Wonderful, Wonderful Wadi Rum

Well, the hoped for miracle didn’t happen.  I woke up deaf in both ears and sat about in the sun again while Lu and Bob went off and did their last dive in Aqaba.  Ahmed the lovely dive shop owner took them in wih his super camera so we expect some great pix a bit down the line.

We left Aqaba about 1145 , made a stop at a wine shop to pick up a nice bottle of Jordanian red wine to drink with our dinner.  It was about an hour’s drive north and then east to Wadi Rum.  It is the largest wadi in Jordan and very distinctive with many beautiful sandstone and granite outcrops and mountains.  The Bedouin have lived here for generations and TE Lawrence famously stayed here many times, and referenced it in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  It is simply a beautiful, beautiful landscape, very serene, yet ever changing with the light and the cloudss.  A timeless place, that must look not very different now to how it looked to Lawrence or to the generations before him.  There have been inhabitants in the Wadi dating back to the Nabataeans and to pre-history.

We were booked to stay the night at Aicha Memories Camp.  It is very much glamping.  Gorgeous, over the top tents and also Mars style “bubble” houses.  It is right inside the national park of the Wadi, up a side canyon all on its own.  There are camps to suit all budgets from very basic to super luxury.  Memories seemed to strike a good balance at the top end and I liked the sond of their astronomy programme and jeep tours.  Make sure you stay inside the park though.  Not outside.

A lot of films have been made here.  The Martian with Matt Damon, two of the latest Star Wars films.  You can see why, the scenery is other worldly.

Anyway, it was slickly organised.  We were told to proceed into the park (Jordan Pass yay) and then 7km to the Wadi Rum parking village and park in the first carpark on the right.  Cars were being checked on entry for which camp and then drivers for the relevant camp came up to you.  You leave your car in the car park and proceed by 4wd jeep trucks.  I had arranged a jeep tour of the wadi.  It was 60 JOD for 4.5 hours – up to sunset – for the 3 of us.  It was well worth it.

Our young bedouin guide (works for Memories) loaded our luggage inside the truck and we sat on the open platform behind.  Good viewing and quite comfortable.  And we were off……  wind blowing in our faces as we streaked over the red/ochre/ yellow sand following old Bedouin roads through the wadi.  On either side were dramatic red and black outcroppings and cliffs.  What a spectacular place!

Our first stop was at a large sand dune which we climbed to give fabulous wadi views.  I confess, I only made it 2/3 of the way up.  So steep and such deep sand…. my chest is still very tight.  I find it very easy to be breathless.  It’s a horrible feeling to be so weak.

Anyway, onwards and our next stop was Khazali Canyon.  This is a siq, maybe 100m long and 2m (max) wide which has towering sides and some water in the bottom.  It is famous for its paintings and petroglyths.  Many of them are of animals but there is one of a pair of feet.  Lucy and I managed to get all the way to the end pool of the canyon, sometimes wading, sometimes balancing on footholds only as wide as my feet.  A very secret place.  We were lucky to see it with just a couple of other people.

We then drove onwards and climbed a sandstone outcrop which had a small arch as part of its topography.  It was quite a hard climb for Bob and me.  Lucy leaped up like a mountain goat of course.

Next, the ruins of Lawrence’s house and more climbing onto the rocky cliff above.  Bob and I left Lu to it and we decamped to a bedouin tent where they made us some unexpectedly delicious Bedouin tea flavoured with sage.  I thought this sounded horrible but how wrong I was.  Had several cups.  Back on the truck, our guide gave us a box of baklava type pastries to nibble on.

We then drove down some very steep dunes and drove far down the wadi to a place to watch the sunset (530).  When we arrived our guide began gathering dead sticks for a fire and also a twiggy green plant which he said was for handwashing.  After he got the fire going, and a well used kettle boiling on it, he showed us how that worked.  He pulled the green leaves off the plant, and then pulverised them between two stones until the sap began to run.  He then added some water to his hands and amazingly the whole lot foamed up and made a brillliant hand wash.  They call the plant Ajram, but the Latin name is Seidlitzia Rosmarinus.

We sat on rugs in the middle of the sand totally alone except for some camels, a dog and a couple of distant camel riders.  As the sunset and the red light deepened on the cliffs, it was a scene out of every desert film you’ve ever seen.  The tea – sage again – was even better than the last time and we had some sort of local date pastry, much like a fig newton.

After sunset we headed up to our camp.  There were a number of different types of tent.  I had booked an executive tent that slept 3.  It was very opulent and spacious, lovely bathroom with a massive shower.  We were just unpacking when the manager knocked on the door and said they wanted to upgrade us to a Panorama Suite which is one of the glass Mars pods.  We felt we couldnt refuse although we really liked our tent.

Anyway, dinner first.  The restaurant is built into an overhanging cave in the wadi side and was pretty bling.  A massive and fabulous buffet.  The centrepiece was a traditional Bedouin dish consisting a massive pan of rice and vegetables topped with legs of lamb, slow cooked.  The chef pulled the lamb off the bone to serve you.  It was fantastic.  For dessert we chose a local version of bread and butter puddding which had fruit, nuts and spices in it.

After dinner, the manager came with us and moved our luggage to our new Mars pod home.  It was very glamorous and exotic.  A globe, most of the sides were glass and faced out towards the rocks and dunes, so very private.  There were big curtains to draw across anyway.  A skylight in the roof meant you could look up from the bed to see the stars.

We didn’t have a lot of time to relax in it at that point because we had to be near reception at 8 for the astronomy session.  A local young chap leads it and he really knows his stuff.  We started with a huge telescope which using lasers he lined up to show us, the Moon, a cluster of stars and gas around the Andromeda galaxy, and another area of the sky where new stars were emerging.  So interesting.  We then walked about 20 minutes out into the desert and climbed a small dune and sat down.  He told us stories of the stars, ancient astronomy and about the astrological constellations – pointing them out with his laser each time.  None of these things ever looks like their name to me, but…. The moon was very bright which faded them a bit tonight but there were so many up there.  At the end he used his camera to take time lapse and long exposure photos of us, using the laser as well.  We had been given long Bedouin sheepskin coats to wear and some of the photos were so funny.  We had to hold totally still while the exposure went on and Lucy and I found it almost impossible.  We kept collapsing in giggles, mainly due to the sight of Bob looking somewhat Catweazle-like in his coat.  His solo laser wand picture is brilliant though.

Finally we staggered back across the sand to our glass pod.  The moon was so bright we needed no torch.  It was a magic, special evening that I will never forget.  Wadi Rum is amazing and my only regret is that we were only staying one night.  I would love to spend longer there exploring the rocks and the desert and learning more about the locals.