Lawrence of Arabia Was Here!
Thoughts of the desert always evoke a sense of mystery, of camels and caravans winding among sand dunes and between surprise oases, ancient spice trade routes, and yes, Lawrence of Arabia. Wadi Rum has all of these elements and it’s no wonder why UNESCO inscribed it as a world heritage site in 2011.
When reading up on Jordan, Wadi Rum is listed as a must-see, but we still debated whether or not to go. We were under the impression that tourists had to take an overnight tour, spending the night in the desert. As romantic as a night sleeping under the stars with a crackling camp fire sounds, we were traveling in the middle of winter, and we didn’t relish the idea of freezing and shivering in our sleeping bags all through the night. The desert gets incredibly cold once the sun goes down, so cold. Upon further research, though, we realized that we could drive ourselves straight to the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center and contract a jeep and driver for the day. It was extremely simple to do, and there were plenty of drivers ready to take us on our adventure.
We all piled into the rough and ready 4X4 jeep. It was obvious at first glance that this particular jeep was a battle hardened veteran of the desert. With dents, cracks, scrapes, and sand everywhere we knew that we were in for an adventure.
Our driver, Ahmed, was a scrappy 21 year old who had already been carting tourists around for a couple of years and had lived in the area his whole life. He didn’t have a strong command of English, but he did know all the names of the sites, and even though he was quiet and assuming we felt it was fitting for the stark landscape.
We opted for the full day tour; arriving at the center around 10:00 and being assured that we would see the sunset over the dunes. Our first stop was Lawrence’s spring where you can see some rock inscriptions. Pretty much everywhere you go, Lawrence is named. According to his own writing, he went to Wadi Rum no less than six times, but where exactly he was has been up for debate since. Suffice it to say, he was there…somewhere and it is entirely plausible that at least one of those “authentic” sites we shared his footsteps.
With gentle winds constantly keeping our hair in our eyes, we scrambled up weather beaten rock faces, climbed shifting sand dunes, gaped at Nabatean and Bedouin rock carvings, hiked through a dry canyon or two, and enjoyed our bumpy views of this amazing area.
Towards the end of the day, we were driving towards the village of Rum not far from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and we saw a group of Bedouins bringing their camels home. Boy, were they moving! They were in a flat out race with the jeep. An adrenalin rush, we all had huge smiles on our faces as we pulled up to the last set of dunes, to watch the sunset.
A full and exciting visit, we would definitely go back and spend more time in the desert of Wadi Rum, but we were glad not to be staying the night since we never took our fleeces off because it was chilly even during the day.
Getting there: Definitely driving yourself to Wadi Rum is the most convenient. It is only a couple hours between Petra and Wadi Rum, and it’s a very easy drive. There are buses from both Petra and Aqaba. The Petra bus is on-demand only, and will only go when it is at capacity. Set this up with your hotel beforehand.
If you pre-book a tour, usually they will come and pick you up.
What to wear: Hiking, and being sand pelted all day long, you will want to wear long pants, long sleeves, and good hiking boots. Even though we took a jeep tour, we did plenty of hiking and climbing.
Tips: Bring water! It’s dry, dry, dry. Make sure to stay at least as long as the sunset. It’s worth it!