The next day, we headed to Wadi Rum, where we had a fun two days of hanging out in the desert. The desert of Wadi Rum, and throughout southern Jordan and Israel, is inhabited by traditionally nomadic Bedouins, who traditionally herd goats and sheep. There are still nomadic Bedouins, but driving through the desert, many of the tents were equipped with satellite dishes, making them seem more permanent, and many people now live in towns. Within the park, there is a Bedouin village, and many of the families operate tours or otherwise work in the park's tourism industry.
We went with a group called Wadi Rum Adventures, run by a really nice guy named Mohammed. We took a jeep ride out through the desert and saw some of Wadi Rum's famous sites, including a bunch of places from the film Lawrence of Arabia (which we weren't super interested in) and a sand dune, very fun to sramble on and a rock bridge, which we climbed up to walk across. We felt a bit lame driving around in the jeep - thinking it was akin to getting a jeep ride through Yosemite - but it was pretty hot out, so we
got over it and had a great time playing in the deser. :) The highlight of the ride was a detour to our guide's aunt and uncle's tent, where we got to sit in some shade and sample some truly amazing fresh goat yoghurt. It was tangy and delicious and has kind of ruined regular yoghurt for us now.
At the end of the trip, we arrived in a really beautiful area to camp for the next two days. We got to the camp and watched the sunset before our hosts set up a fire in the main gathering tent with tea and singing. There were about 25 of us the first night, mostly tourists from Europe, and quite a few families with kids. We were starving by the time dinner was served, which was a delicious stew with rice, and a bunch of salads. The next day we got directions for two hikes - using the Bedouin method of pointing to rocks. Not being good Bedouins, we got a bit lost, but still had a fun time hiking to another rock bridge in the morning and to a spring (or what we think used to be a spring)
in the afternoon. After all of the hubub of the big cities we've been in, the desert was a really welcome change of pace, and we both had an amazing time just hanging out and taking it all in.
On Saturday, we took a camel ride out of the desert camp, which was pretty uncomfortable - it was hot, even though we started by 8am, and the saddle caused a lot of hip stretching which I wasn't prepared for. Also, our teenaged guide was riding on the back of my camel, singing "frere jaque" over and over and by the time we made it back to town I was thrilled to get off the dumb thing. Ryan, who spent a month riding camels around the desert in Rajastan, thought this was hilarious, which made the whole thing even worse. :)
After the camels, we took a car to Aquaba, which is on the Red Sea. In addition to being able to see the Israeli town of Eilat, we were only about 5km from the border of Saudi Arabia. We found a hotel (by now, we've given up calling the backpacker places ahead of time) and headed to a
private beach where we were able to rent snorkle equipment. Things are pretty expensive in Jordan compared to the other places we've been travelling, so this was a pretty fancy private beach, but both the entrance and the rental cost an arm and a leg. It turned out to be a really cool coral reef, though, and we both had a great time floating along enjoying the underwater scene.
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