The next morning we awoke to say goodbye to the sea and head a bit east into the desert, specifically Wadi Rum. B and Zach set off on an adventure to get our rental car, a shitty, shitty Citreon. We also stocked up on schwarma from a place that was a knockoff of a famous place in Amman.. it was actually my first official schwarma and it was delicious. Need more spinning meats in this country, for real.
No one looks charming when they are schwarma-ing
Once we were properly fed and loaded in to our shitty, shitty rental, we were off over the mountains to go to Wadi Rum village.
Ok, lesson time: “Wadi” is Arabic for “valley” and used to describe a whole variety of different places in Jordan, with Wadi Rum being the largest. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times (more on that later), and now is primarily inhabited by Bedouins who have turned it in to a tourist attraction for camping and rock climbing. It’s probably best known for being associated with Lawrence of Arabia, as the real one passed through there several times and the Peter O’Toole version was filmed there. It was also used to film the outdoor scenes in The Martian… which, as you’ll be able to see from my pictures in a moment, is pretty much perfect.
Bedouins are sort of equivalent to Native Americans in some ways (or at least, some Native Americans), in that they’ve descended from the earliest nomadic people in the Middle East, are generally organized in to tribes. They continue to generally lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle of goal and camel herding along with their tourism pursuits. There’s a very big Bedouin population in Jordan (about a third of the total population) and they’re provided things like education and healthcare from the government.
It was about an hour drive through some beautiful desert and mountains, Branden handled his first Middle Eastern driving experience perfectly. Allah take the wheel.
The first place you arrive in Wadi Rum is the Visitor’s Center where you check in and pay your fees (another thing covered by the Jordan Pass… thanks Jordan Pass!). Already it was spectacularly beautiful.
We then proceeded to Wadi Rum village, which is… well, a village where a bunch of the Bedouins live when they’re not out wandering the desert. Here we met up with Suleiman, the owner of the camp we would be staying at for two nights. He is an old friend of Zach’s, as he has stayed with him on several occasions, so they had a glorious reunion filled with “habibi”-this and “habibi”-that (“habibi” being the male form of an Arabic word that basically means “my darling friend” … for women it’s “habibti”).
Suleiman also handles quite a bit of the business for the camps, so he was not yet able to come out to camp with us, but he introduced us to his cousin Fa’ez and their volunteer Suzie who would be driving us out to the camp and taking care of us for the time being. He also taught us how to properly tie our kaffiyehs so that we were the correct kind of Arab desert chic.
We loaded up the Toyota pickup truck (the preferred transpo for nomads and jihadists everywhere!) and headed out for the 20 or so minute drive out to camp.
At this point, words start to fail me to describe how amazing this place is.. it’s… it’s just spectacular. The sand is brilliant red and there’s mountains poking up all over the place and all of the rocks have a bazillion different colors in it and… wow, just… wow.
We arrived at camp, which is nestled up against a mesa, and got settled in to our tent and had a look around. The area on the left was where the kitchen was, the things in the middle are just some of the tents at the camp, and the building on the right is the bathroom (with running water! They were actually pretty nice, at least as nice as anything you’d find in a state park campground!)
If only Team Sets on the Beach was here to play some EPIC sand volleyball
B, Kate, and Zach climbed up on top of the mesa to check things out, with spectacular results:
I, on the other hand, harassed desert wildlife.
…don’t worry, it was actually long dead. No terrifying beetles were harmed in the making of this picture.
The site had a wonderful little seating area carved in to the mesa that overlooked the camp and was a great place to hang out. We settled in there with some tea and some rum (you kinda have to drink rum when you’re in Rum, right?) to enjoy the scenery and the sunset.
Soon after the sun went down, it was almost time for dinner. Fa’ez and Suzie made a big dish of chicken and rice, and then there was of course the ubiquitous hummus and pita and cucumber/tomato salad. While we were waiting for everything to be ready, Suleiman had Kate try on some traditional garb they had laying around.
This may actually mean they’re married now, this is unclear.
Dinner was enjoyed out by a fire while sitting around on some old mattresses.
Once the sun was down it got pretty damn chilly, but thankfully there was a good fire and blankets a plenty to use. It had clouded over a bit immediately after sunset, but they started to break up after a while… and as an added bonus we could see lighting in clouds in the distance. Woo desert thunderstorm! How lucky could we get?!
When the clouds finally broke, the stars were spectacular. It was the first time I’ve actually really seen the Milky Way with any real clarity, and so far out from any lights it was particularly intense. Once night comes, there’s not a whole lot to do besides sit around the fire and look at the stars and in the dark you get sleepy pretty quickly… as B demonstrates below..
As I was freezing, I opted to eventually go sleep in the tent rather than out under the stars (as much as Zach tried to convince me otherwise). That first night I had some of the craziest, most vivid dreams I’ve ever had in my life. I would wake up and then fall back into them almost immediately, making it all seem totally surreal. I dreamed the desert flooded, that we had to make our way along a rickety rope bridge, and that it snowed, amongst other things… only one of these dreams actually came true, but I’ll keep you guessing as to which until we get to that part of the story. In the morning Suzie said the first week she was living out at the camp she had horrible nightmares every night, and other people who stay there have reported similar things… so I don’t know what it is about the desert but it messes with your mind.
Here I will take a pause in the story, but stay tuned for pt. 2.. stormy desert boogaloo.