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THE BACKPACKSTERS

Camping in Wadi Rum

For us, visiting Wadi Rum in Jordan has really been one of the most beautiful experiences to date. Undeniably! Read on to see why and you'll find yourself planning your own trip to the desert really soon. 

 

There is something magical about being in Wadi Rum

 

Wadi Rum means "Sand Valley" and is also popularly called  as "The Valley of the Moon". Located in Southern Jordan, this protected desert region is the largest valley in the whole country and it covers over 720 sq. kms - which is huge! It is characterised by beautiful sandstone canyons, gigantic rocks and sand dunes as far as the eye can see. In fact, it might look very familiar to you if you have watched Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen and so many more blockbusters!

 

An early morning start to the day tour is the perfect way to explore the desert

 

To enter Wadi Rum, every visitor must buy a ticket (or present the Jordan Pass) at the visitor centre at the entrance to Wadi Rum village, a small settlement that marks the beginning of the valley. There are a few hotels there to spend the night at comfortably and all the 4x4 jeep tours begin from there. Since we had also opted for an overnight stay, we carried our luggage to the guest house of our hosts from Bedouin Lifestyle Camp. Within minutes, we were on the road with our guide, driving away to explore the amazing treasures of Wadi Rum! 

 

Lawrence Spring:

Our first stop in the full-day jeep tour was the famous water spout. T E Lawrence, the famous British soldier who fought during the Arab Revolt of the 1950s. The spring is very tiny and is perched at the top of a sandstone mountain, but in the middle of a rather dry desert, it is heartwarming to see so many mountain goats grazing in a green, wet patch, so high up. It took us about 30 minutes to climb to the top and although the spring was very small, the panoramic views of the desert are extremely rewarding. 

 

 

The lone tree, as seen from the Lawrence Spring

 

Red Sand Dunes:

There are not too many sand dunes in Wadi Rum, because the desert is more rocky than sandy. But a few sand dunes that have formed on the sides of the sandstone mountains are really big! In fact, some of the dunes are perfect to go sand-boarding too. 

 

Sand-boarding down the dunes of Wadi Rum

 

Burrah Canyon:

The mountains offer an amazing experience in the canyons - a narrow path in between towering sandstone walls that light up in different hues of red and orange from the sunlight, at different times in the day. Its a very unique experience and perfect for photography. Don't skip this part of the desert tour, its definitely worth it!

 

The glow inside the Canyon is so strong and overwhelmingly beautiful!

 

Our campsite hosts had prepared a delicious lunch for us at a Bedouin Kitchen just outside the canyons - pita bread (thick, flat bread), hummus (chickpea dip), freshly prepared galaya bandora (tomato-pine nut curry which is similar to salsa) and Baba Ganoush (egg-plant dip) served with some fresh olives. 

 

The vegetarian Middle-Eastern platter, Bedouin-Style

 

It was so incredibly tasty and we feasted for a full hour before we resumed our tour of the desert! 

 

Lawrence House:

In the middle of the desert, built on top of the ruins of an ancient Nabatean water cistern, is the house where Lawrence of Arabia is said to have camped during the Revolt. It is a regular spot on the tourist trail, but we didn't really find it alluring. But, behind the House, we found a little path to walk up on the rocks. It was a little tricky to walk up that path, but beyond amazing - just look at that view point! 

 

Desert hues vary by the spot and the time of the day

 

Somehow, this spot seemed to have a very over-bearing yet deeply satisfying effect on the minds of many travellers. Its one of those places, where there's not a soul in sight  for endless distances - its just nature as it is, untouched for millennia. 

 

Ancient Nabatean Inscriptions:

Just a couple of kilometres away from Lawrence house is a section of the mountain walls that are carved with markings from as early as the 1st century AD. These inscriptions were left behind by the trade caravans that often passed through, while moving around ancient Arabia. Going up towards the north-east, the caravans would reach Petra. And by heading southward for just a few tens of kilometres, they would reach Saudi Arabia. 

 

The Nabatean inscriptions depicting a camel and the following traders

 

The Small Arch of Rum Valley:

One of the most popular spots in the desert is the Small Arch. The path to the top of the Um Frouth Rock is quite steep, but is not too hard to climb - it takes about ten minutes and you may have to crawl up some sections. But for those who are afraid of heights and have difficulties in climbing, we recommend admiring it from the base at the least. its not too often that one comes by a natural rock bridge! 

 

The small arch at Um Frouth Rock

 

Driving around the desert:

Its always so much fun to drive in the desert, especially on the dunes, with a solid 4x4! Our guide was gracious enough to let us take the wheel to get a feel of what its like to drive around on the soft sand and gentle dunes. We also had a little pit stop at the Cow-and-chicken rock, before heading to the camp.

 

Just doing the 'Wadi Run' with our humble Toyota

 

Sunset at the Bedouin Lifestyle Camp:

All full-day tours in Wadi Rum end at the campsite (if you are not opting for a overnight stay in the desert, then you would be escorted back to the visitor centre) as they prepare the tents to spend the night in. We checked in to our tents, which were fully equipped with a double bed, a lamp and even a plug-point (they know how much everyone loves their gadgets). All the tents share a large common bath facility, but there are a few tents with a private bath as well, but those can be quite pricey.

 

The Bedouin Lifestyle Campsite, nestled in between the towering rocks

 

Since it was already quite cold by then, our hosts offered us some hot bedouin tea to sip on, while we enjoyed the desert sunset. There is a nice porch outside the camp's dining hall from where you get the best views, but if you want to be a little more adventurous, then there are many little rocks all around, to climb on and enjoy a more elevated experience!

 

The sunset from the Bedouin Lifestyle Camp

 

That evening we had a very interesting dinner experience called as Zarb. It is a traditional bedouin way of cooking food in earth ovens. A hole is dug in the ground and a charcoal or woodcoal stove is prepared at the bottom of the pit. A set of barbecue racks containing meats and vegetables are placed inside, covered with a cloth and then the pit is sealed with sand. The food is cooked slowly over the next few hours.

 

Dinner is ALWAYS followed by a campfire in Wadi Rum and that includes unlimited Bedouin tea and traditional bedouin music, live. Sheesha is also available for a small charge. Usually, the entire crew of hosts gather around the fire to entertain the guests as they dance and sing in Arabic. And the best part? We snuggled under thick blankets while sitting there, watching the stars and listening to the melodies.

 

Relaxing by the warm camp-fire in the chilly desert

 

Since it was near-freezing temperatures, the hosts had given us a huge blanket - as heavy as a planet - but it still wasn't enough to keep us from shivering all night long. But the joy of sleeping out in the middle of a desert was something we really enjoyed! The next morning we were welcomed to a wonderful breakfast spread before we were driven back to the Village. Of all the things we did in Jordan, camping at Wadi Rum definitely trumps as a solid number one!

 

Here are some things to keep in mind while camping out at Wadi Rum:
 

  • Wadi Rum is a protected desert, so it is quite safe for travellers. It is about 110 kms from Petra, about 300 kms from the Queen Alia International Airport and only 60 kms from Aqaba (nearest airport).
     
  • Car parking is easily available at the visitor centre and it is okay to leave your vehicle there overnight. But if you have opted to camp with one of the groups there, they normally let you park at their office inside the village. We did just that.
     
  • The ticket to Wadi Rum costs JD 5 (~INR 450). If you have a Jordan Pass, the visit is included in it.
     
  • The village of Wadi Rum has cellular network, but inside the desert it is very unlikely that you'll be able to make calls. There is no Wifi in any camp.
     
  • There are numerous options ranging from a two-hour jeep tour to a full day tour, with an option to add-on the night stay at the camp (or even sleeping-under-the-stars in the warmer months of the year. We opted for the JD 70 (~INR 6,400) per-person-package which we paid for the full-day tour as well as the night stay - and we feel that this is the best way to experience Wadi Rum!
     
  • There are many camps that operate inside Wadi Rum and each of them offers similar experiences. As clueless as we were initially, we came across a couple of great reviews of Bedouin Lifestyle Camp and the hospitality of Mr. Attallah and his team. So we decided to contact him and give it a try - and we were not disappointed!
     
  • Depending on the time of the year, the weather can be quite harsh - either as unbearably hot or terribly cold. The tourist seasons of March-May and September-November can be very comfortable but may also mean that there could be a crowd. Since we went there in late December, it was very cold at night, but during the day we were actually quite comfortable with only two layers at the most! Packing right is very important - extremely light clothing for summer and multiple/thicker layers for the winter.
     
  • Vegetarians need not worry at all - the mezze platter has a good variety of vegetarian dishes and they all taste so good (especially Zarb food). Depending on the type of package you opt for, all meals and snacks may be complimentary. Of course, the bedouin tea, which is exquisite is on-the-house all day long.
     
  • Other activities at Wadi Rum include camel rides across the desert, Hot Air Balloon rides and Microflight experiences.

 

How many camels do you see here? 

 

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