If there is something Jordan is not short of, it’s historical culture. With a rich history dating back several millennia B.C., every turn in Jordan holds another experience that transports you back in time and invites you into another adventure worth telling the world about. Welcome to Wadi Rum, the land before time, sand-filled valleys, with soaring high rocks, and inhabited by the Bedouin people. This place in southern Jordan is where outdoor adventure intersects perfectly with a historic culture and way of life.
As we pulled up to this dry place, one could of wondered, where in the world were we headed? These bright, colorful tents lined up aside the shade of one of the many towering mountains and made for the perfect escape from the sun. We sat inside one of the local Bedouin camps and took part in a feast of many mezzes (small dishes) and preparations of chicken. We sipped on cool drinks anticipating the adventures that lay ahead.
We were told we were headed on the “Lawrence of Arabia” tour — know what I’m talking about? Yes we were about to experience an adventure that would unfold in the same steps of T.E Lawrence. We hopped into the back of the jeeps, made sure our belongings were securely locked down and hair tied back. The driver started slowly over the sand and we made our way through the first valley and I thought “wow, this is going to take forever at this rate.” Of course, my assumption was quickly shaken away when our guide made two knocks on the window and the jeep was put into third gear. The jeep ripped through the sand, sending piles of dust behind us, and had us all gripping tight awaiting the next sand dune to send the car shaking. Have you ever ridden Indiana Jones at Disneyland? Imagine that but actually thrilling.
After a bit of adrenaline (of course a very safe ride), we looked into the distance and spotted what seemed to be a herd of wild camels. These were going to be how we got back to the Bedouin camp. As this was my first time being up close with a camel, I was reminded of my (lack of) height as they towered over me. Slightly cantankerous yet all the same sweet, we got onto our own camels and saddled up. If you have motion sickness beware, the camel ride is a bit of a roller coaster as you feel like you are going up and down. Another trick learned was to sit with your legs strapped across the front sitting Indian style rather then letting your legs loose across the camel’s body — it makes the ride way more comfortable!
To finish the ride, we came upon a high rock and we de-boarded the camels. We followed our guide to the top of what seemed to be just “another” rock in Wadi Rum. To my surprise, cresting the top revealed a breathtaking view. The sun started to set across the desert, and lit the hundreds of mountains like fire. Overcome by the moment, we sat in silence and watched as the sun dropped and the last rays of day slipped away.
To be set in nature like this, in the middle of a seemingly endless desert, to hear and feel the wind rushing across your face, is an experience that reminds you how special and precious our world truly is.
We descended down the rock, carefully, and rode the camels into the sunset — an unforgettable memory that’s now permanently engrained in my soul. I giggled with my newly made friends about the bouncing of the camels, the inability to be stable, and cherished this moment of being overcome by an entirely new corner of the world.
What is it?
Wadi Rum lies in the southern part of Jordan and is a protected wilderness area expanding over 270 square miles of ridiculous landscape. Wadi means “valley” and marks an area that is dry except in the rainy season. Canyons intertwine through the area, making a place filled with drama. Through Wadi Rum, there are countless mountains of sandstone and granite that shoot out from the valley floor and tower over you.
Who are the Bedouins? A brief history…
Essentially all of the people living in Wadi Rum are from the Bedouin descent. The Bedouins were primarily nomadic people who lived off the land and tended to their goat herds. As the seasons had severe and harsh weather, the Bedouins would migrate between locations with the changing of the seasons. With the mindset of taking care of their flocks, the Bedouins were quite skilled in choosing a place to stay that was well equipped with water and food.
One of the primary sources of food was from the goats, all aspects of the animal. The milk was collected from the goats and the Bedouins would turn the sour milk into butter and dried yoghurt to be consumed for the rest of the year. Traditionally, women would prepare the meals in the evening and one of the classic dishes is mansaf (a mutton dish). It is a communal dish designed to be eaten from a large platter with your hands and paired with the local bread al-arbud (bread prepared over fire).
Another important part of the Bedouin culture is coffee. By tradition, the coffee is prepared early in the morning in front of the men’s section of the tents. The coffee is then prepared and spices like cardamom, nutmeg and a bit of sugar is added to enhance the flavor. The coffee is a mark of hospitality and generosity and is known as the key to peace in dialogue. The earliest mention of coffee in history date back to the thirteenth century AD and the story goes that an Arab shepherd saw his goat eating from a certain berry and the goat was becoming energetic so he decided to do the same. From here the rest is history and the tradition of drinking coffee spread throughout the world.
How to experience this out-of-the world place?
The best way to get the full experience of Wadi Rum and the Bedouin culture is to stay overnight at a camp like Captain’s Desert Camp. You’ll get the opportunity to understand how the nomadic life works and then at night be amazed by the star in the almost light-polution-free desert. During the day take a hike, a jeep, or camel ride through Wadi Rum to see ancient carvings and the stunning landscape. One suggestion, roll down the dunes!
Why should you go?
Love nature? Well this is the place for you. Love animals? A camel ride will be right up your alley. Want to experience a different culture? The Bedouins will amaze you with their hospitality and way of living.
Disclosure: Thank you to Visit Jordan for hosting me on this incredible trip. As always all opinions are own.