Why? Why do I do these things to myself? The choice was obvious, The Beatles, I’m from England and therefore The Beatles were clearly the logical choice. However, as I sat and listened to the others in our group ease (for the most part) their way through their own songs, my brain turned to mush. All lyrics I had ever learned were suddenly MIA, they’d simply evaporated from my brain … save for 1 single song. Why? Why that song? Why not something people will know, and actually like? What happened next was a fail of immense proportions, most likely a first (and last) in Wadi Rum history.
Let rewind for a second though, as a lot had happened prior to my karaoke nightmare, and in truth our day in the Wadi Rum had actually gotten off to the most amazing of starts. In fact up until around 8pm, our overnight tour, as arranged by our excellent hostel in Petra (in turn recommended to us by @thecounterintuitive), was simply incredible. Petra was the most obvious of attractions that I and the rest of our group wanted to visit when first arranging to travel around Jordan, but I kind of always had an inkling that Wadi Rum would be a place that I would totally dig. I wasn’t far wrong.
About Wadi Rum
The 720 Sq Kilometres of expansive dessert, carved by the wind, rain and snow (don’t quote me on that last one, but I know that it did snow earlier in the year up in Amman), and known as both Wadi Rum and on occasion The Valley of the Moon, is somewhat unsurprisingly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of course it is, Jordan collected UNESCO sites for fun right?
The huge mountains that rise out of the red sands, narrow canyons cut from sandstone and granite, wide valleys and monstrous dunes make up what is the largest wadi in Jordan, and have been a home to humans since prehistoric times, but still remain beautifully unspoiled. Those that have lived in the area, and those Bedouin that do so in this day, leaving very few footprints of any kind, save a few pop up villages, herds of goats and incredible cave drawings.
Things can get pretty hot in this Wadi, but equally they can get pretty cold. Temperatures are said to vary between 4°C at night during the winter, and 36°C around midday in the summer months. Basically visitors should be prepared for the heat and cold.
What does Wadi Rum mean?
Simply put …
- Wadi – is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley
- Rum – most likely comes from an Aramaic root meaning ‘high’ or ‘elevated.
So effectively you could say that Wadi Rum translates as The High Valley, and that would make a lot of sense considering that the highest point of Wadi Rum, Mount Um Dami which stands a at 1,840 metres tall (6,040 ft), is the highest point of any Wadi in Jordan.
The nickname ‘The Valley of the Moon’, although quoted everywhere on the net, isn’t actually explained anywhere. Typical! Logic dictates (probably why there’s no explanation) that the nickname is in reference to the clear skies at night over the Wadi. Keep reading and you’ll see for yourself what a lack of light pollution can do.
Booking a tour
There is quite the selection of tours available if you wish to see Wadi Rum for yourself. They range from single day trips, up to week long versions. Booked online, once in Jordan, or once at the entrance to Wadi Rum, all bases are pretty much covered. Just be aware that EVERYONE is on commission. I am not going to recommend any one tour, because quite frankly I didn’t actually find out the name of the ‘company’ we took our tour with. Do some research online, and trust in other travellers you meet in Jordan. Like us, you can book one or two days before, and still find a deal. Pretty much everything we needed was provided, like most other tours we just needed to remember
- Sun cream
- Camera, sunglasses, scarf etc etc
So as I mentioned above, the Wadi Rum tour I took with my friends was arranged through our hostel in Petra. It set us back a mere 55JD each, and that included the Jeep tour, overnight stay in a Bedouin camp, meals and transport from Petra to Wadi Rum. Value for money indeed!
|Wadi Rum (1 night)|
|Overnight tour inc transport from Petra, dinner + breakfast||55||47.19||77.79||56.5|
Like most of our journeys in Jordan, the ride from Petra down to Wadi Rum was in a 5 seater taxi. The gf, being the smallest was once again saddled with the seat in the middle of the back row. The drive took around 2 hours, but had some brilliant views along the way.
Arriving in Wadi Rum around 10am, we sailed straight through the gates at the Wadi Rum visitors centre (we would later get a chance to look around that area), and proceeded directly to Wadi Rum village. The Village is less than 5 minutes from the visitors centre, consisting of a number of concrete houses, shops, a school and restaurant, the later of which was where we first jumped in the back of our jeep and set out over the red sands. A separate vehicle took our rucksacks directly to our camp, where we would be reunited later.
With the sun flying high above us and with wind (and sand) in hair, we sped over the warm coloured sands, already at this early (ish) hour marked with the tracks of other jeeps. Our ride wasn’t luxury by any means, the metal bars designed to hold us inside the jeep causing no end of bruises on my back. But it was worth it, totally and utterly. Wadi Rum was vast, almost untouched, and it felt like it was ours. That may sound a bit cheesy, but this was totally one of those times where you could do nothing but smile, the muscles in my face locked into a permanent grin. The rest of the world felt like it was a million miles away, and to be honest, I loved that. Only a couple of minutes in, and this was already fast becoming my highlight of Jordan.
Being so expansive, its only naturally to think that it’d take you hours and hours of driving within the Wadi to reach any particular site of significant interest. In reality, it took us a mere 10 minutes to reach our first stop for the day.
Just 2km SW of the village is Lawrence’s Spring. There’s some leg work involved in getting to the spring, a climb up, over and between rocks and boulders, but once at the top the views are spectacular. Granted you didn’t climb for the views, but to be honest they are slightly more impressive than the spring itself which resembles little more than a murky puddle surrounded by moss.
Whilst not visually the most spectacular site in Wadi Rum, ancient carvings at the base of the hill which alludes to the springs whereabouts are far more interesting … so interesting I forgot to take a photo. DOH! They’re there though, I promise.
We spent little more than 30-45 minutes climbing both up and down to the spring. Once finished, we were invited into a Bedouin tent where we were served tea and offered the chance to purchase a few goodies. Look at these guys, @thetravelpop and @PeteChurchill7, both in their element and loving Wadi Rum.
Red Sand Dunes
The burn was felt not only on my face and neck as we travelled around Wadi Rum, but also in my calf muscles. The red sands were actually a lot cooler underfoot than expected, but the hikes to the top of various dunes throughout the course of our day felt like a continuous workout session. But like most workout sessions, there was reward, that rewards being more incredible views … and a breeze.
The contrast of the sands is pretty cool, how the dunes are a vibrant red, but the sands of the dessert floor are a more dusty orange/brown. Its as if someone has spent several thousand years separating the two, and creating a mound of all the reds sands. Repetitive and thirsty work no doubt, but at least the workers could then sandboard down the red sands they has piled. Great fun!
Jebel Umm Fruth (Middle Rock Bridge/Arch)
One of my favourite parts of our Wadi Rum jeep tour was the stop of at Jebel Umm Fruth, a rock bridge-arch structure. Yep, its pretty dangerous looking, and a fall could well hurt, quite a lot, but once we’d scrambled to the top and set foot atop the precarious looking arch, it really did make you feel like you were in an adventure movie. One false step n’all that.
Here’s where a decent pair of hiking boots/trainers come in handy, along with a mate who is will to wait behind at the bottom and take photos of you which you stand atop the arch … we had no such mate, we all raced to the top.
This short, narrow canyon contains numerous Nabataean rock carvings of ancient people and animals. They’re pretty stunning. It was also good for watching @thetravelpop fall into a fair sized pool of water.
The Barragh Canyon too is fairly impressive, taking around 30 minutes to navigate. Luckily the canyon walls provide some much welcomed shade, and I believe that this is a favoured area of the Wadi for climbers, although we didn’t witness anyone scaling the walls as we hiked though. Our guides dropped us off at one end of the canyon and picked us up at the other, I imagine this will be the same for most tours.
Staying overnight in a Bedouin camp
From the outset our camp looked a lot more advanced than I ever imagined it would be. Whist it wouldn’t have been the end of the world had their not been any, the blogger inside me was happy to see a number of charging sockets inside our tent. The tents themselves were set up nicely, raised from the floor, with lockable doors and a hatch window each that looked out into the dessert.
As the evening drew in, we ate an amazing BBQ which had been cooked underground, drank flavourful tea, danced and sang along with our hosts as one of them celebrated the up coming birth of his first child. The evening spent in the camp was great fun and enjoyed by all. On reflection it was a shame that we only had one night booked in.
Despite our mini party and the home cooked feat, the stars twinkling away above our wee camp were the highlight of the evening. Obviously being in the middle of the dessert means very little light pollution is emitted. And so little light pollution meant a whole heap of stars. Spectacular! They were the perfect end to an incredible day spent exploring Wadi Rum.
The next morning it was a quick breakfast before heading back to the Village and then on to Amman in our groups case. We had 30 minutes in there somewhere, within which we explored the Visitors Centre, and we all agreed it would make an excellent lazer tag arena. That’s probably not what they architect had in mind, but that’s the conclusion we came to. Maybe we were dessert drunk, we’d had too much of a good thing in only one overnight trip. What a trip though!
I cannot lie, at no point in the lead up to our Wadi Rum tour did ever imagine that my time in the wondrous and expansive, red, brown and orange Jordanian dessert known at Wadi Rum, would culminate in my singing of a west London scar classic in front of my friends, other friends made that morning, and our Bedouin hosts. I think everyone died a little inside as the fast paced lyrics spilled from my mouth in a key unbeknownst to anyone. Everyone clapped along, but I think that was in an effort to drown out the noise that I filled our evening abode with. It was a song that was meant to represent my home, and to an extent it does, but why I could think of no other song at this point, why all other rhythm and rhyme fled my mind at this point in time I will never know. When you say you come from England people expect the Beatles, its the obvious and safe choice. Why didn’t I sing The Beatles? Unlike Indiana Jones, I had chosen poorly. Needless to say, I was not judged the winner of the evenings showcase, but it was all good fun and a great way to help celebrate one of our guides impending fatherhood.
Hint – if you’re going on a Wadi Rum tour any time soon, learn a decent song and save yourself a spot of embarrassment.
Here’s what I sang …