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Published: December 16th 2015
We began our day driving north from Aqaba to the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan. Wadi Rum is one of the most famous deserts in the world, and has been said to have the most extraordinary desert scenery you'll ever see. It has been crisscrossed for centuries by traders and pilgrims coming from neighboring Saudi Arabia and Israel and has been home to the Bedouin people until this day.
The Bedouin are a nomadic people than inhabit most of the Middle East. They spend their lives grazing their goats, sheep and camels throughout the desert moving places periodically depending on the seasons. The Bedouin are renowned for their hospitality, and live by the ethos that today you are a host but tomorrow you may be a guest so no traveler is turned away and you are given the best of available food and drink. This code is steeped in a long tradition throughout the Middle East and is a means of desert survival for people living and crossing some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.
I arranged for an overnight jeep tour/camping trip with a young local Bedouin named Fawaz from Wadi Rum Nomads. There
are several outfitters in this area, but all must be part of the 40 or so Bedouin families that have made this area their home for ages. We met Fawaz in the morning and he arranged for our camels to take us into the desert and to our first stop Lawrence's Spring. I considered doing a multi day camel trek in this area, but opted not to due to some time constraints but also due to the comfort of extended camel travel. Dennis and I have hardly been broken in enough to do any serious distances on camels, however he is beginning to love camels as much as I do and enjoys just watching them as they are an extremely beautiful and fascinating animal.
Wadi Rum was made famous by T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia, who was a British solider who helped lead the Bedouin tribes to victory over the Ottoman Turks during the Arab Revolt during WWI. Most of the classic movie was filmed on location at Wadi Rum, as have been numerous other movies, particularly those set on Mars, such as the recent movie The Martian.
I remember having watched Lawrence of Arabia as a young
girl and being transfixed by the movie instead of bored to tears as most people are. We started re-watching it during the Jordan part of our trip and it is every bit as beautiful and fascinating, if not more than I recalled.
After our groin numbing camel trek we met Bianca, a woman from the Netherlands. Bianca came here as a tourist 6 months ago and has not left yet and accompanies Fawaz on his camping and hiking excursions and helps him run the company. She fell in love with the desert and the Bedouin way of life and has happily left behind her former life of privilege in Holland.
We toured several far reaching areas of the desert by Jeep, to include Lawrence's house, beautiful red sand dunes, natural rock bridges, and a narrow gorge filled with ancient Nabataean petroglyphs. We ran into some free range camels grazing in the gorge and an adorable fox napping on a rock outcropping. We couldn't help but see the overwhelming resemblance of this area to that of Arizona and Southern Utah and we appreciated just how special and beautiful our own desert is as well. Fawaz pointed to a remote
location under a large red sandstone jebel (Arab mountains), telling us that his grandfather was there now, herding his sheep, goats and camels as his ancestors have done long before him. His grandfather had hunted with both King Hussein and his son now King Abdullah, the Jordanian royal family with Hashemite Bedouin lineage.
We watched sunset on a rock outcropping in the middle of the desert and then proceeded to our campsite under a rock overhang. Fawaz prepared us a delicious traditional Bedouin meal consisting of a tomato vegetable stew and tons of bread and mezze (appetizers) like hummus, fattoush (tomato and cucumber salad) and labaneh (a thick salty yogurt). Fawaz played the Oud while we enjoyed the warmth of the fire and learned about all things Jordanian from Bianca, talked of our homes, discussed the refugee crisis, and the negative portrayal of the Middle East by European and Western media. We talked and laughed as friends in this remote stretch of desert, three groups of people from three completely distinct and different cultures unified over tea and food. Sometimes it is easy to forget just how similar we all are when we continue to focus on our small
differences instead of our large similarities. We slept under the stars in the cool and completely silent and desolate desert that has been home to numerous civilizations throughout history.
We woke early, after the best night sleep we had all trip. Thankfully we didn't have "Dennis's jam" this far out in the desert to give us our 0430 wakeup prayer call. As we were finishing breakfast it began to rain, creating little rivelets through our sleeping area. The desert jinnis must have been on our side and the rain held off just as we were about to leave. The sun showed through the clouds creating the most amazing rainbow that arched from jebel to the next. Fawaz said he had never seen such a rainbow as this his entire life. As we drove we could clearly see the end of the rainbow and laughed about finding the pot of gold. Fawaz had never heard of Leprechauns or gold so we had to tell him of the legend. He then sped up the truck making a mad dash for the gold, promising to split it evenly among us. Several waterfalls cascaded off the sandstone cliffs and rivers began to form
in the washes creating a water park that Fawaz delighted in driving through in his 4WD, just as the young guys do at home after a rainfall in the desert.
We made our farewells at the edge of town and departed on our next segment of our journey north to Petra.
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