Another big draw for us in deciding to come to Jordan was visiting the Wadi Rum desert. The Wadi Rum desert is home of the Bedouin people, and famous in part for its connection with Lawrence of Arabia. The desert has been inhabited since pre-historic times. It was amazing to be in Jordan and realize how long there have been people inhabiting this area. This is one of the first places where human civilizations started. Wow!
The Bedouins of Wadi Rum seem to run a successful eco-tourism project here, whereby in order to visit this area, you take tours with a local Bedouin guide, then have the opportunity to spend the night at a camp in the desert.
It was a cool experience, though there were moments when I felt a bit like we were being herded to all these pre-determined places with all the other tourists. I would say it was a little bit inauthentic from that standpoint, but overall the tourism is directly supporting the Bedouin people, as the companies are owned by them. As such, I suppose we are doing something family friendly that is safe* and easy in a place we probably wouldn’t get to really explore otherwise. *safe, except maybe when our driver/guide put N on his lap and let him drive up a super steep sand dune, then went flying down it with the rest of us in the back of the pickup truck. Yikes!I booked the tour in advance with Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp, largely cause it had good reviews, and it was easy to communicate with them via email to book our trip. It seemed like most other camps were largely the same, but I was happy with ours.
We got picked up in a large parking lot in Wadi Rum, where all visitors park their cars overnight. It was a pretty slick operation, so when we arrived a bit early for our 8am meet-up the lot was full. However, people who had camped the night before started arriving, and the lot emptied out quickly for us and the rest of the people on tour this day. Once we found the guide for our camp, we were piled into the back of an open pickup truck and driven a few hundred meters to the house of the owner of our camp.
We were offered tea and sat for a little bit, waiting for groups and drivers to somehow be matched. We figured we would be on our own, since the max group size was 6, but in fact, I guess the kids counted as less than 1, because we were put in a group with a really nice american couple (in fairness, the kids only cost half of the adult price). It was actually nice to have more people with us, cause they were fun to talk to on our full day of desert touring, especially since our guide was less than talkative at the beginning.
We headed into the desert, and the driver stopped and pointed to an area that was somehow part of Lawrence’s Spring. We stopped for a few minutes then dutifully returned to the car to keep moving on. Our next stop was a huge sand dune.As I mentioned, most groups were doing more or less the same tour, so there were other people also climbing up the dune. It wasn’t too crowded, but we definitely didn’t feel alone in the desert. The dune was steep but we eventually made it to the top.
Once at the top, the boys took off, running back down.
Once we got down, we hopped back in the truck to continue the tour. We made a few more stops, before eventually stopping for lunch.
One cool stop was in a canyon, where we saw some ~2,000 year old Nabatean writings on the wall.
We just kept driving deeper into the desert (or so we thought, we joked that maybe we were just going in circles and were actually still only like 500 meters from the visitor’s center on the other side of some rocks), stopping occasionally to climb rocks or see sites.
Eventually, we drove off into a clump of rocks on our own, and the guide started setting up lunch for us. This was actually a pretty cool part of the tour. We were the only people in sight, under an overhang to stay in the only spot of shade for miles around (or so it seemed) and once everything was set up, we relaxed while our guide was whipping up some fresh food for us.
Once we all sat down for lunch, we started telling jokes and riddles, and our guide finally started loosening up a bit, joking with us and coming up with his own jokes. By the time lunch was over, we were getting tired and ready to just head to our campsite for the night, but it was not meant to be, and we had a few more stops.
By this time, it was getting late, and we would periodically drive by a campsite and wonder “is this it? are we about to stop?”, but we never did. Eventually we got to another big sand dune, with no other tourists around. Most of us got out, but N and L were kind of over everything at that point, so they stayed in the truck. We headed up the dune while the guide drove off with N and L in the truck (I was fairly confident it would be okay).
I went halfway up the dune and sat down, keeping an eye on the truck, which had driven to what looked like a small work site across an open area from us. C and A went up the dune with the american couple.
Finally, the guide drove the truck back, with the boys safe and sound (apparently, he took them to see some baby goats), then we all hopped back in the truck and finally he took us to our campsite. By then it was around 4pm, and we had been touring around the desert since before 9am. It was a long day for the boys (and us adults), but I would say the guides definitely give us our money’s worth on a full day tour.
Once we got to the campsite, we were assigned our cabins (we were in 2 separate ones, with C and the little boys in one and me and A in the other).
After relaxing for a bit, we headed up to a rocky outcropping above our campsite to watch the sunset.
We had a nice time hanging out on the rock and waiting for the sun to set. And, once it did set, it was…nice. I think the fact that we live on the beach and get beautiful sunsets over the sea every day has ruined us for other sunsets. So, overall, we enjoyed our family time together on the rock overlooking the desert, but the sunset itself fell short of special for us.
After sunset, we headed back down the rock and went to the communal dining room.
After relaxing in the dining room for a while, the owner asked us to all go outside, so we could see them remove the food from the sand, where it had been buried and cooking for the last few hours.
After un-burying it, they pulled out a big metal rack with multiple layers of meat and vegetables, in addition to a huge pot of rice.
Once the food was out, they set up a buffet full of salads, hummus, vegetables, pita bread and all sorts of stuff, along with the food that was cooked in the sand. It was a fantastic meal, and we all enjoyed eating, chatting and listening to one of the guys play music for us.
After a little while in the dinner tent, we all headed to bed fairly early, by then it was dark, and we got a great views of the stars in the sky.
The next morning, we were back in the dinner tent for breakfast, then the trucks came to pick us up and take us back to our cars in the parking lot.
As we suspected, it was a lot quicker going directly back to the village from our campsite (though I’m happy to report we weren’t actually just camped on the other side of the rocks from the parking lot!).
We packed up our car, and got back on the road to continue our journey. Unfortunately, the trip took a turn for the worse after we left Wadi Rum, but that story is for another blog post….