Wadi Ramm or Wadi Rum as it is more commonly known, is a long valley cut into sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan about km from Amman (see my post about that amazing city). It is one of the longest inhabited places on the planet with people living there since prehistory (at least 4500BC). The Nabateans who built Petra (see my Report on that amazing place) lived in Wadi Ramm.
T. E. Lawrence known as Lawrence of Arabia based his operations here during the period of the Arab Revolt from the Turkish Empire at the end of World War One. The 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia film was filmed there, a fact the locals are very proud of. In the 1980s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum was named “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” after Lawrence’s book though there is no direct connection between the two.
I took a tourist bus from Petra to Wadi Rum. It was very cheap.
First stop upon arrival the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Centre. There the bus was swarmed by local tour guides looking for clients.
I had booked my tour in advance online which I think on reflection was a mistake. I could have got a place on a tour when I arrived for cheaper.
The canny tourists bargained down the guides at the Visitor Centre where as I, like most Westerners had assumed the web price was the actual price. The others on my tour paid a quarter of what I paid! Learning for next time. On the other hand, I was happy with my price. In addition, the money was going to a local family. And if you are not a fan of bargaining, then just shrug your shoulders, grit your teeth and pay!
My two day trip included several stops at key points around Wadi Ramm, a dinner under the stars and a sleep at a campfire with a Bedouin family (well the males of the family)
After the Vistors Centre is the small village of Wadi Rum. It has several concrete houses and tents and lots of camels (see right) . There is a boys’ school and a girls’ school. I found a few shops selling water. (interestingly my guide included lunch and water into my tour and made the others pay for their own!). The village is also headquarters of the famous Desert Patrol founded by the British and handed over to the Jordanians.
A few minutes walk from the village lies the remains of Allat Temple originally built by the ‘Ad tribe. and rebuilt by the Nabataeans (who built Petra) in the first century B.C.
From the temple, I walked a small part of the way up the hillside of Jebel Rum (the second highest mountain in Jordan) to “Lawrence Spring” (also known as ‘Ain-Shallaleh’). The village seems to still use this water as drinking water. It tasted very pure.
As I came close to the source of the water, I overheard some women talking. About to round the corner, I noticed over the ridge (I am tall) that they were chatting with their burqas sitting on the ground next to them. I quickly and quietly retraced my steps, then started back up again very noisily. As I came back up to the ridge, I paused on the other side to “take in the view” , dropping my water bottle onto the ground. A few moments later, the women passed me fully dressed with a quiet but polite “salaam”. I am sorry that I interrupted their day but I hope I preserved their modesty.
The Bedouin people are very conservative and tourists need to take this into account. If you are an unmarried couple travelling together, the correct answer when asked “are you married”, is “yes”. One couple found they could not share a bed for answering that question wrongly, even though they had lived together in Europe for eight years.
Likewise, I was stunned (and the locals horrified) by what some tourists wear. Despite the climate, the Bedouin (men and women) cover up. Having young women trip past in high heels and tiny shorts with low cut tops will get an urgent request to “cover up” or the silent handing over of a blanket or a hissing through teeth.
Public displays of affection by men and women got a polite “we don’t do that here”.
After lunch in the village, we were away, crammed into a single four wheel drive without seat belts. Our driver who was no more than 18 told us cheerfully he had had three car accidents as he zoomed off bouncing through the sands, rocks and tracks. Thankfully we didn’t have a fourth!
The sights were astoundingly beautiful. At times we were alone on the vast plains sitting in complete silence. At other times, another four wheel drive or jeep would join us. We encountered a family camped in the desert and passed herds of goats and camels being driven by young boys. We saw rocks and oases and sand dunes.
We stopped at several tents and were offerred endless cups of sweetened black tea – very refreshing in the heat.
There were tables of soap, perfumes and jewellry for sale at almost every stop (bargaining expected).
Dinner that night was a delicious stew cooked over an open fire accompanied by a seemingly endless supply of pita breads.
A magical end to a magical day came with the setting of the sun in that amazing place, followed by the rising of a stunning moon amidst a star encrusted sky. Sleep came easy followed by an early morning (the Bedouin seem to rise early).
The area is not totally isolated. Cell phone coverage was very good it was amusing to watch young kids on camel back texting. The young Bedouin guys all had cassettes of Arabic music that at times, they would play at full volume.
Leaving Wadi Rum was tough. I could have stayed longer in this timeless place.
I travelled with Seven Pillars tours run by Audeh Krayem. He was very nice and helpful. You will end up on a tour run by one of his myriad of nephews. Just make sure you bargain first! Oh and he owes me 20 dinars which we never worked out he could get back to me. If you claim it back from him, let me know! And say “Salaam” to him for me.
Another Jordan related post is my Trip Report on Royal Jordanian Airlines.