-like…

I just got back from a 20-day trip to Israel, Jordan and UAE and with all the rich content we all experienced I thought of sharing them here.  Regular groups from the Philippines visiting the Holy Land (meaning Israel, although right now, the term seems to be used by surrounding countries like Jordan and Syria) usually stay only for two nights in Jordan.  It’s usually just a pass through and the usual places visited are Mt. Nebo, Madaba and of course, the main event, Petra.

During this trip however, since we had to cancel Egypt, we added cities in Jordan and it was a grand experience.

Let me start with Wadi Rum, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia.

The Valley of the Moon

The desert of WAdi Rum, known as the “Valley of the Moon”, lies in the southern part of the Kingdom of Jordan.  Of very ancient origins, it owes the description which has given it its fame to the constant action of atmospheric agents, which in the course of thousands of years have shaped the landscape, giving it a lunar character, creating the amazing scenery of sandstone rocks which rise suddenly in the midst of stretches of sand, magnificent lobster-coloured dunes, walls of rock scourged by the aid, pinnacles of stone, deeply carved valleys, ancient and dried up river beds.  The name of thi sportion of the desert, Wadi Rum, refers speifially to one of these dry valleys, knows as Wadis, and to Jebel Rum, the highest mountain in Jordan.

This is the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hussein and T.E. Lawrence based their headquarters during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in World War I, their exploits intrinsically woven into the history of this amazing area.

The overall desert area of Jordan occupies around 80% of the land surface of the country, and continues on into Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.  The differences between the northern and southern areas a substantial.  The former is made up of volcanic basalt, which in some zones takes on a greyish colour, while the second is composed of sandstone and granite.  And these are the principal elements which make up the desert of Wadi Rum.

It will take more than a day just to see all the interesting sites in this vast area.  However, we only had two hours to see just one sixth of the place using pick ups instead of Camels.

At the entrance to the Wadi, near the modern visitors centre, you pass the fluted rocky hill known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which gave its name to Lawrence’s account of the Arab revolt. Nearby, in the lee of a steep cliff, are the remains of a Nabatean temple. Partially restored, the temple was probably used by Nabatean traders entering or leaving the wadi, presumably to pray for, or give thanks for, a safe passage.
The 7 Pillars of Wisdom
This was actually at the back of the 7 pillars of wisdom
Moving deeper into the wadi, past the settlement of Rum, the scenery opens up, and it matches Lawrence’s description of “vast, echoing and God-like”. Broad sweeps of red sand wash up against the base of rocky mountains and cliffs underneath a curving blue sky.
Lawrence’s Castle
Lawrence’s Castle
You now begin to loop back towards the entrance of the wadi. A small, largely ruined, fort nestles up against a huge boulder – this is called Lawrence’s Castle, but whether or not he ever used it is questionable. It doesn’t look big enough to have served any defensive function. However it does provide you with a great view back up the branch of the wadi you have just descended.
Harriet and Paco in front of Lawrence’s castle
In recent times, the desert of Wadi Rum was the scene of the deeds of the English Colonel, TE Lawrence, famous as Lawrence of Arabia, who collaborated in the organising of the Arab Revolt in 1917-1918, and was an important point of reference for the British troops of General Allenby.
Lawrence recorded his impressions in a book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a name which was attributed to a mountain with several pinnacles, on the road which leads to the desert.
 
Lawrence’s Cave
We then visited Lawrence Cave and little did I know that he was gay!  Apparently according to our guide, this is where he kept his “boys”.
Outside Lawrence’s Cave
Entrance of Lawrence’s Cave
Inside Lawrence’s Cave

Our guide did not want us to go further in since it was not maintained and there might be snakes inside.

The Mushroom
A photographer’s delight.  This natural rock formation was mentioned in the book of TE Lawrence.  During the filming of the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” the cameras were mounted on this rock.
Red Sand Dunes
 
These are giant mounts of soft, red sand. We stopped at a spot where the mountain cliffs hung out over the sand.
Bedouin Tents
After the two hour tour under the scorching heat of the sun, we rested in one of the Bedouin tents.  We were given a typical home made tea however I noticed it was sweet so I did not drink it all ( I am diabetic).
The Bedouin tent, called “house of hair” in Arabic, is weaved by the women with goats and camels hair and sheep wool. This tent is perfectly adapted to the desert life: it can be dismantled so Bedouins can move freely between areas of pasture; its multiple openings are adapted to the changes of wind direction; and it is biodegradable. Beautiful woven striped carpets furnish the tent and are the evidence of women’s creativity despite the harshness of the environment.
Visiting Wadi Rum is certainly an exquisite experience not only for the body, but for the soul also.  The spectacular handiwork of the Creator is as captivating here as in many places on earth, even leaving out the grandeur of it all.
The unique geology of the Wadi, its history, and its awesome vastness, are immanently splendid.  These are only parts of the experience, but important parts.  The experience also comprises watching a sunset or sunrise in the WAdi or setting your soul free in the tranquil nights of the Valley of the moon.  Maybe one day I shall return and this time spend overnight in one of the numerous bedouin camps of Wadi Rum.
Below are photos of one bedouin camp we visited (to use the loo).  There are other luxury camps however.

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