Looking back on my time in Jordan, it’s so fascinating to me that my time in Wadi Rum desert, something so simple and seemingly boring, was one of my favorite experiences.
The rose-red of the massive rock formations in that barren desert will forever remain emblazoned in my memory.
I arrived in Wadi Rum after spending the previous day scuba diving in Aqaba. We drove north through the dry terrain, passing camel crossing signs along the way until we reached a small gas station along the road. My driver pulled over and I was introduced to a young man, no older than 20, who was going to be driving me through Wadi Rum on a 4×4 desert tour.
Along either side of the truck bed were makeshift benches-turned-car seats. The driver fluffed the weathered mattress that lined the seat and backrest of the bench and helped me into the bed of the truck. Through broken English and a smile, my driver addressed me one last time as we pulled out of the gas station and into the sandy abyss.
I think he said, “Hold on.”
We tore through the desert’s dramatic landscape as I did my best to avoid bouncing out of the back of the truck. The massive granite and sandstone rock faces surrounding me jetted up to the heavens like seedlings towards the warmth of the sun. We drove through a narrow passage between two massive mountains and arrived at a Bedouin campsite. The Bedouin tribes are the desert people of Wadi Rum that still inhabit the area.
I was offered an opportunity to continue part of my journey on the back of a camel, which I gladly accepted. A Bedouin man brought over one of his prized camels and the camel lowered itself down to the ground. Even with the camel tucked down on all fours, I had to hurl my body over its back and rearrange my legs to properly sit on its hump. As the camel began to stand, I was flung forward and then jerked backward almost getting flung off. Once my hump-backed friend found his stability, I looked down at the earth which now appeared to be 20 feet below me.
Mounting a camel is not for the faint of heart.
We rode through the desert together as I watched my shadow project upon the facade of the mountains. The camel and I as one. After a short ride, I said goodbye far too soon, but my 4×4 tour was just getting started. We loaded back into the truck and sped off again into the vast desert.
The driver took me to some of the best lookouts and we even climbed a dune to view the full scenic panorama of the magnificent desert. With every step I took, I would sink and slide back down the dune further than where I had started! Dune climbing should be an Olympic sport. We struggled our way to the top of the dune, but the view was completely worth it!
Our desert tour led us to another Bedouin camp. Two Bedouin men greeted us in their traditional full-length white gowns (for lack of a better term) and red and white-checkered headscarves.
I was invited inside for a cup of Bedouin Whiskey
Everywhere you travel in Jordan, you will be offered tea. In Wadi Rum, it is jokingly referred to as Bedouin Whiskey. It is customary to be served three cups. Hold the cup by the rim, do not set it down, and hand the cup back to your host for a refill. When you are done, simply wiggle the cup in your hand as you return the cup to your host.
After Bedouin tea time, we hit the desert road for the final stretch of the journey towards my camp. I would be sleeping under the desert stars in a tent of my own tonight. We descended from the peak of our final dune as my camp appeared in the distance. Upon arrival, I was greeted by more friendly Bedouins and was showed to my tent. These were no traditional back-country tents, my friends.
My ensuite tent at Captains Desert Camp had gorgeous drapery hanging from the ceiling and was lit by lanterns and candlelight. I even had my own bathroom.
Not exactly roughing it!
I hardly had time to set my bags down before I was rushing back out to catch the sunset! I jumped into the back of a truck, yet again, and we charged through the desert at the speed of the sunset. We arrived at the base of the mountain and practically ran up its steep face to reach a ledge that overlooked the entire Wadi Rum desert.
My view opened up to one of the most stunning and beautiful things I had ever seen. The sunset shed its colors onto the massive mountains that seemed to go on forever in all directions. I stood awestruck at the mesmerizing beauty that stretched out before me. After we watched the sun hide behind the mountains, my grumbling tummy decided it was time to head back to camp.
Dinner was being prepared for the entire campsite once we returned. Zarb, a Bedouin-style BBQ, is meat, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables cooked underground for extra deliciousness. We were led to the back of the camp where two men were uncovering some sort of desert manhole.
They lifted the covering and steam and the essence of slow-cooked BBQ rose in the air. The Zarb was served with hummus, fresh bread and an array of delicious camp-style Bedouin specialties.
After a sumptuous dinner, I joined fellow campers from around the world (Spain, Australia, Germany, etc.) by the campfire. The desert stars sparkled so brightly that they lit the entire desert night’s sky.
We spent the rest of the evening staring up into the stars, sipping Bedouin Whiskey, smoking shisha and counting constellations.