Memories from Wadi Rum

by Audrey on December 15, 2013 · 34 comments

I had heard the desert held a certain magic, but it wasn’t until I went there myself that I understood what people meant by that.

Wadi Rum is a place that echoes with laughter by day and where you hear the void of the desert by night. It’s a place that matts your hair and stains your cheeks orange with dirt, but leaves you overwhelmingly happy at the end of the day. It’s a place where the earth glows red under the sun, and where you can gaze up the cylindrical spheres that twinkle in the midnight sky. It’s a place that T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) described in his notes as “vast, echoing and God-like”, and it’s a place that I hope I can one day return to.

While my time in the desert felt like a mere passing, here are a few of my favourite moments:

Off-roading in the back of a pick-up truck

Red deserts in The Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum, Jordan.

With scarves wrapped around our heads and sunglasses to shield our eyes from the sand, we hopped in the back of a Toyota pick-up truck and began our journey into “The Valley of the Moon”. Our first few days in Jordan had been spent exploring the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash, communing with nature in the Dana Nature Reserve, and reaching the Lost City of Petra, however, this, the wild untamed desert, felt like the Jordan I had been looking for all along.

A rock formation known as "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

That day I ate my lunch with the iconic view of “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; the rock formation looked monstrous in the distance, however, I wouldn’t realize the sheer scale of the towering rocks until our driver was speeding into the desert with no roads – just rocks – to guide his way.

Off-roading between massive rock formations in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

While the wind carried the sound of Arabic music and ululations from our caravan across the desert, for our group it was one of those silent journeys where we just marvelled at the magnitude of our surroundings and wondered how we even ended up here.

Hiking the dunes

Shadows in the desert sand of Wadi Rum Jordan.

Once we reached the sandy dunes, our tour guide Mohammad was the first one to hop out of the truck and take his shoes off. “You want to climb to the top?”

The dunes were steep but we were all ready to unleash our inner Lawrence of Arabia. Accepting his challenge, we scrambled out of the truck pulling socks, sandals, and running shoes off our feet. Since the sun had already begun its descent, the sand felt cool between our toes.

Audrey and Sam in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

We raced each other to the top kicking up red sand and sinking our heels as we vied for the summit. I have never seen a group of travellers so giddy to be in the desert. It felt like our own playground; one where we could prance, roll downhill, and get sand in our pockets, hair and ears.

Footsteps in the sand in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

Watching the sunset

Watching the sunset in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

After the thrills of off-roading and running through the desert, our driver pulled over just as the sun was beginning to set. I don’t get to catch a lot of sunsets, but this one was the kind where you put down your camera and watch the colours change before your eyes until a veil of darkness shrouds the landscape.

Dancing and feasting with Bedouins

Bedouins playing music and dancing at our camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

At last, we arrived at our own private camp nestled in the canyon. Paper-bag lanterns lined the entrance and led to a common area where rugs covered the ground, and sofas and pillows invited us to grab a spot close by the fire. Though the sun had already set, the day’s activities were far from over. Our Bedouin camp keepers got the night going with traditional songs so lively they beckoned us out of their seats. We tried our best to imitate our new found friends as they bounced, clapped, and got tricky with their footwork, before finally settling on a dance circle around the fire. A great way to work up our appetite!

Zarb - a barbecue cooked in a coal oven in the sand.

Later that evening we had a zarb, which is a Bedouin style barbecue. Our meal of lamb, chicken, potatoes and vegetables, had been cooked all day in a hot coal oven buried under the desert sands. When the food was ready, a bell rang across the camp and our group went out to see the unveiling of the evening’s meal. Sand was brushed away, blankets were pulled off, and the lid was lifted to reveal a tiered barbecue grill holding an exquisite dinner.

Sitting around the fire while camping under the stars in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

The evening was capped off with a smoky fire, a few rounds of shisha, and hot cups of mint tea (and maybe a few drinks) as we chatted and watched the stars appear in the night sky.

Riding a Camel at Sunrise

After a night spent camping in the desert, we woke up to the sound of a herd of camels grumbling outside our camp; these other worldly creatures would be our transportation to the main Captain’s Desert Camp where breakfast was being served.

A Bedouin guide kissing his camel in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

While I tried to keep my distance from the camels (aren’t camels known for spitting at innocent bystanders?), our Bedouin guide got affectionate with his desert beast, stroking its head, scratching its chin, and even giving it kisses.

This early morning ride allowed us to see the desert in a different light. Our afternoon journey had been one filled with dramatic shades of persimmon, burnt orange and dusty reds, however, the morning revealed paler hues of pink and lavender which gave the desert valley a completely different feel.

A herd of camels in Wadi Rum, Jordan at sunrise.

My time in the Jordanian desert felt all too brief. I wish I’d had more time to wander through the canyons, hike even steeper dunes, and learn to brew the perfect cup of sweet mint tea, but I guess that gives me a reason to return one day.

Have you ever camped out in the desert?

Is Jordan on your bucket list?

Bedouin guide leading a camel through the red desert sands of Wadi Rum, Jordan.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Sand In My Suitcase December 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

We felt very much like Lawrence of Arabia toodling around Wadi Rum – it’s quite an amazing place. Good for you for camping in the desert (we couldn’t do without a comfy bed and hot shower :-).
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

This was more glamping than camping. ;) “Captain’s Desert Camp” had both real beds and proper toilet facilities with running water. I can’t tell you whether they had hot showers or not since I skipped mine that morning, but overall, it was a pretty comfortable experience. Just bring lots of bug spray!

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Julika December 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

What an amazing experience! I can’t wait to visit Jordan too someday — it looks breathtaking! And your photos are gorgeous!
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Jordan was amazing! Don’t miss out on Wadi Rum when you go – it was so much fun being out there, yet so peaceful at the same time.

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Pinay Flying High December 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Sounds and looks promising! The photos are awesome!
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Thanks. It was a nice introduction to the Middle East. :)

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Sam December 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Wadi Rum is the one place in Jordan I didn’t get to that I wish I had: looks amazing! I did ride a camel in the Syrian desert, though, and it was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done! Lucky you got a friendly one, though.
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Haha, I did have a friendly camel, but I was also pretty sore by the end of the ride. I couldn’t pull off a full day riding on top of a camel.

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Renuka December 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Sounds like an amazing experience! Great photos! I would love to experience something similar myself. Jordan is so charming! Thanks for introducing me to Wadi Rum. :)
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Glad you enjoyed the photos, Renuka.

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Monina Nudalo December 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I been meaning to go to Jordan. Can you please give me the name of the tour operator where you booked your overnight stay in Wadi Rum? Would love to experience this too!

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Audrey December 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Hi Monina, I stayed at the “Captain’s Desert Camp”. You can easily find them on TripAdvisor – they are one of the top-rated tour operators when it comes to Wadi Rum. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.captains.jo/index.php?co=camp&pg=Q2FwdGFpbnMgRGVzZXJ0IENhbXA=

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Monina Nudalo December 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

Thank you for the info, Audrey. Appreciate it. Keep posting!

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Calli December 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Wow! great post and your photos are incredible! I’ve wanted to go to Jordan for so long now, thanks for giving me even more reasons to want to visit!
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I would highly recommend Jordan! There is so much to see and do there aside from Wadi Rum and Petra. It’s worth spending several weeks in the country. :D

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Rika | Cubicle Throwdown December 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I would have been so down with that barbecue!! Yum! I love all the blankets and cushions everywhere. It’s like having an outdoor living room!

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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm

It was so comfy! I was almost tempted to sleep out by the fire rather than in my tent.

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memographer December 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm

It’s a great post, Audrey. The night in desert was my best experience in India. Can’t forget the deep black open sky full of falling stars… So I HEAR you :) The Jordan is on my list. However, it is not at the top of it at this moment.
Love your photos. My favs: the shots of the dunes and sunset, the last shot is classic!
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Audrey December 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Camping out in the desert in India sounds amazing. I’d like to do a similar trip through the Thar Desert at some point. No plans for India yet, but I’ll get there eventually. :)

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Laura December 16, 2013 at 2:24 am

Visiting Jordan and Wadi Rum are so high on my bucket list! The Bedouin camp sounds like perfection.
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Jam @icoSnap December 16, 2013 at 7:53 am

Jordan is on my bucket list! I want to see Petra :)
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Anthony December 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Your post and pictures brought back my own Wadi Rum memories…. fantastic place indeed!
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Amanda December 16, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Yeahhhhh sounds pretty amazing! Jordan is definitely on my bucket list.
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Corinne December 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm

We loved Jordan, and we especially loved Wadi Rum. Great photos. We did not have lamb cooked in the ground. I would have loved that!
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Vanessa December 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Wow! This looks like so much fun! I could totally imagine everyone running and skipping through the sand dunes… isn’t that why you’d go there in the first place? :D Something about the picture of Bedouins dancing makes me feel I’m watching the best dream ever.
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Amy Cruz December 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

These are some magical moments, it seems you are having great fun- keep it up! :)

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Hogga December 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

sand in the pants= the worst
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Colleen Brynn December 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I’m glad to hear you are looking after your eyeballs! ;)
These photos are lovely. You paint a magnificent picture both with words and with your gorgeous snaps!
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Jesper Kofod December 25, 2013 at 2:40 am

I would love to actually to travel as much as you :)

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Ross January 7, 2014 at 11:31 am

Great photos. I was camped in the desert near Petra and did a day trip to Wadi Rum. Both were cool in different ways. Sunset there must have been amazing and the changing colours of the desert.
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apol | WanderfulTogether.com January 11, 2014 at 11:05 am

That cute man with the camel, is he the same man smoking shisha in Sam’s posts?

If he is, he indeed is photogenic!! Hehe.
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Calogero Mira February 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Wonderful sands.

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Jay February 16, 2014 at 3:37 pm

All of this looks amazing! Hope to do something like this when I visit Jordan!

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