The Valley of the Moon, it is called. One can see why, with its unearthly, monumental rock formations rising out steeply beside us, as we make our way through Wadi Rum on the back of a pick-up truck. Once at the bottom of the ocean, it is now dry, its floor covered in peculiar red pebbles, its cliffs topped with soft sandstone melting like candle wax over the harder granite that forms their lower levels.
When it storms, our guide told us, the waters pour out from the heavens and cascade in a thousand waterfalls over all the cliffs.
One of the most dramatic deserts in the world, with a rich geological and cultural history, Wadi Rum’s canyons and fissures conceal many ancient rock drawings etched by the people that have lived in this area over the millennia, including the Nabateans. It is one of the natural wonders of the world, simultaneously harsh and monumental, yet extremely fragile, as most desert habitats are.
The desert came into popular consciousness due to the legend of Lawrence of Arabia, whose book, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom“, was inspired by one of Wadi Rum’s imposing mountains. Now, the exploits of T.E. Lawrence have become local folklore and contribute much to western romanticism of Wadi Rum.
Spring, while one of the best seasons during which to visit the desert, is also predisposed to rather temperamental weather. Unfortunately for us, a mighty dust storm blew up as the sun set on Good Friday, just as we were venturing into the Wadi. We decided then to drive to Aqaba and weather out the storm by the Red Sea instead, hoping that (just like the biblical turn of events) by Sunday, the desert would have settled enough so we could enjoy its mysteries.
There are many ways to experience this desert, possibly the best one being a one-night stay over in one of the Bedouin camps, accompanied by a balloon ride over the peaks of the desert. However, the storm had disrupted our plans sufficiently that we could only afford a short, circular jeep tour out of one of the larger camps. Passing through the mountains, with their sheer faces almost touching on either side, and extending hundreds of meters above, was an otherworldly, unintuitive, yet wonderful, experience.
We had a good time and enjoyed our dinner by the fires of the camp, where once again, just as it was in Dana Valley, we experienced the famed Bedouin hospitality. There was wonderful food, music and dancing to be had under the stars.
Despite the short length of the tour, the memory of the desert still remains with us, and we can not wait to return to this most alien of landscapes.