Jordan Wadi Rum 2001.05.04 - 05.05

Bedouin Desert

Wadi Rum is a desert with sandstone mesas covering a 900 km² area. Many rocks have designated rock climbing routes but the distance from town to the rocks makes a 4-wheel drive necessary if carrying gear. Within town, an endless steam of locals offer vehicle hires and camel rides so finding transport, albeit expensive, is easy.

A bus from Wadi Musa departs for Wadi Rum once daily at 06:00 from the Wadi Musa roundabout. Since this is a tourist route, the bus fare is an absurd JD 3.000 for the one hour ride. The bus enters the Wadi Rum park and terminates at the Government Rest House, the only official lodging option in Wadi Rum. Leaving, however, was more difficult. Upon arrival, Wes asked the bus attendant what time buses to Aqaba depart the following day. He said, "07:30, 09:30, and 13:30." Just to make sure, an hour later, Wes asked another bus driver if his bus goes to Aqaba. "No, not this one. In one more hour," he replied. "At 09:30?" Wes confirmed again. "Yes, 09:30," he assured. The next day, either there was no  bus at 09:30 or a taxi driver paid the bus driver to bypass us. Either way, the locals collaborated to force us to take a taxi to Aqaba.

Soliciting at the Government Rest House are locals offering tours through Wadi Rum and overnight stays in Bedouin camps. Declining both, we showed a map of the area to the receptionist at the Government Rest House to ask where exactly we were. "I can't tell you. Go ask the tourist police," was his unhelpful reply. It immediately became obvious that nobody would help a tourist wishing to explore Wadi Rum on their own without paying for a tour.

The absurdity of the situation made us even more determined to see Wadi Rum without the locals. Referring to posted tour ads, we found the location of the Rest House on our map. With water and food in our pack, we ventured into the desert. Our first destination was a spring 3km away. An hour later, we approached a concrete block. It was the "spring". Upon seeing it, we realized why we couldn't find a postcard photograph of it at the gift shop. Sitting in the shade of a large rock, we ate our lunch in view of the "spring". It was there that we saw a humorous sight. Two men in jalabas were sitting on a mat in the sun near the concrete block. As jeeps and pickups loaded with tourists approached, the two men began playing a string instrument, clapping, and singing. The delighted tourists were led to the men to clap and dance. 5 minutes later, the tourists were asked to board their vehicles. As soon as they departed, the men retired to the shade. 15 minutes later, the same event was repeated with the next batch of tourists. As we finished lunch and were about to leave, a third repetition was witnessed.

We next decided to go to the Siq (gorge) in Jebel (Mt.) Khaz'ali 4km further from town. Walking across the desert, we were unnecessarily concerned about getting lost. Jebel Khaz'ali is visible from the edge of town and vice versa, even though they're 7km apart. We reached the Siq an hour later, but due to a fluke rain the previous day, much of the Siq was filled with water. The time approached noon, and we looked for shelter from the sun. Rounding the bend around Jebel Khaz'ali, we saw a young boy on a sand dune. Spotting us, he waved to someone behind. By the time we reached the top of the dune, a family could be heard singing and clapping. A young boy in the group stood up and motioned for us to approach. The celebration instantly stopped as we detoured to avoid them. As we walked back to town a few hours later, we saw a truck delivering members of the singing "family" to their respective homes. It became apparent that a man in town makes a business collecting village women and children and placing them in the desert with instructions to lure tourists. We became jaded by the fallacy of the concocted "Bedouin experience" and were ready to leave Jordan to escape the Jordanians. The next day, we reached the ferry port in Aqaba by the noon departure time for ferries to Nuweiba. On to Egypt!

Near the "spring", we walk past a Bedouin tent with camels. Just having eaten lunch, we had orange peels to feed. Wes offers an orange peel to a baby camel.

The Siq of Jebel Khaz'ali is an easy landmark to find in the middle of Wadi Rum. Using it as our point of reference, we were able to walk for hours through the desert without losing our way.

The sandstone mesas and orange sand of Wadi Rum are a beautiful sight.

Tourists sit atop Abu Aladeh to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, the day we were in Wadi Rum, cloud cover obscured the sunset.

HomePrevious PageNext Journal PageJournal Index 2001Map of the Middle East

  Copyright © 2000-2002   Wes and Masami Heiser.   All rights reserved.