Day 8: The magic of the Wadi Rum

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Middle East » Jordan » South » Wadi Rum
October 19th 2013
Published: May 23rd 2014
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Let's go! Or "Jelah, Jelah!".
Today, we had an entire day in the Wadi Rum desert. The Wadi Rum is almost a big playground; there are much rocks, and sand dunes which you can climb on. And that, covered in great scenery of orange-brown rocks, and red-orange sand. I never was in a desert before, and yesterday during the walk to our camp, I’ve had a preview. The sights that I had were beautiful, but today I really shall discover the desert and its beauty.

But first, I had a cliffhanger yesterday. How was my first night in the desert, as wrote in the previous report? Well, here it goes… We discussed yesterday night who wanted to sleep outdoors, and who in the tent. We all got one mat, and you had to put your sleeping bag over it. There were pillows as well. So, I choice to stay to sleep outdoor. Much people choice to sleep outdoor. Would be we awake the whole night? No, we were so tired of the long days we had, that everyone slept quit good and quit fast. I slept well. The morning light does awake you. We all awoke around the same time. To be honest, I think
Trekking in the Wadi RumTrekking in the Wadi RumTrekking in the Wadi Rum

The hiking-camel trek group walks into the Wadi Rum.
it was great to do it, and it’s special and a little bit adventurous, but keep in your mind that’s just sleeping. I shall do it again if I got the choice to visit another desert, and I agree it is just more fun to do it than stay in a hotel. But yes, sleeping outside in a desert is special. There are no hotels in the Wadi Rum, but if they were, this Bedouin camp is a nicer way to overnight then a hotel. When we were awaked, the Bedouins made our breakfast and made tea. The breakfast was simple, flat bread with filling, and my lovely bread with olive oil and thyme. I’ve wrote over the breakfast before, but I haven’t wrote about the tea. The Jordan tea is a heavy, black tea, with lots of sugar into it. They drink it without milk. Originally, it’s boil from leaves, herbs and some teaspoons of sugar. At our camp, they boil the tea on the campfire. However, we didn’t like the sweetness of the huge amount of sugar, so we asked to keep the sugar out. Then, you really taste the heavy tasting of the tea. It was one of the heaviest tea’s I’ve ever drank. It’s heavier than the normal/English Breakfast tea, or the Earl Grey tea. If you do not like the heavy part of the tea, than you might add the sugar into it. The sugar makes the tea (very) sweet and soft. It depends at how sweet or how heavy you want to have the tea. In Madaba and later in Aqaba I’ve visited some shops, and they gave us tea, and that tea was quite sweet. It’s normally to put in that much sugar and if they offer you some drink. And to be honest, when I get offered a cup of tea, I think I get rude or insult those people if I ask if they can leave the sugar out of it. At the Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum, others of the group deicide to leave the sugar out, for me it was ok, because to be honest I never like sugar in my tea.

Another good reason to visit the Wadi Rum is to find out how the Bedouins are living in the desert. I must say, that the camps are pretty set up for tourists, but it gave us an idea how the Bedouins were/are lining. There are still Bedouins left, but their numbers are decreasing. I think that tourism is a nice way to keep their tradition alive, and I hope their tradition will be kept alive. From origin, Bedouins had a nomadic lifestyle. Currently many settled “Bedouins”, are still using the Bedouin culture and uses, for example: hospitality. For Bedouins, hospitality is very important, especially in the past. It is noticeable everywhere in Jordan, everywhere you are warmly welcomed as guest. In the past, the conditions in the desert was quit hard, it could matter between live and death. Tribes and family could suffer major adversity for example their cattle died, or they were expelled from their environment. The only thing that could save them was the hospitality of another tribe. Another well-known tradition of the Bedouins is their music. Sitting around the campfire, clapping hands and singing songs is an entertainment to drive the loneliness of the desert away. The songs were passed from father to son. Our camps existed out of originally Bedouin tents, so no normal camping tents. The tents are made by woman, woven from goat’s hair. During hot summer days, the
Sand DuneSand DuneSand Dune

As you can see, the sand is blown against the rocks, forming a sand dune.
tent protects the Bedouins from the heat and in the winter the tent protects them from the cold. Even during raining, the tent leaks no water inside. The word Bedouins comes from the Arabic “Badabi”, which means nomad.

After the breakfast it was time for the excursion. There were two ways to do the excursion for today; first a jeep excursion where you can go deeper into the desert and see much more things, or the second is walking and camel trekking in once; here you won’t go any deeper into the desert, but you have more attention for the natural art. Also, you had to choice if you want to have a camel for the whole excursion, or a camel which you shared. It was possible, to do another camel trek the next morning. In total we stayed 2 nights in the Wadi Rum desert, where we head tomorrow after breakfast to Aqaba. I really would like to ride a camel in Jordan, but for today I choice to do the jeep tour; the next day I shall do the camel ride excursion. I choice for the jeep excursion, because I wanted to see more of the Wadi
That's me! That's me! That's me!

The first natural bow/bridge we climmed.
Rum and going into it deeper. In total, only 5 people chose the walking trek with the camels. At advice from our tour leader, they ordered 2 camels for the excursion, so they could ‘share’ a camel. Sitting a whole day at a camel isn’t that comfortable as it looks like. The rest of us, choice to do the excursion with the jeep. In total, we had 3 jeeps. There was place for 6 men in the open jeeps. In each truck, 1 Bedouin drove. Our guide Omar joined us as well. First, we saw the walking-camel-trekking group walk into the desert. Now, it was our time… Let’s go, our “jelah, jelah!”.

I really think it’s quite different to tell our route, and what we saw exactly; I was fast disorientated. The landscape is almost the same, it is impossible to find places where you can orientate yourself into it. The sand is red-orange, the rocks are brown-orange, and do have sharp peaks. However, it might look the same, the landscape was beautiful. First, we stopped by a sand dune, naturally build against rocks. These sand dunes you see a lot in the Wadi Rum; the sand is blown
Thaumidic Rock Drawings Thaumidic Rock Drawings Thaumidic Rock Drawings

Around 10,000 years old.
against those rocks, and it forms a dune. We got some “free time”, and of course, everyone climbed up those dunes. It looks so easy, to climb such a dune, but in fact is quite hard. If you take a step, you can easily slide back down. It’s good to test your condition and your endurance in the Wadi Rum. There are many rocks and dunes you can climb, which are quite hard. Also, some rocks have naturally forms and bows. Climbing those rocks without tools (such as we) might be anxious, but you always can stay down if you have fear of height or don’t dare. Or it is a way to get over your fear. But, the most important is, that you always have to listen to your guide. Some dunes and rocks aren’t that stable as it looks like, you can easily kill yourself attending to climb one. The guides know which dunes and rocks you can climb on, and they shall help you if you need some help to climb or going down. To be honest, I had some help of them too… I never really did climbing, so during the trip, I found out that I was a little bit anxious about it, but I tried to do. I was sometimes slow, might be a little bit irritating for some members, but I think they all found fine that I tried and did it. And be honest, I think it was good to do/try it, and I would do it again. Yeah! But this dune, was the first dune, we climbed on. In fact, you could see at the top that is was a rock-sand dune. The sand was blown against the rocks, and above, you could climb and sit on rocks, and enjoy the beautiful sights. Sometimes, you saw a jeep coming by, but it was so silent. The only thing that you could hear was our own people. For the rest, everything was silent; everywhere you could look you saw desert; the sand and the dunes. It was quite impressive. You really didn’t saw anything else than the desert landscape.

When we came down, we drove to another rock formation. Here, we came across other tourists. It seems like a popular place, and that’s because it’s rock formation. It contained a naturally formed bow (bridge). I guess the height of the bow
The Wadi RumThe Wadi RumThe Wadi Rum

The Platform above the Thaumidic Feet Patterns.
is around 6 meters. Standing on the bridge is really a nice for a good picture, and a good plus is that there more than enough space to stand (you almost could lay down in the width). Of course, I wanted to have the picture of myself standing at the bridge, so I gave my camera to someone else. And I went up, ready for the climb. The climb was pretty easy; there were more ways up to reach the bridge. A lot of people wanted to make a picture on this bridge, so it was crowded. Finally, it was mine turn. The bridge looked quite high, and it is, but actually it was not the highest rock climb that we did, and also not the highest climb for a photo. The rock formation gives you also a nice view over the landscape, so if you afraid of heights, you might skip the bridge and just enjoy the landscape. If you want to see me at the bridge, check the picture.

Next, we went to a sort of cave. I think I found it in my travel guide, even with the map and the descriptions of my travel guide
The Wadi RumThe Wadi RumThe Wadi Rum

The Platform above the Thaumidic Feet Patterns. And, nope, that's not me, this is Marjolijn as model.
I am not sure if I got the right canyon, this shows how disorientated you can get from visiting a desert landscape like the Wadi Rum. This cave is called the Khazali Canyon, and it was special. We had to do a minor climb (like a small stair of 2 meters) before we could enter the cave. In the cave, there where Thaumidic rock drawings of people, animals and plants. The history of the Wadi Rum is quite surprising I would say. It was first known as an ocean. In the Thaumidic period, the Wad Rum was a savanna. Back those days, animals, like elephants and even lions were living in this area. People hunted on those animals, and left descriptions behind, for example in which area the animals lived or migrated in different times of the year. After time, the climate changed and became drier. It was really special to see such old descriptions and drawling. Some were still in a great state. It’s so hard to image how those people lived such a time ago, and it’s very weird to image that this place was an ocean or a savanna first, where wild (African) animals lived. It also shows what the Wadi Rum has even its own secrets for people interested in archeology. Probably, not all of those descriptions are found yet, maybe some buried under the sand. We saw them later on, at some other rocks that we climbed. Those descriptions are spread at the whole Wadi Rum. I keep asking myself how people of other tribes back in that time would find those descriptions and use them. Because I think it’s pretty hard to find them, because some of them are good hidden. I don’t know if during that time those descriptions were hide in canyon, or the placed migrated to a canyon, but still, I cannot image it myself. But I really did like to see those descriptions, and it’s probably the oldest archeological finding that I ever have seen in my life. It was time to move on, up to the next rock formation!

When we arrived at the first rock formation, it was told us that we could climb it and it’s a perfect place to make pictures. But first, our guide Omar showed us other Thaumidic rock drawings, these were footprints. The other rock drawings that we saw didn’t include any
The JeepThe JeepThe Jeep

These still run like beasts.
complete footprints. The prints show exactly how small their feet were back those days; you can compare it easy when you hold your feet next to it. But these rocks are also quite nice for a small climb. At these climb you had to pass walk at a ledge with a sloping wall underneath it, and a horizontal wall after you. It really looked frightened, especially that it was hard to find a place to hold, but it was not the hardest ledge which to come. To be honest, I think this ledge was already quite hard to pass, because I am a little bit afraid of these climbs. If you managed to do the climb, you really had a great overview over the Wadi Rum desert. The pictures don’t suggest it, but you really stood high, I guess around 6-7 meters high. The view that we’ve got from this point was one of the best during our trip; you could see the extension of the desert, and the rocks, and in the back you can see rocks. Even rocks, far away. We really had great weather with no clouds, so it really was perfect to make great pictures of

This was the one of the toughest climbs we had to do. Only for reaching a bride for a perfect photo.
this site. I really did forget the fact that I had to go the same way down via the ledge. But, you have to go the same way down, so, I had to walk it again. Slowly shuffling at that ledge, to a place where you can stand a little bit safer. It looks like there was a little cave in one of the rocks. A really small one, so Richard asked me to make a picture with him in that cave. He just fitted into it. Were those Thumidic people living in that kind of caves? That probably would be small for them too, but maybe other animals lived and still live in those caves. To change quickly the subject, there are animals living in the Wadi Rum, some of them are rare and treated. They do not show their self to humans and do not come close by tourist. Those animals are living far hidden in the (Eastern) side of the Wadi Rum. The Wadi Rum is home for animals like the red fox, felines, a rare wildcat, caracal, jackals and striped hyenas.

Back in the truck, we drove to another rock bridge, according my travel guide
It's me!! It's me!! It's me!!

I made the climb. Yeah! This is the Jabal Burdah.
this rock bridge should be the Jabal Burdah. I think the bridge had a height of 10 to 15 meters, and to reach it we had to do the toughest and fearful climb that we shall do that day. There was just one way up, and a local guide helped us with the climb. The first part of the climb was maybe the hard; you had to go around 5 meters straight up to a sloping wall. I first made a picture, seeing how others do it, and doubted it. “To go, or not to go?”. Because that part is really frightful, and I was afraid I couldn’t manage that climb and was I was too fearful to do it. But I really didn’t want to let my fear win, and especially I really wanted to have that picture of myself standing at that bridge, so the choice was fast made, here I go! I asked someone to hold my camera and there I go. Just do not look down, if you fall, that you probably would fall hard and got some serious injurious. Just, do not think at it and do not look down. O help, what did I
Climbing down.Climbing down.Climbing down.

You have to go down, and I needed some help.
do to myself? When, I finally reach the ledge, we had to walk that small ledge, and underneath you the same sloping wall, and behind, a vertical wall, so there was almost no place to hold, and to make it worse: no places for a good grip. You probably understand that I shuffled very softy, my heart was bouncing like hell. Finally, when I reach the guide, he helped us to climb some other parts. Finally, at the bridge, it was time for a picture. The bridge was around 2 meters broad, so there was a lot of space. But, at the end it slightly slopes. So, Monica had my camera and shouted from down “Come closer to the end of the ledge, I cannot see you”. And I shout back like “NOOO!! I do not dare!”. So, as you can see, it is hard to see me at the picture, but hey, that’s me, and I did it! Finally back on the save spot, I started to realize there is just one way back, the same route. O no, the first part was not a problem, but then I really had to go to see those sloping wall again and shuffling on that ledge, and now I had to find a way how to get down at that some sloping wall without hurting myself. What did I do to myself? My heart was bouncing even more than hell. But, I really had to go, I couldn’t stand their lonely at a rock, I had to go down. The first part was not a problem, but at the ledge, my heart was racing. It was so hard to not look down, you almost had to do it, especially to see how you have to place your feet, and it was so annoying that you couldn’t hold something with your hands, to give you a little more safety and grip. Even with grip, it really would be a fearful place. Finally reached, the guide showed us that we had to go shoving on our butt to get off the sloping wall. Walking would be too dangerous; you could slip out and fall. This part was not as hard as the ledge, but I still was afraid that I would fall even when I was shoving. Gladly, the Bedouin helped me with shoving. I have a picture of it, please look down.

It still tasted too good.
But, I really was so proud at myself that I did this climbing, and I really happy with the picture of me and the bridge.

I finally could come back at my breath at the truck, while we drove to another canyon. From here, we had to walk to the place where we have lunch, at the other side of the canyon. It was easily, there was just one way though and no possible side routes, so you couldn’t get lost and its little climbs were also quite easy. We were hungry, so it was time to move on! This walk was really nice, at some points it really looked like a mini-Siq. Probably, if I do understand my travel guide correctly and I’m not confusing this canyon with another canyon, this canyon is called the Siq Umm Tawagi, or “Siq Lawrence”. According to my travel guide, it had Thamudic rock drawings and carvings done in the 1917, but I didn’t saw them, and our guide didn’t tell us about it. So I’m wondering if this canyon is the same canyon as mentioned. At some parts, we really saw some Dutch Tulips which were growing in the desert. Who put them here? We really had to laugh, but it’s really surprising that they can grow in the desert. Probably tourist, like us, gave them water. We did too. The climbs in the canyon were really nice. I expected that the canyon was smaller, it seemed like just a little Siq and around the corner and that’s it. No it wasn’t. I think we walked for 15 minutes and climbed down some passages. I really enjoyed this canyon, it had nice views, the walk was good and the climbs were not hard but also enjoyable. When we got out of the canyon, the others from the walking-camel trek excursion were sitting at the place we got the lunch. The Bedouins brought us lunch with a jeep. It was the Musakhan dish, I wrote about it in the report of yesterday; it’s the dish with chicken, rice and vegetables. The dish was simple and we got the same food, but that didn’t matter. In the desert after the climbs and the hot weather, everything would be tasted well. But, I must stay the quality of the food in these camps are quite good. Also, we could buy some cola or other
Meeting the camelsMeeting the camelsMeeting the camels

The local Bedouin guide, me, and a very curious camel.
soda drinks if you liked to have. At this place we could relax and enjoy the Wadi Rum desert. We discussed our tours with each other. The trekking group enjoyed their tour as well. They didn’t climb that much on rocks as we did, they were mostly walking and camel riding, and they enjoyed their tour as well.

When lunch ended, it was time to move on. Back in the truck, we drove to the desert, enjoying the landscape. We also saw some camels, trekking in groups and even some lonely ones. I still think it’s fascinated that those animals can live days without water during hot summer days, and even can survive the cold winter nights. At one time, we saw a group of camels and the Bedouins drove to them. It seemed like one of the Bedouins was the owner of the camels, or did now the animals very well. Those animals approached him. We were asked to step out to feed them some water, to touch them and to make pictures. I really think camels are nice animals, they were quite curious about people, and liked to put their nose just in front of your camera.

Here, you see that Wim gives the camels some water.
So instead of a camel head, you had a camel nose on your picture. The camels in Petra are in my opinion, quite different then these animals. In Petra, the animals were grumpier, a little bit more aggressive and they didn’t look quite comfortable with humans. In the Wadi Rum, the camels are completely reversed; they looked more comfortable with tourists, they were curious about you and really liked that you touch them and stand close to them, and they really liked our visit. I really touched some camels and I really made some pictures with me and camels. We had so much fun with those animals, and it seems like they had fun with us too. The animals, especially camels are treated very well in the Wadi Rum. The Bedouins are still depended on those animals, because trucks are quite expensive. One detail that I really wanted to share with you was the desert sand. The sand was not orange red, but it contains out of dried yellow “sand”. Due the dryness of the sand it was cracked and formed tiles. I did not expect to see this over here in the Wadi Rum. But it seemed like a
The Remnants of the hosue of L.E. LawrenceThe Remnants of the hosue of L.E. LawrenceThe Remnants of the hosue of L.E. Lawrence

Sadly, it's in a horrible condition as you can see.
good place for the camels, because they were grazing at this point. After some time, we had to left those animals, and drove further in the desert.

Much people know the Wadi Rum of L.E. Lawrence, of “Lawrence of Arabia”. He launched an attack during the Arabic Revolt, from the Wadi Rum to Aqaba, with success. Before the attack, L.E. Lawrence lived a time in the Wadi Rum desert. We drove to this place, to see the remnants of his old house. Sadly, it’s in a horrible condition. After time, the stones of the house were used for other purposes, leaving only some stones behind. What’s left behind, are the stones that covered mostly the foundation. However, it might give you a good impression of the house; it was build against some rocks, and it was not very big. Bye eye, it had just one chamber; I didn’t saw any foundation or marks that it could be two. But I guess the house was build at a good place. When we arrived, in the afternoon, the house stood in the shadow of the rock where it was build too it. I guess that it would be cool during hot
Climbing upClimbing upClimbing up

Not so charming, but it was the only way up.
summer days and it might be warm in the winter. I agree that is a pity that there is not so much left of the house, but I do liked to see this place; Who doesn’t heard of L.E. Lawrence before he/she went to Jordan? Also, I agree that it fits perfectly in our excursion tour; A touch of culture in the middle of the nature. We were not alone, many Bedouins guides with their jeep stood in this area. It’s a common highlight in a Wadi Rum excursion and many people are interested to see how L.E. Lawrence lived in the Wadi Rum.

Our tour almost came at the end; there was just one thing left; the climbing of a huge sand dune. I don’t know how high it was, but it didn’t look that high. It might be around 30 meters in height. However, it also didn’t look like the climb was very hard. A lot of people were tired from our excursion, and didn’t want to climb it, but I wanted to. Together, with five others, I dare to do the climb. This climbs didn’t contain any rocks, so the only fight we had, was against
On topOn topOn top

Yeah, I made the climb!
the sand. The first passage wasn’t a problem, it was moderate hard, but it went fine. But, then, it might be the last 15 meters, were so horrible. It rises up very straight. If you took 2 steps, you slipped back and you probably wined some centimeters. Where the climbing at the rocks was technical hard and fearful, this was qua condition very hard. My heart was bouncing like hell, not off being afraid or do something closely to my limit, but because of I was testing the limits of my condition. And I agree my condition is pretty good (I like to do fitness and running in my free time with moderate distances). It really didn’t look that hard, but it was, especially because you walk and you cannot come much further. Bibi gave up and stay to lay down in the sand. Peter was already on top; he had the best condition of all, but he’s training much for marathons. I really had a hard time, and I tried with my both hands and feet. It should look quite funny from back down there. Gladly, I made it… but you had to be careful that you didn’t fall
Wadi RumWadi RumWadi Rum

Great sights at the top of the sand dune.
backwards of the highest point. The highest point was a real top, and if you fall backwards, you probably would fall quite down in the sand. You wouldn’t injure yourself, but you had to fight yourself up to even a harder straight wall of sand. But, sitting on that top was great. Yeah, I made it. The trucks down looked very small and the people down looked like dots. Also, it was a great way to make some pictures and you had a nice overview over the Wadi Rum desert. After a while, we went down, and this went a lot easier.

I didn’t expect it, but we were quite close to our camp. We just had to drive around the corner of a rock and we could see our camp. I really thought we had to drive for minimal 15 minutes before we could reach our camp. So, yes, you really get much disorientated in the Wadi Rum. The Bedouins offered us tea, but first, time for a shower. You get dirty of all those sand, climbing at dunes and rocks, and sweating of course. We had a huge water tank on top of the building, it should
Going downGoing downGoing down

Just see how huge that sand dune was that we climbed. Luckily to descend is not so hard. ;-)
be heated by the sun; but as you can guess the water wasn’t warm. It really was cold. From the one side it was very nice to have that cold water at your body, but from the other side it would be lovely if it was a little bit warmer. But hey, it’s not a hotel, it’s a Bedouin camp and I was very happy that they had (just one) shower. It took long before the group of the trekking came, I think they arrived 1,5 hour later. We were so hungry, and when the other group arrived, dinner was served. It was not surprising, we got Musakhan again. It still tasted very good. We spend the evening, talking and hanging. Life is good this way. I really don’t know what I have to say about this, but I really liked the evening. For that night, I decide to sleep in a tent. And I was tired and I really had a good night. It was the last night in the desert, tomorrow we shall sleep in a luxury hotel in Aqaba. But first, we had to leave the Wadi Rum and I booked a camel for the way back to the town. I told my friends that I would ride a camel in Jordan, so I had to keep my promise and to be honest I really was excited already. But, before I felt in sleep, I got a text message on my phone. Kinds of weird, because I didn’t have any telecom reach with my mobile phone. It was Mara, a friend of me “Where are you? I guess you aren’t at the Beukfeest party?” (local bands in the local pub). But when I wanted to text her back that I spend my night at a way better place (Wadi Rum in Jordan) than Beukfeest, but my phone couldn’t find any telecom reach, so Mara got that text a day later. Oh and no offence to Beukfeest, I do like it too, but nothing can beat the magic of the Wadi Rum!


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