If asked to rank the places seen during the Jordan road trip, I would award Wadi Rum desert the second place right after the ancient city of Petra and before the Dead Sea, Karak Castle, Mt Nebo and Aqaba.
Wadi Rum is a mix of the desert and high rocks, known also as the Valley of the Moon. We did not have time to stay the night, an option offered by the native Bedouins. We set off from Aqaba on the shore of the Red Sea early morning, travelling north on the Desert Highway, then turning right, passing melon and tomato farms, camel, donkey and goat herds as well as a railway along the way.
I was a bit shocked by seeing the railway with an old station, train carriage and an old steam locomotive, but our Lonely Planet guide explained the Hejaz railway transported Muslim pilgrims from Damascus in Syria to Medina in Saudi Arabia from around 1908.
The railway was destroyed during the Arab revolt against Turks in the First World war and Englishman TE Lawrence described this revolt in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Nowadays, the railroad connection from Amman to the south and to Saudi is not functioning as several attempts to revive the railway failed. There is a talk about yet another attempt to reintroduce the connection between the southern area of Jordan and Saudi, which is practically around the corner. The only functioning track is from Wadi Hissa to Aqaba transporting cargoes.
And back to Lawrence of Arabia. TE Lawrence was a British army officer who united Arab tribes in a revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Tourism in the area benefits from his legacy and recollection of the fights, but also from the legacy of Hollywood biopic with amazing Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif. The movie won seven Oscars in 1962, one also for the best movie.
Bedouins made a pretty good business of it. They offers tents for desert camping (I was actually surprised by the size of the tent city, I thought there will be a few only. Seems there is quite an interest from tourists). In addition, on offer is also a jeep tour around the valley or even a camel tour to honour the traditions.
Our guide also drew heavily on the TE Lawrence’s legacy. He showed us not only hills named after his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Or was the book named after the hills?), but also a cave where the guy lived. I have to admit I forgot to take a picture of that cave, I was more fascinated by the surrounding, the rocks and the sand. Like there was not enough of it in the Emirates. 😉
The rocks were eroded by the winds, some in the shape of a bridge, other as mushroom or with a camel drawing reportedly from thousand years ago. The rocks somewhere formed also natural water tanks which were popular with passing caravans. First settlements were built as early as in the Neolithic age.
The sand had three distinct colour: yellow, orange and grey. Our guide even forced us atop a tall dune to enjoy the colourful view. I was not so keen on the hike up the dune. Not because of my physical form, or the lack of it. But because the sand was virtually all over me already thanks to the car windows which were either non existent or used as modern air-conditioning. After this hike, the sand was really all over me and my new bright and shiny trainers quickly lost the colour and were ready for a good washing. Yet before that, the shoes had to endure another decent layer of the dust and sand a few hours later in Petra. About that later.