We have wanted to go into Wadi Rum ever since our first taste of Jordan back in 2011. We drove past Wadi Rum on our way to Petra that day. It looked amazing – like a completely unique and separate version of Southern Utah. We always wanted to come back and see it, but with so many new places to go, it looked like it might not happen. Luckily, that first trip to Petra was way too short and we didn’t get to see all the things we wanted. So it was easy to convince us to come back to Jordan, spend a whole day at Petra, and then go camping in Wadi Rum. It sounded just about perfect.
You have a large set of choices when it comes to lodging inside Wadi Rum. You can spend single-digit dollars per night for the bare minimum tents all the way up to several hundred dollars per night for bubble domed structures with the ability to watch the stars all night. We picked something somewhere in the middle and it was excellent.
We would have loved to have our own capable vehicles over here to play in the sands of Wadi Rum, but they didn’t allow us to drive past the Wadi Rum Village in our rental, even though it is a four-wheel drive. Let me just say, I completely understand why they do that. Nobody wants extra idiots destroying the wilderness, getting stuck, etc. There is only one road in and out of the Village and it passes through a large gate at the tourist information center. We discovered you have to pay a bunch of money to get your car past that gate, and it’s a whole lot more if your car has four-wheel drive. So why do 4x4s cost more if you can’t take them past the Village? The math doesn’t completely add up for me. I suspect there’s some sort of program that allows people to drive into the wilderness. Why should we pay more to drive one mile and park next to a regular car that didn’t have to pay as much to go in? We may never know.
We pre-arranged with our camp hosts to pick us up in the Village at a specific time, but then we drove faster than Google expected and wound up in Wadi Rum about an hour early. They sent a guy with a pickup truck to get us. We piled all the luggage in the bed and then jumped in for a short ride through the desert on really soft sand. There are no roads in Wadi Rum, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue with so few vehicles and so much sand. That’s probably another reason to keep tourists out.
Our camp was sort of like a cross between a hotel and a camp. There were permanent sidewalks connecting a series of permanent bungalows in a square pattern around a central gathering area. It was nice to have sidewalks so we could avoid carrying so much sand into our bungalows. It was also really nice to have a private bathroom with a hot shower. Each of the units also has a big air conditioning unit attached to the side. Each until has about as much cooling capacity as my entire house in Saint George. I imagine it gets more than a little warm in summer.
Brett and Jess went for a quick hike up the side of one of the nearest mountains for a better view of the sunset. I took a shower and then a quick nap that turned into all night. I didn’t really sleep last night in Wadi Musa and we did a lot of walking and hiking (13+ miles) in the morning before driving to Wadi Rum. It was cold in our bungalow that night. I couldn’t manage to stay warm. Every time I rolled over I would wake up frozen. I do like sleeping in cold air, but this was just a little too cold for me. In the morning Brett and Jess mentioned that the A/C units could also be used to provide heat. Ours was never powered on at all. Ha.
We signed up for the full-day “jeep” tour and to ride camels for 30 minutes. We were originally going to do two short hikes, but I think we were a lot faster going through the canyons than many folks, so they were adding on additional hikes through additional canyons for us. There are a few attractions in Wadi Rum that are popular. We had to wait our turn to take pictures once or twice. I can only imagine what it must be like during the busy season. I’m glad we were here today and not when it’s hotter and crowded.
One of the features of Wadi Rum is wind-blown piles of sand up against the edges of the fins and canyon walls. After lunch we stopped at one of the larger, steeper sand hills to do some sand boarding. We had been carrying a really small snowboard around with us all day and we got a chance to use it in the sand. It took a lot of effort to climb that steep pile of sand and the snowboard was too skinny for anyone with regular sized feet to ride on it. Your feet stuck out several inches past the edge of the board, making it impossible to turn without digging your toes deep into the sand and stopping whatever you were trying to do. Charmaine was able to ride straight down, but it wasn’t possible to turn. Brett had to just sit on the board and ride it down the sand. The board was just too narrow for American feet.
I think Jess really likes Camels. As we drove toward Wadi Rum she got excited each time we passed a warning about camels being on the highway. Eventually we stopped by one of the signs and took some pictures. We did see camels wandering freely, but most of them were hobbled by having their front legs tied together loosely enough to allow walking, but tight enough to prevent running. I don’t know if there are any truly wild camels anymore, but if they exist anywhere, Wadi Rum may be one of the places. As we headed back across the main sand valley of Wadi Rum toward Lawrence Springs, we came across camels just out wandering. Charmaine and Jess jumped out of the truck to feed them. The camels were well versed in being fed by hand and were careful not to accidentally bite any of the hands. It was pretty cool. There was even a baby camel hanging out with them, but it was much more skittish and didn’t let Charmaine get very close to it.
Lawrence of Arabia
There are a lot of things with the name “Lawrence” all across Wadi Rum. They celebrate Lawrence of Arabia and his role in the Arab Revolt and the Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire during The Great War (World War I). We visited Lawrence’s House where we climbed the side of a cliff to get a great view across the valley. We also visited Lawrence’s Spring. There is a tree there. I think it may be the only tree anywhere in Wadi Rum. After climbing a few hundred feet up to the spring, we headed out for our camel ride.
You can’t just put your foot in a stirrup and hop up and onto a camel. They are much too tall for that. You would need a few rungs of a ladder to get up high enough to reach the stirrup. Also, camels don’t really have saddles with stirrups anyway, so you’d be out of luck even with a small ladder. But camels are super easy to mount and dismount because they can lay flat on their stomachs with their legs folded neatly beneath them. They have an extra knee that allows their legs to bend that way. It’s pretty amazing to watch them go down to the ground and get up again. When you’re up, you’re up pretty high. It’s a good thing the sand is soft, because a fall from a camel would be pretty serious otherwise.
We rented four camels for a thirty minute ride. They allowed us to rent them for as long as a full day. I can’t imagine how sore and tired we would have been after 8 hours on the backs of camels. I’m glad we only did thirty minutes. That was plenty. We got on our camels not too far from Lawrence’s Spring and rode back toward Wadi Rum village, which we could see the entire time. The camels were strung together so they would follow the lead camel sort of in a V formation the way geese fly when migrating. It worked out pretty well. Jess was on the lead camel, Charmaine was behind and left. I was behind and right of Jess and Brett was behind me and to the left. His camel didn’t want to walk directly behind Jess’s camel, which seems reasonable, except it wanted to push my camel further to the right. When my camel went right it would pull the rope connecting it to Jess’s camel. Then all the camels would go to the right and the cycle would continue. Luckily we had the owner of the camels leading in front of the lead camel or we may have walked in large circles the whole time.
Our truck driver was there to pick us up when we dismounted the camels. He drove us back to the village where we hopped in our car and headed a few miles down the road to Aqaba for a nice warm shower and a good night’s sleep.