|A one hour drive from Aqaba by bus saw me arrive at the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Centre where we exchanged the bus for a few ‘4WD jeeps’ and off to explore the extraordinary desert scenery of Wadi Rum courtesy of the Bedouins that live in the area. My jeep was driven by the local sheik, whose guest we were to be in his tent that night.
Described by Lawrence of Arabia as ‘vast and echoing’ Wadi Rum is an outstanding desert landscape, full of weird and beautiful lunar-like rock formations. Sheer-sided mountains of sandstone and granite emerge from open valleys to reach heights over 1700m, and narrow canyons cut deep into the mountains, often concealing ancient rock drawings. Traces of ancient civilisations can be seen in the many carved inscriptions found throughout the Wadi Rum area, from pictographs to Thamudic, Nabatean and Arabic texts. But the most breathtaking monuments in Wadi Rum are those carved by nature - the natural rock bridges, the towering rose-colored sand dunes and challenging peaks. Wadi Rum is a protected area covering 720km and home to several Bedouin tribes, easy spotted in their characteristic goat hair tents.
I firstly to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a famous landmark named after the book and film, ’Lawrence of Arabia’ by T.E Lawrence. Followed by Lawrence’s spring, where Lawrence of Arabia allegedly washed during the Arab Revolt, but there is no spring; the water is now siphoned directly into an aqua duct for the camels to drink from. I also stopped at the remains of Lawrence’s house, climbed sand dunes, the giddy heights of massive rock formations and eventually made my way to the Sheik’s tent where I was staying for the night.
I climbed a nearby rock mountain and sat to watch a spectacular desert sunset, the majesty of the scenery is indescribable. While the desert was hot during the day, the temperature dropped dramatically one the sun went down and I found myself shivering for the first time in ages.
The Sheik put on a great meal that was primarily cooked in the ground for 2 hours before dinner and after living mostly on felafel rolls of late it was delicious. The Sheik took a bit of a liking to me and was regaling me with tales of his 3 racing camels (worth $50,000AUD) each. Actually the way they race them is pretty interesting; the camels are taught to race with a jockey but for the actual races no jockey is allowed. So each camel is loaded up with a speaker (the size of a small child) and transmitter so the jockey can still communicate with the camel throughout the race and spur it on to victory, and also tell it when to stop running.
So the Sheik (25 years my senior) told me he is in the market for a second wife and asked if I was interested in becoming a Bedouin and I had to let him down gently and say I had a boyfriend. Not to be deterred he then offered me his young nephew instead but quietly informed me that his nephew would not be able to afford to give me camels, as he is still young and poor, but that he could probably give me a jeep. He then proceeded to break into a song and dance routine with the nephew that was nothing short of hilarious that left me with stomach cramps from trying not to laugh out loud. Mattresses and blankets were handed out for sleeping not long after that. The night sky was amazing and I drifted off underneath a blanket of stars shining more brightly than I have seen in a very long time.