As I watched out the window and saw the scenery change before my eyes, the regular roadside terrain of Jordan became miles and miles of velvety orange sand.
Driving in Jordan was always peaceful, there weren’t traffic jams, and you’d drive for miles without seeing much of anything, but the moment I hit the desert of Wadi Rum, I couldn’t help but notice the excitement that washed over me. I had never been to a desert before, so when I found out I was not only going to get to visit one on my travels through Jordan, but also ride a camel, and camp out at a desert camp, I was thrilled.
Wadi Rum is located about 60 km east of Aqaba. The name, “Wadi” means valley, and “Rum” means high or elevated. Wadi Rum has been inhabited by a variety of different cultures since prehistoric times, and is where British officer, T.E. Lawrence passed through during the Arab Revolt in 1917-1918. Today, Wadi Rum is home to Bedouin, an Arab semi-nomadic group, who have started a variety of different eco-tourism adventures for tourists such as camping, climbing, trekking, camel safaris and ATV tours. It is also famous for being the set of many movies like Lawrence of the Arabia, and more recently, The Martian, starring Matt Damon.
I started my time off in the desert with a two hour camel ride from SunCity Camp, I was lead by a local bedouin, who brought me on a path amongst the red-orange sand. There aren’t very many places you go nowadays that aren’t ruined by tourists, and that you can still find a slice of peacefulness, Wadi Rum was unlike any place I’ve ever been. For miles, you couldn’t see anyone in sight.
My camel, who I named Sally, because I couldn’t seem to remember her real name, slowly walked me through the desert, stopping for a break along one of the rock formations. You know that moment where you just are so incredibly happy and inspired by the beauty of the world we live in and surroundings around us? This was definitely one of those moments for me.
When I arrived back to SunCity Camp, it was time to head to the camp I was staying at for the night, Jabal Rum Camp. The thing about when I visited Jordan was that the tourism was so low due to the misconceptions people have about this country, so when I arrived at the camp, I found out there was only one Canadian couple, and one solo Japanese traveler staying there. Although I’m always happy to be somewhere that isn’t filled with tourists, sleeping in the middle of the desert scared me a little bit, and usually, there’s safety and security in numbers.
My tent had a flap door, that opened up to two single beds with lots of blankets to keep me warm in the cool desert night. I was a little scared that my tents door didn’t zip up, and flapped open in the wind, but I’m always down for a new experience. Bathrooms were located in one main building and were indoors, and there was also a main common area where dinner was served and I’m told during busy season, a show hosted by local Bedouins is performed.
Dinner was a traditional meal called zarb which is where lamb and chicken was cooked with herbs and vegetables in an oven of hot coals which was buried under the sand. When dinner is ready, the sand is brushed away and the lid comes off to reveal a beautifully cooked (and delicious smelling) meal. The experience was incredible and the food was flavourful, and delicious.
My sleep on the other hand didn’t go as planned. In theory, I thought maybe I’d get a better sleep since it’s so quiet and peaceful in the desert, but instead, I couldn’t sleep because of the dramatically different surroundings I was in. I think I would’ve felt more comfortable with a partner to tackle this adventure with, but it pushed me outside my comfort zone and was a rewarding experience in the end. I felt I truly got to get a more traditional experience versus only visiting the desert for a day and staying at a chain hotel somewhere.
I wish I had a bit more time to explore the desert while there, as this was definitely a highlight of my entire time in Jordan, but this just gives me an excuse to go back for another visit. If you are planning on visiting Jordan, I would definitely recommend at least a day and night in the desert, but only if you like to get off-the-beaten-path and have a more untraditional travel experience, because desert camping isn’t going to fit the needs of every traveler.
…. and I’ll end this post with a photo of my friend, Sally, because isn’t she the cutest thing?