Destinations, Middle East

Wadi Rum

February 23, 2009 • By

I started my Jordan journey in the desert.  From Aqaba to Wadi Rum is about an hour and a half and I was not about to endure another wasted day of public transportation so I hired a car to transport me there.  Wadi Rum can best be described as desert meets rock.  If you have ever read Lawrence of Arabia or seen the movie then you know a little bit about Wadi Rum.  Picture red sand, towering sandstone rocks and wind gusts sweeping the sands across the surface like waves.  The combination is a worthwhile venture but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the dessert in June, July and August.  I survived a sand storm and couldn’t believe my guide considered it nothing.  Feeling particularly energetic my guide, Allatellah, a 24 year-old Bedouin took me in a 4X4 through the desert for four hours.  I even did a bit of rock climbing but the biggest jaunt occurred when I had to find some facilities away from tourists and I kept climbing and climbing and then realized I would have to get back down without killing myself.

After some wild adventures, my guide invited me back to his house.  We bonded after four hours together.  His father has four wives and 29 children with one on the way.  The Bedouin are nomads but there are 2500 of them living at Rum Wadi.  Despite my concerns, I figured my driver knew to meet me at 3 pm so someone would come looking for me eventually.  Allatellah drove me to his house which consisted of 2 large rooms one completely devoted to prayer.  The first room was covered in cushions and rugs.  I sat there waiting for my tea until 5 people ran in at 3:30 to pray.  Can you say awkward?  It’s not like I’ve been in this situation before so I pretty much kept my hands folded and stared at them bowing for 15 minutes.  As for the second room, I peaked in before leaving but was told no pictures because there were women present.  Arabic women cannot be photographed.  The  children were running around pointing and laughing at me.  I gathered most Bedouin’s marry young and have multiple wives and loads of children.  Every person I talked to or dropped by the house to say hello to the American seemed to be Allatellah’s cousin or brother or uncle.  I couldn’t keep up with all the relatives.  My tea experience was interesting to say the least.  I find it bizarre that I can sit there with 8 Arabic men and drink tea (they were smoking as well) but the women cannot even say hello to me.

From Wadi Rum, I made my way to Wadi Musa (PETRA).  It was about a two hour drive through the desert and I do mean nothing but this carved out road existed.  In fact, there were men sweeping the roads along the way.  Think about it.  If they don’t clean the roads, the sand will cover everything.  Jordan is one large desert with the Red Sea bordering Saudi Arabia and the Dead Sea bordering Israel.  A friend compared Jordan to Switzerland and it’s very true.  Jordanians are friendly to all cultures serving as peacemakers also sandwiched between Iraq and Syria.  I suppose being surrounded my “rogue” states one needs to take a neutral position.

Freezing in Petra- I am talking 35 degrees-I needed warm clothing quickly.  After a look at the shops, I realized my selection was limited to scarves and belly dancing outfits.  Seeing that I have 300 pashminas, I settled on the Bedouin scarf which is the long checkered(think Saudi) red and white scarf with black agar (no idea how to spell) but I call it a scarf keeper-oner.  One guy suckered me into a black one but then I wanted a blue and white checkered scarf so now I have 2 Bedouin head pieces.  Yes, I am not likely ever to wear these after leaving the Middle East.  Anyone need a Halloween costume?