So, you’ve planned your trip to Jordan, at the top of the to-do list is Petra (of course) and probably second to the infamous archaeological site is the Dead Sea. But what about Wadi Rum? If a Wadi Rum Camp isn’t on your radar, you need to put it on there, pronto.
Wadi Rum really is up there with the likes of Petra and the Dead Sea in terms of awesomeness. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
The name Wadi Rum translates to ‘Roman Valley’. It’s technically a valley, although at times, whilst in Wadi Rum all you see is a huge expanse of desert as far as the eye can see. The sand and rock formations are a beautiful red colour, formed from sandstone and granite.
Wadi Rum is situated in South Jordan with the nearest largest town of Aqaba (Aqaba is basically your gateway to the dive hot spots in the Red Sea). It’s about 60km away.
A quick bit of history
- Wadi Rum has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but you find various archaeological sites in the park dating back to the Nabataeans at around 6BC. Evidence of their civilisation can be seen in rock paintings in the area.
- You’ve heard of Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 British made film based on the life of Officer T. E. Lawrence? Lawrence passed through Wadi Rum several times during his time in the military. There is even a carving to commemorate him, keep reading to see it!
- The main group of people who reside in the Wadi Rum desert now are the Bedouin. These ‘desert dwellers’ (yes, Bedouin translates to that) throughout history were nomadic tribespeople’s, although most modern-day Bedouin will most likely live in a home with all mod-cons. They still have a strong holding on their heritage. And yes, they are milking this heritage in the form of offering the full Bedouin experience in the guise of the Wadi Rum Camp to tourists. I highly recommend you do this.
Which Wadi Rum Camp to choose?
There are a multitude of camps to stay at covering every budget. The high end ‘space capsules’ look like white bubbles sat in the red sand. These are priced at about 100JD and often more per night.
At the opposite end of the scale, you can experience a Wadi Rum Camp in the most basic form, literally a ‘night under the stars’ is a sleeping bag, in the open, on the floor and a fire for warmth. Perfect for panoramic viewing of the Milky Way.
I went mid-range, so still very basic but at least with a tent over my head.
Wadi Rum Camp Typical Itinerary
The standard thing to do in Wadi Rum is the 4×4 jeep tour. You can self-drive or have a guide. I chose the guided option and sat in the back of the trailer with the thrill of the warm desert air blowing through my now very matted and dust locks. There are loads of points of interest to see, and the jeep tour range from 2, 4, 6 hours and upwards
1) Dune and Rock Climb and Lookout
First stop was a giant dune to climb up, expect sand to get everywhere! Climbing a sand dune is easier said than done, sand is REALLY tricky to climb, the rocks, on the other hand, are very easy to climb due to their gritty sandstone surface to give some traction on your shoes. Even on tread-less ancient tennis shoes! Having said that, the gritty surface also grazes knees fairly easily. A double-edged sword I think!
2) Ancient Nabatean Petroglyphs
We visited ancient Petroglyphs carved into the face of Jabal Anfishiyyeh, symbols such as camels and people are etched into the rock. I did ask what the difference was between a Petroglyph and a Hieroglyph; I was told the first is basically pictures telling a story, like a modern-day comic strip. And that a Hieroglyph is actual writings.
You can view these from the ground, but also there is a nice climbable boulder which takes you up higher for a closer look.
3) Umm Fruth Rock Bridge
Because of the soft sandstone at Wadi Rum, there are tons of amazing rock formations, including natural bridges cut out through millennia of corrosion. One of the easier to access ones is ‘Umm Fruth Rock Bridge’ which is easy to climb up on to the platform, although probably not recommended if you have a fear of heights. Like most stuff in Jordan, there is total disregard for any form of Health and Safety. Just don’t fall is my advice 😉
During the late afternoon, the sun begins to set making for some amazing sunbeam photos of the arch. A certain highlight of my time in Wadi Rum.
4) Lawrence of Arabia’s House
You can visit the Lawrence of Arabia house, this was used in 1962 film and although it’s amazing to see a bit of film set. In all honesty, all that remains are some blocks which are pretty much fallen.
A short climb up the rocks behind the fallen house you’ll find a ton of Cairns where people over the years have left their mark. They are everywhere! Heading up here to the top of the mound will give you a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding desert. It’s immense and were still only at the edge of Wadi Rum park!
5) King Abdullah and Lawrence of Arabia Carvings
The final stop on our 4×4 Jeep tour is the carving on the Lawrence of Arabia’s and King Abdullah’s head in the rock.
So, this I felt was a little bit like the Mona Lisa effect. If you’ve ever visited the Louvre Gallery in Paris to see the Mona Lisa, this is pretty much the same effect. The Mona Lisa, in all her glory, is a lot less substantial than in any picture you’re shown. The Lawrence carving has exactly the same effect. I assumed it was going to be around a metre, however, it’s actually smaller than my own head! Despite its size, the carvings are still very cool.
Red Sun & Red Rocks
As it rolls on to ‘Golden Hour’ the already red rocks become even more intense. This is also when you will see lots of the Bedouin people herding their camel’s back to camp.
I’d never actually came close to a camel prior to this. First impressions, they stink. Despite the smell, they do have enviable long eyelashes and constant duck lips pout – a bit like Kim Kardashian really in that sense.
My Wadi Rum Camp Experience
I stayed at Salman Zwaedh Camp, whose father was a Bedouin.
This was a superb Wadi Rum Camp experience including a little bit of sightseeing on the back of a 4×4, some hiking, plenty of tea (OMG the tea is amazing!), awesome hospitality, food cooked underground, basic yet comfortable accommodation and a ride on a ‘ship of the desert’ aka a camel, although this is an optional extra
My one regret is that I wish I had more time to come back here, to spend more nights in the desert and try out the Climbing, Dune Buggy-ing 7 Boarding and extended hikes in this region. The only reason I didn’t stay longer was my time restriction on my trip.
The accommodation is basic, BUT considering you are in the middle of the desert there are actually some mod-cons available and the ‘tent’ is more than comfortable. A comfy bed and a hot solar powered shower; what more do you need?
Food is eaten communally around the campfire, accompanied by copious amounts of forespoken sage tea. I lost count of how many cups I had. I’m certainly going to try and recreate this back home in the UK, although no doubt won’t taste half as good.
Dinner is cooked underground! Yes, for real! A multi-layered cylindrical pit is lowered into a hole dug into the sand and then covered with matting and its left to cook for hours. For the carnivores amongst us, the menu was chicken and then baked potatoes and carrots for the herbivores. It was SO tasty. This came served with rice, salads, bread and washed down with……yes you guessed, more sage tea.
The evening consisted of relaxing by the fire, sharing a shisha with the other guests and the staff. We sat chatting and watching the stars before heading off for a good night’s sleep. It’s incredibly peaceful with just the gentle rush of the breeze going around the surrounding dunes and rocks.
Ships of the Desert
Early up and then for breakfast. A typical Jordanian / Bedouin breakfast consisting of Humous, Beans, Tomatoes, bread, eggs, cheeses and my new found fave, this sweet honey nougat like stuff which I’m sure is rotting my teeth with every bite.
I’m always dubious and conscious about ‘animal attractions, I’m introduced to my camel for the morning. He is a 10-year-old big boy, with enviable eyelashes. I don’t think I could have spread my legs much wider to sit on him! He was a barrel of a creature! And a long way from the ground.
Camels have been a major part of the Bedouin culture for centuries, these uniquely adapted creatures were used to transport goods and people across the desert. The Bedouin people not only used the camel for transportation, but also for their milk, wool and even meat!
Their natural swagger in the early morning sun takes us out to nearby dunes. One thing I learnt about camels, they are ugly-cute with a permanent duck-look about them. They also smell!
But a wonderful lasting memory of my brief time in the desert.
General Info about the Wadi Rum Camp experience
The tour I did cost 50JD. This included one-night accommodation at the Wadi Rum Camp, the transfer to and from Aqaba, all my food and drink, and the 4×4 jeep ride. The camel ride was an optional extra 15JD.
What to take with you on a Wadi Rum Camp
Footwear suitable for climbing rocks and sand dunes (bearing in mind your shoes will get full of sand)
Water and snacks for the excursions if you do get easily hungry
A shoal, or light jumper for the cool evenings
Word of warning: Sand and cameras don’t mix – my phone and GoPro (in its case) were absolutely fine, my compact camera with the extendable zoom lens thought otherwise. Cameras and sand do not mix!
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Have you been to Wadi Rum? I’m desperate to go back, so please let me know anything I need to do next time, please comment below, I’d love to hear.
Any questions, please ask,