Living and Hiking with the Bedouins at Jordan’s Wadi Rum

Taking in the view after scrambling to the top of the Mountain in Wadi Rum (Photo by Rachael Cerrotti)

Just 70 kilometers north of Aqaba, there is a Bedouin Village in a place called Wadi Rum. The valley, or wadi — one of Jordan’s most important historical sites —  is cut into the sandstone and granite cliffs in a landscape so stark it is known as the Valley of the Moon. Inhabited for thousands of years, Wadi Rum is today the home of several Bedouin communities, the largest of which is Rum Village, 30 kilometers off the main road. It is home to a hospitable group of Bedouins who were to be our hosts for the next few nights.

A group of friends and I had taken a cab to Wadi Rum from Petra, where we’d spent a long day exploring the ruins. We arrived at the village as the sun was setting and the cool air of the desert was settling in.  We left the cab at the edge of  the village and were greeted by Saliman, the tour guide we had booked a few weeks earlier. After making a quick stop at the visitors center and a small convenience store, we hopped in the back of his jeep. I felt a combination of exhaustion from the day in Petra, exhilaration to be going off the main tracks in the Jordanian desert, and curiosity to see the tent where I’d be sleeping.

In Your Bucket Because…

  • You want to experience true peace and quiet.
  • Scrambling up a mountain in the desert intrigues you.
  • You enjoy good tea and conversation.
  • Good for adventure travelers who are ready to rough it.

We arrived at our tent about 45 minutes later. We claimed our thin mattresses and sleeping bags from a large stack that sat ready for visitors in the corner of the tent and prepared our spots on the desert floor. After a few glasses of tea and some conversation, our day came to a quiet close.

We woke up to an empty desert. There were no sirens blaring or dogs barking. There were no people hailing a cab or chatting on their cellphones. There was silence and there was us, ready to take on the day.

Hiking the Mountains of Jordan’s Valley of the Moon

After a simple breakfast of bread and cheese, the six of us piled into the back of Saliman’s jeep and headed off to a mountain in the far distance. Now that it was daylight, we were able to see the layout of the desert. The sandy desert floor looked endless, wrapping around the base of each mountain. The boundless scenery was repetitive, yet each impressive rock was distinct from the one next to it.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at the starting point of our hike, the bottom of a 1500-meter rock. I looked up, not completely realizing that in just a few hours I would be standing on its summit. We scrambled — a combination of hiking and rock climbing — our way up the mountain for a few hours before reaching the top. I was pleasantly surprised by how fluid the trek was. There was enough flat terrain along the mountain that the strenuous sections of our hike were more than conquerable even to a less experienced hiker as myself. The sun beat down on us, but bits of wind floated over our bodies giving relief to the hot October day.

On the summit, we looked out over a lasting landscape of pink sand and admirable mountains. It was still. It was perfectly serene.

Wadi Rum is made up of a series of valleys about two kilometers wide stretching north to south for about 130 kilometers. Specific excursions can be requested upon booking a stay. The Burdah Rock Bridge is a well known request, as it stands 35 meters high and is considered one of the highest natural arches in the world.

Our guide fixes us lunch as we rested in the shade (Photo by Rachael Cerrotti)

After making our way down the mountain, we drove a few minutes and pulled up next to a smaller rock for lunch.  Saliman prepared the meal, cooking it right on the rock, and presented us with a delicious combination of tomatoes, onions, tuna, and beans. Here we learned about how each mountain was  a landmark to the nomadic inhabitants. While we use gas stations and street names to map our whereabouts, the Bedouins of Wadi Rum use the land. We ate, drank more tea, played some card games, and took a nap in the shade, resting as desert dwellers have done for thousands of years, during the sun’s peak hours

Desert Solitude

We arrived back at our tent with time to catch the sunset. We quickly climbed up a local rock for a better view of the fading sun. As the reds and oranges of the burning sky transformed the soft sand and distant mountains into a dark hue before disappearing all together, a sense of internal peace and calm set over me. We watched our day set behind the mountain as we sat there in pure silence. The day had been perfect.

Sitting on top of the Mountain in Wadi Rum (Photo by Rachael Cerrotti)

The colors of the sunset faded into the darkness of the night. The stars now dangled above our heads. We lay there for a while. I felt a sense of accomplishment and disbelief. In Wadi Rum, there was nothing that could harm me. It didn’t matter what I was wearing or what I was doing. Nothing materialistic was necessary. I was away from home. I was away from expectations. I was away from everything that I assumed to be important.


Practicalities

Wadi Rum offers a variety of unique adventures, including camel rides and jeep tours. It’s close to the southern Jordanian port city of Aqaba, making it a convenient day trip for cruise trip passengers, and also from visitors to Eilat, Israel. Tours can be arranged in both Eilat and Aqaba.

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